In the midst of a massive Kabane attack, Enoku attempts to assassinate Biba. In theory, the ensuing chaos would force the latter to lower his guard, thereby allowing the former to strike. To nobody’s surprise, however, Biba easily repels the attack, then quickly puts Enoku out of his misery. Our Liberator didn’t even have to break a sweat or anything, though. I mean, surely, someone who has been in this assassin business this long could’ve and should’ve come up with a better plan than this. Enoku basically walks up to Biba, brandishes his sword ahead of time to give his target ample warning, then straightforwardly announces his intent: “I am to kill you at the first opportunity.” Is Enoku pretty much the worst assassin ever? Or does the old man simply have a death wish? I dare say it’s neither. I know it’s tempting for a lot of you guys to just shake your head at Enoku and call him stupid, because you’ve already written the show off. Well, you’re entitled to that opinion. The way I see it, however, is that our assassin already knows his life is forfeit.
Enoku had already warned Mumei of this in a previous episode: both the LIberator and his father will cast you aside once you’re no longer useful to them. And where do you think a broken-down assassin like him can turn in a time like this? I don’t think they have very good pension plans in this universe. You have to join a community, and that means getting caught up in this power struggle between Biba and his father. You can’t just go off on your own and become a hermit. Not with the Kabane around. So Enoku really only has two choices before him: either he works for Biba or the Shogunate. Check that: Biba had long rejected him in the past, so he really only has one choice remaining, and that is to die. After all, he knows he can’t kill his former master. The guy isn’t worshiped by the masses for no reason. At the same time, however, Enoku also knows he won’t make it very far if he doesn’t work with the conspirators. So by boldly walking up to Biba, the assassin is actually attempting a last-ditch gambit to curry the Liberator’s favor. Unfortunately for him, it failed.
You can see the fear of death in his eyes. This is before he even attempts to strike at Biba, because he knows exactly what’s coming next. Once Biba has Enoku on the ground, the latter cries out for help, but that’s just any person’s natural reaction to impending death.
In previous weeks, lots of viewers got on Mumei’s case for endangering everyone’s lives. In their minds, they felt that the girl was acting exceedingly out of character in order to create unnecessary conflict. I defended Mumei then, and after this week’s episode, I stand by this position more than ever. There’s a very crucial scene that illustrates the power dynamic between Mumei and her onii-sama. Biba commands her to retrieve the Kotetsujyo’s Master Key. Why? Well, we don’t know yet, and that’s precisely the point. Why does he need the key? I will suggest that this question isn’t even as important as the next one: why doesn’t Mumei even ask why? You can easily imagine a child asking why? It’s the simplest question they know, and they ask it all the time. Why, why, why? Kids are very curious creatures, and they question their parents all the time. Not Mumei, though. You can see it on her face that she’s conflicted. She doesn’t want to hurt her friends, but she’s too scared to even utter the question. It’s as if the question can’t have an answer. Hell, it’s as if there’s no going back once the seed of doubt has been planted. Not only would her perception of Biba be shattered — he’ll no longer be perfect in her eyes — but she knows firsthand what happens to those who defy him.
And like before, it’s easy for us to sit here and judge Mumei. “How can she do this? How can she be ready and willing to kill Ayame if the princess hadn’t handed the key over?” But again, Mumei isn’t an ordinary child. And again, an ordinary child would at least ask why! Why? Because they don’t fear their parents’ retribution. They know their parents will or at least try to answer their questions. Mumei does not have that same luxury. We might question why the girl would so easily side against Ikoma and Ayame. After all, aren’t they friends? She has also befriended the rest of the train. Not only that, they’ve turned around and rescued her when she was trapped under a pile of rubble during the Black Cloud incident. But even when you take all of these things into account, I argue that it nevertheless makes perfect sense for Mumei to side with her onii-sama. Biba is the savior. He gave the girl strength and in more ways than one. His creed where only the strong will survive gave Mumei the strength to fight back against her mother’s killer. Then that Kabaneri operation literally made the girl into a superhuman. These were not good ways by any means, but she gained strength nonetheless. Mumei’s been groomed since she was a vulnerable, little kid to become this obedient soldier in Biba’s army. A couple weeks with Ikoma isn’t going to undo all of that.
And even then, it’s not as if Mumei isn’t conflicted. You can see her fingers tremble as she demands the Master Key from Ayame. Again, we can see it in her face. In fact, we see her worried countenance once more when Biba threatens to kill Ikoma. He knows the girl doesn’t want Ikoma to die, so he has her take care of that little inconvenience at the end of the episode. Y’know, when Ikoma tries to get inside the cabin of the Kokujyo. Sure, he could have had his other soldiers turn our hero away instead. He could’ve just had Ikoma killed outright, but that wouldn’t make much sense, does it? Aside from Ikoma, everyone still thinks of Biba as this righteous hero who can do no wrong, so why would he do anything to counteract that perception? As a result, he lets Mumei handle the sordid business instead. He believes the girl can buy him enough time. In fact, I’m sure Biba greatly underestimates Ikoma. He likely also underestimates how much Mumei has profoundly changed over the past few weeks. So yes, while the girl remains obedient for now, we know how these stories play out. We know where she’ll stand once the chips are down. We just haven’t gotten to that point yet.
— Ayame is surprised to learn that Biba is not actually Mumei’s brother. She must also find it strange that this guy — as great as he is — is allowing people to just refer to him as their big brother. It’s kinda cultish, don’t you think? If Ayame is as bright as she should be, she should catch onto that rather quick.
— Meanwhile, if you pay close attention to Kurusu’s face, his expression doesn’t change one goddamn bit. He looks like he doesn’t care. To his credit, he does blink twice… so he’s not a complete statue.
— Ikoma just walks up to Biba and says, “You are the one who taught Mumei that the weak are expected to die.” Hm, our hero’s not exactly subtle, is he?
— I wonder why our Liberator was disowned. Of course, we’ll find out soon enough, but the question itself is important. Why would anyone ever disown the people’s hero? This fact alone should give people pause, I would imagine…
— Biba even gets his hands dirty, and starts working on the train. Man, he’s just a better version of Ikoma in every way, isn’t he? Taller, well-respected by the masses, loved by Mumei, fuller head of hair, isn’t a ghastly shade of green… don’t tell me he’s a better mechanic as well! It even looks like he wields a sword made out of Kabane steel.
— I thought the spider-stabbing scene was kinda dumb. I guess it’s supposed to convey the underlying threat of these so-called Hunters. They’re not the saviors people view them to be… but still, I can’t help but find this moment rather silly.
— Well, you can’t have a bunch of Hunters show up, then not show the audience what these guys are capable of. So right on cue, the Kabane attack.
— Is it just me or is the horse here really big compared to those three dead bodies?
— The steampunk motorcycles are a little silly, too. I don’t know, I guess I just don’t feel as though they fit the setting. Made me think of Mad Max or something.
— This week, we’re introduced to this Kabane amalgamation, but it must not be very powerful since it doesn’t even get a name. Mumei and Horobi quickly dispose of the triple zombie threat. Speaking of Horobi, she’s apparently a Kabaneri as well. We also saw another female Kabaneri in one of Mumei’s flashbacks. So what’s the deal here? Is Biba only interested in raising an army of attractive female superhumans to do this bidding? That’s probably why he has them call him onii-sama as well, huh? This guy is getting skeevier and skeevier by the minute.
— We also learn how well disciplined the Hunters are. Everyone eventually commits suicide when they’ve been bitten, but there’s no hesitation with Biba’s army. No fear in their voice, no trembling in their limbs. Again, it’s kinda cultish.
— It’s interesting that the writers chose Enoku of all people for this pivotal scene. After all, we’re sort of inclined to agree with Biba, aren’t we? Why is Ikoma so upset over a man he barely knows? Better yet, why be upset over Enoku of all people? Usually, a show would tug at our heartstrings by taking the life of some poor kid or some cute girl. But here, we have washed up Enoku, an assassin who has done his fair share of misdeeds. Who cares if Enoku dies? Ikoma does, and that’s why he’s the hero. Our morals don’t stop short just because someone isn’t cute or adorable. Ikoma feels for the lowliest creature, and that’s what makes him truly heroic. Well, actually, I wonder if he would spare a Kabane if one of them could actually beg for mercy…
— Yep, totally skeevy.
— People may accuse Takumi of being the featureless sidekick, but he actually serves as the audience stand-in. He’s the one that most reflects us and our values. That’s why when Ikoma tells Takumi all about Biba’s survival of the fittest creed, the latter goes, “He’s not exactly wrong.” That’s exactly what most of us would say. We can’t deny it.
— I thought her wound was a little higher… oh well, it doesn’t matter. Neat-looking scene here.
— So Biba has a giant, glowing Kabane heart aboard his train. That’s perfectly normal for any hero!
— Not only that, Biba’s transporting a ton of wailing Kabane to Kongokaku, where scientists will no doubt perform a bunch of ghastly experiments upon the Kabane’s arrival. Fun. We must not forget the looming threat of the Shogunate as well. I wonder if the anime can resolve these plot threads in the final third of the story. I’m always wary of shows biting off more than they can chew (no pun intended for the zombies out there).
— Not a bit fan of how Ayame looks here. Her face comes off too flat-looking.
— Mumei says we won’t have reasons to be sad if we are all strong. We know she’s wrong, so that’s not the important part. Rather, it’s the fact that you have to be incredibly traumatized to believe something like that. So I don’t get why people are so hard on the girl. I’m not exactly the best at reading characters and their feelings, and yet, it seems plainly obvious to me that this young girl, who has been through more shit than any of us will ever have to deal with in our lifetimes, isn’t equipped to make the smartest decisions.
I thought this was overall a solid episode, but that’s not a glowing endorsement by any means. I have plenty of qualms as well. Again, the animation quality is pretty shoddy, and I won’t deny that. Also, Biba’s evilness came on a little too quickly for my liking, but I recognize the time constraints that the show is working with. If Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress had more time, I’m sure Biba’s development would’ve been a lot smoother. Unfortunately, he pretty much has to go from hero to evil in a single episode, and one can’t help but find this a little unsatisfying.