Kabaneri 3 – RoadblockPosted: April 30, 2016
Two weeks ago, the iron juggernaut of Kabaneri exploded off the screen, ramming its hardcore action right up into my heart. Despite missing my brain entirely, Kabaneri won me over with its intensity and over-the-top energy. This week, though… not so much.
The world of Kabaneri is so nonsensical, but because of the nonstop action I haven’t been given a chance to question its stupidity, and what a relief! Instead of wondering why the Kabane sometimes run and sometimes shamble along slowly, I’m busy gripping my chair till my knuckles turn white as characters fight, just one bite away from certain death.
The intensity reminds me of Gurren Lagann, a favorite of mine that thrives by diverting attention away from inexplicable plot/setting holes and towards pure action sequences. In both Gurren Lagann and Kabaneri, the enemy looks exceedingly powerful – overpowered, in fact. The only people around with any chance at winning are the main characters, and they have barely any skill at all. But where Gurren Lagann‘s intensity feels artificial, Kabaneri‘s feels real and tangible. A single bite from a Kabane can mean death – a concept that’s well known to us through things like snakes and spiders. Who’s ever piloted a giant mecha in space?
Further, the world of Kabaneri is far more believable than Gainax’s all-out fantasy world, yet just crazy enough to be exciting. Post-apocalyptic steampunk with a train that snakes between safe havens from zombie-infested lands? That’s a nerd’s wet dream. Compare this to the similar setting of Attack on Titan, a show which I think is far inferior to Kabaneri. In Attack on Titan, giant hulking dudes have driven mankind into a corner, and they have erected three huge walls to defend themselves. The point is that there’s nowhere left to run, so the main characters have no other option but to fight, to attack on titan. In the end, I thought the setting and premise was way too stupid to get excited about the action. Even though the titans crashing through the wall should have felt like the end of the world, I felt no sense of urgency and I still can’t really tell why. Maybe it’s the titans – they’re slow, lumbering giants. Maybe it’s the walls – they’re a dumb idea and the best thing humanity could come up with. Maybe it’s the lack of any real action for the twelve episodes I managed to slug through – characters spend way more time talking about how frightening the titans are than actually fighting them. Maybe it’s just a total piece of trash that tried to be something new but couldn’t escape the pull of the high school setting and ended up tanking.
In the end, Kabaneri shows us first-hand how frightening the Kabane are, right from episode 1. There’s no training camp. There’s no group of comrades. Ikoma builds a weapon, kills a Kabane, and hangs himself with a noose to show the audience how to survive in the world. The intensity is unparalleled. It’s not a flashback. There’s not even a backstory. Why stuff the beginning with buildup when you can make a hook like this?
Answer: Because it’s hard to follow up.
Episode 3 introduced the obligatory back story and training plot pieces, and overall felt like a slice-of-life episode.
I didn’t think this was going to be so drawn out, and that makes me hesitant to stick to anything I wrote above. I don’t hate slow episodes, but I hate such a jarring transition to slice-of-life. I did like how the characters’ personalities were fleshed out – train driver being a badass, Mumei being headstrong, and princess en route to becoming a leader. However, without action to keep my mind from wandering, I found myself cringing as the entire train got outside to pray. Are you kidding me? There are woods bordering the train tracks and we’ve already seen Kabane running at full speed. A simple “no Kabane in sight” line doesn’t mean everybody should get outside and chant so loud you can’t hear Kabane coming for an easy meal. Plus, why does everybody think they can control Ikoma and Mumei when none of them have ever even come close to killing a Kabane before?
I think that the “no Kabane in sight” thing was done on purpose – I felt super tense as everybody prayed in the night. As the flames flickered, I thought that Kabane could be nearby and might see the light from the fire. It seemed like Kabane would pop out at any time and slaughter everybody. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen. And unfortunately, even if it did happen, I would still be disappointed. And the most unfortunate thing of all happened – the pregnant lady was a Kabane.
I liked the suspense of the prayer scene, but I hated how it culminated in the pregnant woman becoming a Kabane. I waited the entire episode for something crazy to happen, and all I got was a slow, pitiful-looking Kabane that got 20 seconds of screentime before she died. Even worse, the whole point of this Kabane was to make Mumei look like the villain because she killed a pregnant woman. Everybody is screaming and running away from the Kabane. Mumei kills it. Everybody looks paralyzed in shock. How could she do such a thing? She’s crazy! She’s a Kabane! Oh wait, my objections are conflicting! Oh well, time to end the episode.
Kabaneri got my hopes up way too high with the first two episodes. Now that the storm of action has died down, I can hold up Kabaneri and see its holes.