Koutetsujou no Kabaneri – 04


Humidity’s rising. Barometer’s gettin’ low. And it’s just about half past ten…

spring15-irenesSorry the train’s coming in a bit late on this one. But with all they’ve been through, can you blame them?


With all this bumping around, can Kabaneri keep itself on the rails?

I wish that I could gush on and on with this episode as I do for many a series that I write about, but alas, I was honestly rather underwhelmed with this episode. And to be perfectly honest, I’ve been a little underwhelmed with this series since episode 1. I have been a writer for a long time and I’ve had quite a bit of experience in it in different mediums. So trust me when I say that, I think that it’s the writing where this show suffers the most.

knk4002 knk4004

Yes, be afraid. Be very afraid.

Now don’t take this the wrong way, this series definitely has potential. It has always had, potential. But as I tell my physics students, potential can only sit there, it requires you to actually do something with it to get things moving. While the director and writer of the series did do some interesting and well done shows such as Code Geass, Death Note, Attack on Titan, and Valvrave, this series is beginning to make me think of another famous (or rather infamous) series that Araki and Okouchi worked on together: Guilty Crown.

Kabaneri has been on the cusp of greatness since its inception. It’s got all the materials to work with, and yet, it’s never quite taken advantage of any of them. It has great art, animation, and wonderfully done action scenes. It has a fascinating premise with characters that have some interesting potential. But there it is again, that word–potential. Somehow this series isn’t taking advantage of it, and I just can’t understand why.


Zombies come in all shapes and sizes.

I already called out this series in it’s most obvious flaw: the writing. I deplore when writers try to take shortcuts in their story composition, and they are not adept enough to know how to do it right. There is technically a difference between something being forced and something being contrived. A contrivance is something that all fiction writers do.  It is simply something created or brought about in the story in order to serve the plot. Without a contrivance of some kind there is no story, however it is up to the writer as to how well they can hide it by making it feel natural within the plot’s setting. Things become forced the less and less the writer is able to accomplish this. And it’s there that Kabaneri finds itself.

Listen up, Kabaneri. I don’t know if you writers know this, but—there is this thing called the third dimension. We sometimes refer to it as “depth”. Any well written character will have this. Without it, your characters can seem, rather…well…flat. Ya know? Like cardboard.

There seems to be a lot cardboard in your series thus far.



There is just so many moments in this episode that I wanted to enjoy, but the nature of the writing behooves me. We go from one scene to another, and we see scene after scene that supposed to seem harrowing, and yet I can’t get up the unction to care. Ikoma is probably the only character who comes out of this okay. I can connect and feel for him and feel that I would like to continue following him on this journey, and yet, there are also times that even he doesn’t come out unscathed by the haphazardly written plot. He can fight now? And you’re expecting us to believe it’s because of that two second “training” session that he endured? I’ll tell you this, when a bully beats up his victim one time, the victim is in a little too much pain and in survival mode to “learn the moves”.  He knows that he needs to drink blood now? Well thank goodness that he could understand Mumei’s vague offhand comments, or else he would have been like every other normal person in his setting, who would be fighting constantly his “hunger” thinking he was turning into a monster.


The Kabaneri do know how to make a good money shot for the trailer. 

But like I said, at least Ikoma comes off the least harmed in this trainwreck (yes, the pun was intentional). Like these “shortcuts” I just mentioned, there are other problems here. The people of this train hate the Kabaneri one moment and love them the next. Reason why? Heck if I know. WE know that Ikoma and Mumei mean good, but the crew of this train see none of that. The only thing they see is Ikoma basically blackmail them by saying that he’ll only kill the samurai zombie if they give him blood, and then basically proceeds to do the same thing he basically was doing prior to becoming a Kabaneri in one of the most anti-climactic endings to a battle that I’ve seen all season.


Sorry hun…but, Katniss, Green Arrow, Hawkeye, and even Robin Hood are laughing at you.

Mumei’s character has not improved since last episode, but at least she didn’t do much other than faint so that Ikoma could have his time to shine. We’re somehow supposed to believe that in the last few scenes we saw of them together, the two formed some kind of emotional bond, but perhaps that all happened off screen? They just forgot to show it to us. They forgot the number one rule of visual media I guess. As for our other girls, it seems my earlier praise for Ayame-hime was premature. The girl is all over the place. At one point she’s too timid to stand up to one dimensional idiot bad guys, but the next she’s determined to lead a group of samurai into battle with her ridiculous steam powered bow and arrow.


Timid one moment, army leader the next.

As for the rest of the cast, with perhaps the exception of the head samurai and Ikoma’s best friend, I honestly couldn’t tell you any other characters’ names. This is especially a problem when they decide to try to give these characters meaning and personality quirks. Sure I could go on the website and look them up, but I refuse to do that. It is the responsibility of the series to give these characters a proper introduction if they intend for them to be meaningful in the story. I shouldn’t have to continue to call these people “pink-haired conductor girl” and “blond jerk engineer” and “European wig mechanic”.


Sooo…who are you guys again?

If this was episode 2 and they hadn’t dressed this episode to feel like the definitive end to an arc, I wouldn’t be complaining so much. However, I can’t just overlook what a rushed and forced job I’m seeing done. I should be able to believe that suddenly an entire crew would voluntarily give their blood to these two kids, and yet, considering how this episode started and what little pieces the plot has had to work with, it feels as though we skipped quite a few steps in the development department in order to make sure that all the grandiose action scenes were put it. I’m a very big action fan, but I frown severely on a series that will surrender the development of the plot and characters simply because they want to “skip” to the action.


So many story beats, so little time.

Now of course, the series can make an awesome turn around in later episodes. There are some interesting parts here to work with, and again, all that potential that I’ve been mentioning. There is a chance to really begin developing these characters now that we’ve got all the intro out of the way. I may have gone on a bit of a negative tirade here, and I’m sure there are some who found enjoyment here. However, when the writing is just so shoddy that I find myself questioning every other action, I am no longer immersed in the fantasy of the show. And I lose my enjoyment. I become a critic rather than a watcher. A recent blockbuster film (I won’t tell you which one, but I’m thinking you can guess), had the same problem, and I literally had to leave the theater because of an encroaching headache. Kabaneri should be glad that I had only gone to the “constant eye-rolling” stage in this case.


From blind enemies to open-minded comrades in only a few hours….not bad…


To end on a more positive note, I DID in fact like the animation and flow of the actions scenes. The zombies never lost their menace as they slaughtered the passengers and crew. The idea of samurai kabane that still have their training instincts is an interesting one, though I would expect there to be similar kinds of “warrior zombie” kabane all over the world in different fighting disciplines. It does give us something else to see other than the usual zombie. The “mighty katana is better than the foreign gun” scene did make my eyes roll hard,  but I still did like the fighting scenes, and wouldn’t have minded if Kurusu won the battle rather than Ikoma. I’m wondering where our crew of fighters will find themselves next. Will we get more on Ikoma’s sister? What about Mumei’s brother? Are the two related? Will we be staying on this train for the duration of the series? Will these cardboard cutout characters ever get some actual depth?

Okay, okay….I’ll layoff for now. But Kabaneri, you have quite the uphill climb to make with me. Let’s see if you’re up the challenge.

Col. William Prescott would be proud. 


A Chicagoan biochemist, teacher, and an aspiring virologist, with a love for science only rivaled by my love for movies, animation, and anime. Both a lover of action/adventure and romance, I'm a girl who walks the entire spectrum. Mecha, Sci-Fi, Psychological Thriller, Romantic Period Piece, if it's has a good story, I'm there.
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38 Responses to “Koutetsujou no Kabaneri – 04”

  1. zztop says:

    Despite its weaknesses, Kabaneri was largely voted by Japanese anime fans as the most popular/followed anime of this season. Reasons include “amazing animation and music, thrilling action, surprising suspense, and sheer bombasticness”. In short, the equivalent of a action-packed summer popcorn flick.

    Will you be posting anything for Kuromukuro, BTW? It’s slower than Kabaneri, but the story’s slowly gaining momentum in terms of character development and plot.

    • IreneSharda says:

      Even action packed summer popcorn flicks don’t annoy me like this. I’m queen of the summer blockbusters, you will usually find me first in line at every one. And yet, I can’t seem to find that same enjoyment here. Yet, I can definitely see why it’s the most popular though. It’s got a lot backing it, and it follows the Wit Studio formula. But I guess I should also admit that as new as Wit is, in my experience, they come with a lot of promises but haven’t paid off very often.

      We will be getting to Kuromukuro, hopefully very soon!

    • BlackBriar says:

      Give the people what they want and you will see returns in kind. That’s game the studio’s playing and they’re being rewarded as a result. It’s as simple as that. Kabaneri isn’t pretending to be something it’s not.

      • skylion says:

        I’m not trying to mess with you too much BB. I had a comment with an image that isn’t cooperating. When I figure out how to make it work I’ll post it. Sorry, man…

        • skylion says:

          This ^^^^ literally would have been a more creative, more interesting show, man…In artistic pursuits, giving people what they think they want is the first stone laid on the path to mediocrity…

          • ProtoSovereign says:

            I think what BlackBrair meant is that they are making good money from pandering to the fans which is said but true with kabenari. I agree that just doing that makes for mediocrity but Thomas the Dank Engine is just too much HAHAHAHAHA.

          • BlackBriar says:

            There was nothing around that was giving the slightest indication they were trying to be artistic. It would’ve been unbearably pretentious if that route was tried. So thankfully, it didn’t. Like I said before, Kabaneri isn’t pretending to be something it’s not. Instead, it’s being bare-faced. What you see is what you get. Plain and simple.

            • skylion says:

              …ah, well, it’s not like I expected the wall to talk back 🙂

          • IreneSharda says:

            ROFL! 😛 😛 😀 😀

  2. IreneSharda says:

    One thing I also forgot to mention, but becomes more of an issue in the next episode is that, there seems to be some kind of misconception between fear and cowardice. Yes, being ruled by your fear is dangerous, but not having any fear at all is foolhardy and dumb. Being afraid of the Kabane, does not make you a coward, and I hope they begin to differentiate that.

    • ProtoSovereign says:

      They kinda subtly addressed that in ep 5 Show ▼

      Well its not all negative peoples :D, Ikoma funny gets himself new clothes, Hurray!!

      • ProtoSovereign says:

        Also I hate to see this happen but Kabenari (I was hoping Kabenari would be more bite than bark) can no longer compete with Re:Zero in my eyes anymore. Re:Zero is just plain better, that much is clear now.

        • IreneSharda says:

          I’d say that Kabaneri is probably ranked 5th in my shows for the season.
          So far, it’s: 1) Boku no Hero, 2) Re: Zero, 3) Kuromukuro, 4)Tanaka-kun, and then 5) Kabaneri which is currently tied with Bungou Stray Dogs.

          • ProtoSovereign says:

            :O Boku no Hero is first? I’m actually not following that and didn’t plan to watch it later unlike Kuromukuro and Tanaka which are on the waiting list for me. Is it that good?

            • IreneSharda says:

              Boku no Hero is pure shounen, with an emphasis on “pure”. I didn’t even like what I read of the manga and hadn’t even thought to look at the show, but I decide to take a chance on Fosh’s suggestion. One episode, and it caught me hook, line, and sinker. There’s just something about the anime that struck me that the manga didn’t. The show is just so fun and emotional as you watch the main character try to achieve his dreams. It has all the shounen cliche’s you’re used to, and yet, it doesn’t feel at all tired. It’s similar to when I finally took a chance on HxH. I rank my shows on how excited I am to see the next episode and how many times that I want to watch the episodes over and over again. I’ve seen all 7 eps of Boku no Hero several times and it’s the first episode I want to watch the day it comes out.

              It’s not a show for everyone, but I would definitely give it a try. At least the first two episodes.

            • Highway says:

              I didn’t like it. Tanaka and Kuromukuro are both better. 🙂

            • ProtoSovereign says:

              Ah, ok We’ll see about Boku no Hero then. Kuromukuro is already on my to do list cuz a friend of mine recommended it. Tanaka looked slightly interesting from the blurb.

            • IreneSharda says:

              Tanaka basically equate to a lazy Sunday afternoon in the sun, in animated form. It’s very laid back and it all centers around this kid and his one shtick of being incredibly lazy to the point of making it an art. And yet, despite this, he quite popular and has a good set of friends. It’s one of those SOLs that you use to wind down. Or at least I know I do. 😀

          • BlackBriar says:

            I’m following 4 of those mentioned series this season (Re: Zero, Kuromukuro, Kabaneri and Bungou Stray Dogs). Though I’ve fallen behind on Boku no Hero and haven’t watched beyond the second episode. My interest in superheroes has lessened over time, it seems.

      • IreneSharda says:

        I am SO glad he’s not going to be in (those still unexplained) metal straps all the time, and they at least gave him a shirt.

  3. ProtoSovereign says:

    I didn’t know you were a Physics teacher IreneSharda that’s pretty amazing. While I don’t think Kabenari has reached the lvl of bad writing and lost potential Guilty Crown reached its steadily getting there… especially in the latest episode Show ▼

    • IreneSharda says:

      I am a biochemist by trade, but yeah, I am currently a high school teacher for chemistry and physics. I am in no way an expert in physics, but I can teach it when required. 😀

      I do agree that episode 5, does better in the character development department, but I’ll talk more about that later. 😉

  4. skylion says:

    Much like the train it was on this episode was rushed from start to finish; more interested in getting from one place to the next then it was the journey.

  5. BlackBriar says:

    Amusing outlooks there, Irene. Well, we’re definitely in different camps where Kabaneri’s workings are concerned. Whatever minor flaws it has, I’m not so easily put off by them. I guess it’s because I’m far more tolerant. This didn’t feel one bit rushed, in my opinion.

    A few disagreements on the table. About Ikoma needing blood through Mumei’s comments, you make him sound like an idiot who can’t take a hint. And I wouldn’t call the three moves he did on the Wazatori “fighting”. A quick pick-up from physical experience, if anything. Not to mention that “training” may have looked like two seconds to us but there’s no reason to believe it wasn’t going on longer than we thought. The audience can’t see everything that’s going on at the same time. Where we get an opportunity to see one thing, we lose out on another somewhere else. Neither would I call what Ikoma and Mumei have a bond. They know they’re in the same boat so it’s natural and beneficial that they work together.

    As for the rest of the cast, you’re just not paying enough attention. Ikoma’s best friend’s name is Takumi, Ayame’s bodyguard is Kurusu, the engineer with the wig is Suzuki. I’m surprised you didn’t mention the girl, whose name is Kajika (Her and Suzuki’s names were mentioned in the third episode) who got locked in with Ikoma and Mumei when the bastards tried to disconnect their car. The odds ones out are the Six Chiefs, who are the advisors to Ayame’s father and the pink haired girl. They weren’t addressed and neither did they announce themselves. The blonde haired guy’s name comes up in the next episode.

    Show ▼

    The girl is all over the place. At one point she’s too timid to stand up to one dimensional idiot bad guys, but the next she’s determined to lead a group of samurai into battle with her ridiculous steam powered bow and arrow.

    Remember the former are humans, a bunch of ambitious, cunning douche bags in this case, using psychology and guilt-tripping her whereas the latter are a horde of ravenous, mindless beasts. No need to overthink with that difference. Plus with the former, Ayame’s pressured by a populace who shares an opposing opinion and she has little leverage to go on the offensive against that opposition. If you have the upper hand in psychological warfare, it’s only natural the opponent will back down. Nonetheless, Ayame’s still going great.

    Hmmmm…. If I were there, I wouldn’t giving Mumei some blood. There’s nothing sudden in the increase of willing blood donors. The volunteers are either people who were already open-minded and friendly to the Kabaneri or those who got some motivation after being saved by them yet again as opposed to the protesters whose numbers were justly culled. Kurusu raised his hand in reluctance only because he’s looking out for Ayame. And there was ample time for the friendly sentiment to take root. Going by the show’s timeline, it’s been nearly two days since everyone abandoned their station in the second episode up to this point and there have already been 3 Kabane attacks. After an ordeal like that, I think anyone would gravitate toward their savior and do what they can to help them. So it isn’t a few hours they’ve gone from blind enemies to open-minded comrades.

    The Wazatori (Dual wielding Kabane) was an interesting addition to the fray, now telling there is surely a diversity among the Kabane. Makes for some intriguing challenges and doing away with the possibility of always running into the same common type of enemy.

    • ProtoSovereign says:

      I think what Irene meant is that Ikoma’s takedown technique on the wakatori looked too fluid for something a beginner like Ikoma could pull off so confidently. Its almost like they rewrote Ikoma’s character for that brief scene. Remember Ikoma was just a an engineer before he was a kabenari and logically there’s no way he gained that much fighting experience from Mumei’s beatdown.

      it’s been nearly two days since everyone abandoned their station

      like you said its not been that long. I do hope your faith in Kabenari pays off becuz my faith is wavering and won’t hold out for much longer.

      • BlackBriar says:

        This is how you can tell when I’m into something.

        No need to worry about my faith in any way. It’s far stronger than you think. The world, the kind of setting Kabaneri is built on falls within my preferences and series that adhere to my preferences, I have no problem sticking with until the end. When that happens, I can’t see or agree with the problems/flaws those who are not so into it or not into it at all point out. Even if I notice one myself, it’s easy to brush off because of the curiosity of wanting to know what comes next.

        Which is why Kabaneri gets first place on my list and Re: Zero gets second. I’ll admit Re: Zero has its own charm but I’d sooner choose a setting that goes into human nature under duress (I admit to having a sadistic kick watching them crack under pressure), conflict between human and non-human, moral issues that blur the line between the two that makes it hard to identify the true monster than one that simply has a character transported to a fantasy world. The former is far more appealing than the latter.

        The way I operate is, if a series doesn’t hold my interest, puts me to sleep during its run or just doesn’t do it for me, I’ll start picking it apart, noting what’s displeasing before eventually dropping it altogether. Last season’s Hai to Gensou no Grimgar and this season’s Endride are recent examples. To my eyes, both are completely worthless and wastes of time I’ll never get back.

        • ProtoSovereign says:

          Lol, I personally liked Gringar but 1)it was too damn short 2)I realised they butchered a lot of it after reading the light novels which incidentally were amazing esp. Mary, they completely destroyed her character 🙁 from your comment though I can see why you place ReZero under Kabenari. ReZero has more feels 🙂 and Subaru is an amazing protagonist but Kabenari is more gritty, action oriented and most importantly apocalyptic which I think you like considering you also liked Owari no Seraph. Oh and there’s people going bonkers XD. I personally would have liked kabenari to explore the alternate history aspect of the show and how kabane have changed the world. But you never know Kabane might still impress me yet.

        • ProtoSovereign says:

          Show ▼

  6. BlackBriar says:

    Among the various parts of the episode, I focused on when Ayame gave Ikoma her blood saying it’s initiating a contract. Man, that’s so vampire-like. 100 points awarded.

    As for the scene itself, I know I’ve seen something similar. Oh, yeah! That’s right!

  7. BlackBriar says:

    Ok, that’s it. Can someone help me out? Spammy’s at it again.

    • ProtoSovereign says:

      Arslan Senki will only have 8 eps… T-T

      • BlackBriar says:

        That’s just wrong on all levels. The first season had 25 episodes.

        • ProtoSovereign says:

          There will be great weeping and lamenting on the streets for days and days…

      • IreneSharda says:

        I too am sad, especially considering all the new designs they are giving the characters and all the story there is still left to tell. I’m hoping beyond hope they can at least get the story beyond the point that the original OVAs from the 90s got to.

  8. BlackBriar says:

    Article: Japanese Fans Polled on Favorite Mid-Season Spring 2016 Anime (Winner didn’t even appear on “most anticipated” lists)

    Complete list:

    3. HAVEN’T YOU HEARD? I’M SAKAMOTO, 552 votes
    4. Bungo Stray Dogs, 483 votes
    5. And you thought there is never a girl online?, 442 votes
    6. Kuma Miko: Girl Meets Bear, 431 votes
    7. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable, 404 votes
    8. Haifuri, 393 votes
    9. Tanaka-kun is Always Listless, 311 votes
    10. Flying Witch, 283 votes
    11. My Hero Academia, 269 votes
    12. Joker Game, 267 votes
    13. Macross Delta, 228 votes
    14. The Lost Village, 214 votes
    15. Kiznaiver, 177 votes
    16. Anne-Happy, 165 votes
    17. BAKUON!!, 165 votes
    18. The Asterisk War, 140 votes
    19. Super Lovers, 111 votes
    20. Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn RE:0096, 103 votes

    Tally among men only:

    1. Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World- (461)
    2. And you thought there is never a girl online? (368)
    3. Kuma Miko: Girl Meets Bear (360)
    4. Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress (356)
    5. Haifuri (352)
    6. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable (271)
    7. Flying Witch (253)
    8. Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto (240)
    9. My Hero Academia (179)
    10. BAKUON!! (155)

    Tally among women only:

    1. Bungo Stray Dogs (414)
    2. Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto (312)
    3. Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress (216)
    4. Tanaka-kun is Always Listless (186)
    5. Joker Game (185)
    6. Kiznaiver (136)
    7. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable (133)
    8. Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World- (103)
    9. Super Lovers (96)
    10. My Hero Academia (90)

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