Before anything else, I want to make it clear that I had a lot of fun watching the last episode of Kabaneri, as well as the first. It’s propulsive, and full of funny moments. Are all of them supposed to be funny to me? I doubt it, but some are, and I’m never laughing at the show too hard. And yet, I’m going to focus on some of the things I did not like, because the things I do like are mostly about pacing and direction and general atmosphere, or just the very subjective feeling of fun I’ve had. There’s not a lot of words for me to say about it other than to just say it is so. But when it comes to the episode’s writing, and some meta-concerns related to that, which I liked considerably less, I actually have a lot of words to say. So, keep in mind that I’m enjoying the show as you read what is to follow.
Somewhere between the two, Ikoma and Takumi are such dorks. Such fun goofballs. Hollering and clasping over their successes. No, it’s not funny that they do, but how they do it is almost straight out of a shounen manga. But from that we go onto just how dumb Ikoma is sometime. Or rather than dumb, he does things without relaly thinking them through. Last week we had him cutting his hand to draw the Kabane without thinking through of how it’d hurt, and let’s not return to the auto-asphyxiation scene.
(Though this piece uses Kabaneri’s second episode as its focus, it also shares some ideas I have about how a certain brand of anime deals with its ideas. The “GrimDark “”Seinen”” shows.)
This week, a Kabane is stuck out of the train, so what does our protagonist do? He needs to kill this Kabane! And he needs everyone to see it! So he literally opens the door and lets the zombie into the closed room with all of the helpless civilians, and then looks at them expecting praise after he manages to defeat it. What a dumb-ass, really. But this fits into his character arc, that for now mostly revolves around the refrain of “SEE ME.” More than he wants to save people, he wants to be acknowledged. He wants redemption from the dead, and acceptance from the living. His heroism is all about the common refrain of pride and dignity and honour, which he wants to have.
This is not what I call a seinen series, but rather what I call “”seinen”” series, where all the GrimDark and the common themes of proving your mettle and casting down the old order as corrupt are very much designed to appeal to young adult audiences (mostly older teenagers, and people just entering the work-force). They’re the same stories of bildungsroman and special powers that shounen stories are comprised with, steeped in a thick veneer of blood and grit and cynicism. And then you have moments such as this, “Are you crying? What an idiot.” It’s actually quite fascinating, how we look at media for boys as if it tells them to not cry, but shounen have male protagonists breaking down and crying all over the place, and that’s exactly what makes them so powerful. And then the “”seinen”” shows are all about regression from expressions of emotions and humanity, until people come out on the other hand, where shows depicting adults, for adults, once more accept emotions and tears as part of the human condition.
You know, though Naruto, say, and this season’s MHA as well, and many other shounen manga revolve around “See me! Recognize me!” coming from a place of loneliness, it’s more of an LN thing where the protagonist has the same lines, but coated with a veneer of distaste and superiority to others, where it is not about their loneliness, but how lesser everyone else. Ikoma’s would-be final monologue, of, “Live with the anguish of letting the person who saved you die! Live with it forever!” is what the cliché of “Emo edgy/goth kids” is all about. He’s Kylo Ren.
You can argue the show is making fun of him, especially with the “Are you stupid for being this emotional?” reaction from Mumei, but that only says showing weakness and feelings is weak, rather than making fun of him as a joke, in a fun way, such as with the aforementioned interactions with Takumi. The show is serious in the wrong places. Which brings us to the other place where all these ideas and ideals of “Strength! Pride! Honour!” all exist. It’s not that Ayame’s father and the older bushi are wrong because they espouse silly ideals, but because they don’t really follow them, and talk down to children just because they are.
I mean, Mumei telling Ayame she’s a bad leader, that she’s weak, and that she lets people die, because she’s not militaristic enough. Calling back to her father running away from the fight, which also led to his death, and later, her breaking down and crying over people becoming Kabane, and being unable to see her father as what he is now, a burden, an obstacle. More “Rah rah!” speech, alongside with the final theme of such “”seinen”” shows, and which can be seen in Black Bullet as well as countless others:
Adults are bad. Adults are useless. The show at least made a concession that everyone is filling in and lost, now that they have to operate with the B-Team, as all the adults died out/ran away. This is also a tool used to increase tension and horror, as there’s no one to rely on, and everyone is operating out of their depth, without anyone to come and save them. But most of all, especially with the final scene of the train leaving the flaming and ruined city of civilization behind for the green forests, it’s all about the age old theme that is designed to appeal in bildungsromans: Cast off the past, the cowardly and weak traditionalism, and grasp power by your own hands!
Just like in Black Bullet, the voice of the establishment spouts lines that are inherently nonsensical, who won’t listen or believe even their own eyes, instead relying on another figure of authority to make (bad) decisions for them. It’s a scarecrow. To some degree it’s necessary so the protagonists could save the day, but you can let the old guard out with some dignity, rather than making sure they have none left, to kill them, after they sign away basic decency, and then lose even the last vestiges through their death.
Also, of course Mumei is presented as ridiculously and over the top cool and collected, making a game of it. And yes, she’s cool. She’s a badass.
Also, final few words on production: The kabane flying through the air, as well as Mumei whirling were great. But look at these three frames. They’re 3 consecutive frames. What you see in them takes 1/8th of a second. That, and a couple other moments were extremely choppy, as there weren’t enough slides in between to make the action come off as smooth. It was especially jarring with how lovingly animated other scenes were.
Music, the ED, like the OP, is solid, competent, and doesn’t excite me. The music in the episode, likewise, was quite good, better than most shows, but not nearly as good as Sawano’s output in Aldnoah.Zero, Attack on Titan, or Kill la Kill. I expect better from you, man. You can do it.