Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress

One of the frightening Kabane.
Set during the Industrial Age in Japan, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress presents a dark world in which a virus has transformed corpses into human-devouring creatures known as the Kabane. The unaffected humans have built fortresses that are connected by steam-powered trains. Periodically, the Kabane, who may be growing more intelligent, mount attacks. They are difficult to kill with conventional weapons, for their only vulnerable area--their glowing hearts--are protected by a layer of iron. Ikoma, a young steamsmith, invents an iron-piercing gun and uses it to kill one of the Kabane during an attack.

The young hero Ikoma.
He is still bitten, though, which means he's destined to transform into one of the creatures. Desperate to prevent the virus from spreading through his body to his brain, he nearly chokes himself to death with a metal collar around his neck. However, he does stop the virus from total infection and unknowingly becomes a Kabaneri--who is half-human and half-Kabane.

He teams with up with another teenager, a girl known only as Mumei ("nameless"), and they help Princess Ayame and other survivors escape from the fallen fortress. They travel by train to other destinations, seeking help and answers.

The mysterious Mumei.
This 12-episode anime series debuted in the U.S. in 2016 on Amazon Prime's streaming service. It's an exceptionally intelligent, well-written series in which each episode reveals new insight about the characters and their motives. We learn, for example, that Mumei became a Kabaneri in a very different way from Ikoma.

The series, written by Japanese author and screenwriter Ichirō Ōkouchi, also benefits from strong relationships among the characters. Initially, the humans distrust the Kabaneri, who must consume blood to survive. But their understanding of them evolves through a series of adventures to the point where some of the humans willingly donate blood to keep Ikoma and Mumei alive.

Fireworks during a moment of peace.
Director Tetsurō Araki paces the half-hours extremely well. The animation is not very fluid, but the color palette is breathtaking and creates a vivid atmosphere. Araki was also responsible for the popular manga-inspired 2013 anime series Attack on Titan, which shares some plot similarities with Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress.

The title song for Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress is performed by a duo known as Egoist. They released the song as a single and it peaked at #4 on the Billboard Japan Hot 100 chart.

A release for season two of Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress has not yet been announced.

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