First impressions: Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress

So, in a word, it’s really bad. I’m not sure I have watched anything this bad in quite sometime. You’ll also get the sense that you’ve seen this before. You can recognize the weapon design right away – steam, buckles, cables, it’s all heavily based on the 3D gear from AoT. 

The premise: the lands have been overrun by monsters and humans build ‘stations’ – cities with giant walls – to keep safe. Within the first episode, the walls have been breached and monsters pour in. Stop me if this sounds… familiar.

Oh, the girl in the steampunk miniskirt – her name is Mumei – is twelve.

Let me repeat: she is twelve, as in, she is literally a child.  I feel pretty gross even posting this, honestly. The fact that she is permanently blushing and rosy-cheeked, the emphasis of the costume, it’s all unashamed gross pedo-bait awfulness that’s usually reserved for – at least – characters who are not literally twelve. There are shots where the camera is pointed at her ass.

Do you remember how female characters in Attack on Titan wear the same uniforms as their male counterparts? Yeah, that. I miss that.

As it happens, she’s a titan shifter – sorry, she’s a zombie, you know, except not really because she retains normal human skin and so on, but she can switch the zombie abilities on and off. Which the protagonist Ikoma also ends up being able to do, for fairly bullshit reasons. Mumei is a garbage pedo-bait manic pixie bullshit version of Mikasa; Ikoma is a blander Eren – and Eren is already really bland – but with green hair. Even the music score sounds uncannily, disturbingly similar.

If Mumei’s character design isn’t already sufficiently off-putting, the same retro style is also present in other female characters, like so.

It’s 2016, not 1996 or whichever hellhole this is from. It looks dated. It looks incredibly ugly. I’m not sure how to put it, but this character in particular just appears to have been copy-pasted from some much older franchise, with her abnormally far-apart eyes and tiny nose. Everything about her is terrible, if not as terrible as Mumei.

Where do we begin. The zombies in Kabaneri are… well… gray, and have bad teeth, and have glowing eyes. Their bites infect the victims and turn them into more zombies. So, the thing with the titans in AoT is that their faces look fairly normal. They look human from the neck up. Then some of them have disproportionate limbs, or their faces are creepily fixated into odd expressions, or they move strangely. They’re creepy, and they’re huge.

The zombies in Kabaneri look exactly like every other iteration of zombies, other than the glowing. Please keep in mind that the release of this crap delayed the second season of Attack on Titan. Isn’t that great.

The impression I get is that Araki Tetsuo (who directs both this and the AoT anime) wanted to recreate AoT, almost beat for beat, except somehow everything manages to be unbelievably worse – from the pedo-bait fanservice, the character design, the genericness of the zombies, the writing. Remember the part where the military surrounds and is about to fire on Eren for being a titan shifter? Yeah, that got copied over too, just combined with the part where Eren gets eaten and everyone thinks he’s dead. There’s the ‘is he a kabane? He’s got to be! But why is he fighting other kabane?’ (you may remember this verbatim from AoT: ‘what’s with that titan? why is it fighting other titans??’). There are even points where the voice actor for Ikoma sounds a lot like Eren. (His friend Takumi is voiced by the same guy who did Eren.)

Roughly the only character I don’t hate is Yukina, the train driver. The rest are either bland or painfully obvious discount versions of AoT characters – there’s an Armin, there’s an unbelievably awful Mikasa, and I’m sure we’ll get a butchered version of Levi or Dot Pixis or the rest at some point. It’s anime as marketed to the most loathsome otaku stereotype, oozing sleaze and pedo fanservice from every pore. It is derivative, it is uncompelling, it is disgusting.

While the production value looks high, this is all a mess and a travesty.