Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress Ep. 11: You went full shounen, man

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Everybody knows you never go full shounen. I enjoyed this episode, but like last week, I don’t have any fullblown analysis to offer. In fact, I think we’re pretty much set in that department. That’s not necessarily a bad thing either. I just think most of the questions have been answered, and most of the characters have been developed. There’s still room for some scant development for the final remaining episodes, but nothing that requires an essay to cover. With that said, let’s get right to it.

— Takumi’s dead, and Ikoma’s still alive. Simmons and Ingram go 1-2. Nothing too surprising yet.

— What about Ikoma’s missing right arm? Well, the placement of his gun is a pretty telltale sign, don’t you think?

— After the OP, Biba grips a small dagger (knife?), and we see a flashback with him and his father. Something about fear. The lights went out unexpectedly, so the paranoid shogun went on the offensive. When he lit a candle, he saw his own son bleeding before him. You can’t blame Biba’s current monstrous nature on this one event, but I guess things were never the same after this peculiar moment in their relationship.

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My one issue here is that the shogun is relatively undeveloped. He’s an ancillary character, but it would’ve been much more meaningful if he had a much more credible presence in the story — if, y’know, we got to hear his side of the story. Without that, he’s nothing more than a pathetic old man in his ivory tower. And maybe that’s all he is! But still, I think the story would’ve been much improved with a fully fleshed out third faction, so to speak. Obviously, we root for Ikoma, Ayame, and company, because they’re the heroes. Biba’s a murderous villain, but he’s not wrong about everything. As I explained a couple of weeks ago, his desire to free people from fear is shared by Ikoma. Biba simply goes about accomplishing his goals in a different way. Anyway, my point is that the shogun pales in comparison. They’re a bunch of elitist yet fearful jerks, and that’s it. Maybe he didn’t have a compelling reason to doom the 400,000 men under Biba’s command, but it would’ve been better if he did. As a result, the shogun and the rest of the shogunate are completely one-dimensional.

— I still can’t believe she’s supposed to be 12. Does this look like a 12-year-old to you? I know kids are hitting puberty faster than ever, and maybe turning into a Kabaneri played some role in this, but c’mon, would it have really hurt to make her at least 16? Fuck it, I’m making my own canon.

— But enough about that. Biba’s going to turn our dear Mumei into a Black Cloud, so I guess this show does do foreshadowing. By the way, they’re now referring to the Black Cloud as a Nue, but I’m gonna stick with the term Black Cloud because I’m used to it.

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— We finally get to see the infamous Kongokaku. It looks like a theme park. Yep, it definitely looks like a theme park.

— The shogun doesn’t want to tell people about the possibility of a Black Cloud fucking their shit up, so he stabs the one messenger with any knowledge about it. ‘Cause, y’know, fear is bad or something. It’s better if we face this problem unprepared instead.

— In Ikoma’s nightmares, his sister has now been replaced by Mumei. In other words, he thinks Mumei’s nothing more than a Kabane now, mindless and inhuman. He begins to pity himself, lamenting the fact that he ever got involved in the first place. Well, if never got involved, the Koutetsujyo probably would’ve been overrun by the Kabane a long time ago.

— Speaking of the Koutetsujyo, it has arrived at Kongokaku’s front gates. Biba pretends to be Ayame’s prisoner in order to sneak himself into the walled city. Naturally, Ayame goes along with his plans, because she wants to protect her people. But is it all that natural? Let’s think about this for a second. She has seen firsthand what Biba is capable of. She’s seen him turn Iwato into flaming ruins, and thus bring about the deaths of thousands of innocent lives if not more. So why would he hesitate to do the same with Kongokaku? Essentially, she’s risking the lives of an entire city just to protect the few survivors she has left… but that’s only assuming Biba keeps his word. He could just as easily murder the majority of them after all of this is over and done with. I just… I don’t know, man.

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Y’know, I get it. It’s a hard decision to make. No one wants to sacrifice their own people, and even if she did sacrifice them, it’s more than likely Biba has a plan B to fall back on. He hasn’t been carrying all this hate in his heart just to let some upstart girl ruin everything. Still, I would’ve liked to have seen a small scene where the girl struggled with the decision to go along with Biba’s demands, knowing what would happen to the people of Kongokaku. I just want a scene where the choice to protect her own people weighed heavily on her heart. I can’t blame her for choosing her own people over the entire population of Kongokaku. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I were in her shoes. But at least show me her guilt. Show me the oh-so-human weakness to protect our own over the greater good.

— Oh hey, Kurusu’s alive. And he’s brought the mad scientist with him! We’re all alive! Oh yeah, Takumi…

— I don’t blame Kurusu for assuming that Ikoma ran away with his tail between his legs. He’s emotional, because he has no clue if his Ayame is okay. As for Ikoma’s continued “woe is me” attitude, well… it would’ve been nice if he simply got angry. It would’ve been more heroic if Takumi’s death simply made him angrier, and he’s more determined than ever to kill Biba. At the same time, I kinda understand where he’s coming from. He didn’t just lose his best friend. In Mumei, he feels as though he’s lost his sister too. So yeah, I understand why he’s crying. It’s pathetic, but I get it.

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— Back in Kongokaku, Biba’s masterful plan unfolds with perfect precision. He gets his father to grip that very same dagger he had used to attack his son all those years ago. But this time, the dagger has been tainted with the deadly Kabane virus. The shogun soon finds himself turning into a Kabane, and his own men can’t help but gun down their own ruler. Naturally, Biba gets to land the finishing blow.

— Outside the palace, Biba’s men sow fear and discord by stabbing soldiers with tainted knives. Brothers begin to turn on each other, and it’s clear that our villain intends to tear Kongokaku apart from the inside out. I guess that’s what fear does to you.

— Then of course, the Koutetsujyo dumps actual Kabane on top of the city. It’s just overkill at this point. Not only are the white blood cells attacking themselves, you get a huge influx of the pathogen. But oh yeah, don’t forget that Mumei is gonna go all kaiju on this shit. If the city’s already tearing itself apart, do we really need Mumei as a Black Cloud to stomp on the tiny buildings? I hate to know what Biba did to his toys as a kid.

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— And yet, the guy takes a seat at his father’s throne, and tears up at an old memory of him and his father during their better days. He’ll manipulate and abuse all those girls — he won’t even shed a tear for Horobi — but he has a soft side for the father he just killed. It’s pretty narcissistic. There’s only a soft side because he himself is in that memory. The guy has no empathy for anyone else.

— Kurusu points out to Ikoma that Mumei had deliberately missed the latter’s heart. I mean, we all knew that. I joked about it in last week’s post, because I thought it was plainly self-evident.

— More importantly, however, the realization that Mumei isn’t completely long gone finally snaps our hero back to his senses.

— Elsewhere, a forlorn Mumei slowly transforms herself into a Black Cloud. She laments that she couldn’t save anybody, but she did save Ikoma… so she had the conviction to do at least that. Just not enough to resist Biba when he injected her with the Black Cloud serum. Hm.

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— The mad scientist (I can’t recall his name) says that turning into a Black Cloud will cause the individual to lose their soul and their life. Nevertheless, here’s a convenient vial — it’s even white for good! — that will allow Ikoma to save Mumei. So which is it, man? Do you lose your soul or not? Spoiler: not if you’re a heroine.

— So Ikoma gives himself a sexy new haircut. He also becomes Mega Man. You gotta mega when you can cut your own hair that perfectly with just a knife. He then asks for the other vial, i.e. the black, evil one. The one that turns you into a Black Cloud. Unfortunately, he’s a man, so he can’t turn into a hulking mass of writhing Kabane. Even though male Kabaneri are rare, I guess the mad scientist just knows this… because science or something.

— Nevertheless, the black vial will unleash Ikoma’s true potential! He’ll just lose control of himself and become a fullblown Kabane or something, but until then, he’ll have the strength to save Mumei and kill Biba, and gosh, that’s all that counts. As he transforms, he thinks to himself, “This is the moment… that I… that I… become the man I can be proud of!” And as he thinks this, he gets visions of his sister and Mumei. Hm. I don’t think the guy is going to survive this story. I mean, I’m not saying that he’s going to die for sure, I bet he does. Because it seems to me that being a man in this culture is to sacrifice yourself for the family and country. That boy gon die. But we’ll see.

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— Ooh, pretty. I mean, that poor city and its dead inhabitants…

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14 thoughts on “Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress Ep. 11: You went full shounen, man”

  1. This episodes is great it makes up the dissapointment I feel in the last two episodes as well as hinted there will be conclusive ending I believe.

    Btw Oh boy the way Mumei change immediately reminded me of Inori.

  2. This episodes is great, it makes up the dissapointment I feel in the last two episodes as well as hinted there will be conclusive ending I believe.

    Btw Oh boy the way Mumei change immediately reminded me of Inori.

  3. Well, going “full-shounen” doesn’t technically mean anything in itself, as “shounen” is only a demographic-commercial term, it isn’t a genre. But I get your point despite thinking that being “shounen” isn’t bad in itself, but there’s so much LN-like crap usurpating the shounen-nekketsu cliches and defiling them with Gary-Stu characters and pretentious blabber that it became disgusting.

    1. (Sorry for double-posting, I forgot something…)

      I should also add that shounen-nekketsu cliches require the right setting (Kill la Kill was a good example of right shounen-nekketsu (shoujo-nekketsu ? whatever !) setting and mood… every “shounenesque” cliches happening during the series made lots of sense in its universe and context), which I simply don’t find in Kabaneri.

    2. Well, going “full-shounen” doesn’t technically mean anything in itself, as “shounen” is only a demographic-commercial term, it isn’t a genre.

      I’m being tongue-in-cheek.

  4. SPOILER FOR ATTACK ON TITAN IN MY COMMENT

    I was expecting him to be more angry and not so sorrowful. I can’t help but compare him to Eren of AoT, who was headstrong despite the increasingly difficult odds. And when faced with the humanity of his villains, (IE The other shifters true identities) I expected full blown rage to consume him. Though it seems it took Kurusu telling him that Kabanari Miko Imouto was actually alive to make him angry. Oh freaking please… I bet he doesn’t even care about Takomeat anymore and now it’s all about Mumei. I know, he’s dead, but FFS this is his best friend were talking about here, GET HYPED SON!!!! I don’t care how emotional you get if it’s not presented in an entertaining way, THEN… well that makes me sad.

  5. I see you quoting Tropic Thunder there… Robert Downey Jr, the greatest “African-American” actor of his generation! :D

    It’s interesting how skewed the Japanese and international viewers are on the plot developments. Internationals are fed up with what they see is a rehash of plot cliches and devices seen in other animes/Hollywood movies, while the Japanese were moved to tears by the death of Ikoma’s friend (if their forums are to be believed). Plus they love the action and suspense. I think it’s just one of those shows that clicks with them on a socio-cultural level (like how Osomatsu-san and Konosuba were so popular there.)

    1. Personally, it’s not the cliches that get me – it’s that the series doesn’t have anything meaningful to say about its themes (or anything else, for that matter) and spends most of the plot just moving from set piece to set piece. It’s a reasonably entertaining bit of action and spectacle, but there’s just nothing else to it. All of the characters are shallow, nobody has any interesting insight or perspective to share, and the way the people are shown to be so effortlessly cowed and mislead is so simplified and on-the-nose as to feel patronizing.

        1. I don’t really disagree, but those two have other things going on in them for me to engage with. One’s been largely a murder mystery, and the other is a Mari Okada romance-drama in disguise (is it even in disguise?). There’s weekly development in saving the girl/fixing the problem, or watching a bunch of misfits gradually become friends. They’re both sufficiently complex to have uncertainty – you can if nothing else theorize about the characters and motivations – or just ship people – between episodes.

          Kabaneri has this particular mixture of shallow characters, boilerplate plot, and bombastic directing that leaves nothing to the imagination, and nothing to talk about. It’s not interested in building a world, examining characters, or setting up drama beyond the minimum required for the next set piece. Nobody talks except to advance the plot, and when they do you wish they wouldn’t. It’s so perfunctory a series as to stand out: all there is to it is flashy action (or occasionally, terrible still frame shots of action) and good pacing.

        2. I don’t feel I’ve been writing about nothing. Otherwise, my posts on these episodes would be rather short. But meh, to each their own. I’m not going to rehash why I think this is a better show than the other two. If you’re not convinced by the posts I’ve written, one more comment won’t change a thing.

        3. Fair enough. Personally speaking, as long as a series touches upon an interesting idea – even unintentionally, or for just a moment – I think you could write analysis that’s interesting to read on basically anything, from the bottom of the barrel to the cream of the crop. On the subject of which: thanks for doing this every week! I always enjoy reading what you take away from these series, regardless of – no, especially – if we have different opinions.

      1. in all honesty i would argue that re:zero and kiznaiver are actually more amateurishly written when compared to kabaneri. All three shows have got apparent flaws but kabaneri wears what it is on its sleeves while re:zero and kiznaiver aim to prove that they are a bit higher on the storytelling echelon than they actually are and fail at doing so, but that’s just me

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