Koutetsujou no Kabaneri (Kabaneri of The Iron Fortress) is a TV anime about survival horror but took place in fall of the samurai era. Aired from April 8, 2016 to July 1, 2016 with total episode of 12, Koutetsujou no Kabaneri ended up winning the best anime of 2016 according NewType Magazine Poll. Unlike many anime which is adapted from manga, novel, or game, Koutetsujou No Kabaneri’s concept was directly made to anime. This make things more challenging for the studio but also more flexible when changes are needed.
The story takes place on Japan when industrial revolution happens. According to the calendar in real world, that is Fall of the Samurai Era around in 1800s. But who cares? This anime is not about history. In this anime, there are people infected with virus, changing them into zombies. These zombies are called Kabane. They have glowing heart that covered by metal layer that can’t be easily pierced by common weapon. Just like another zombie film, people who gets bitten by the zombies will turn into one. However, there is one thing between human and Kabane. It is called Kabaneri. Kabaneri has the physical strength of Kabane but mind of human. This story mainly follows the struggle of two Kabaneri(s) fighting for survival of their fellow human comrades.
The characters in the story are Ikoma, a steam smith and also an inventor who works on developing weapon to kill Kabane and Mumei, a young female Kabaneri who already experts in killing Kabane. The two of them are onboard a big train known as Koutetsujou. Koutetsujou itself is lead by young princess named Ayame. Ayame’s father was turned into Kabane and she has no choice but to lead the rest of survivors on Koutetsujou. Together with their comrades, they fight for their survival from the deadly terror of Kabane.
Generally, I would rate the voice acting as very good. The best voice acting in the anime belongs to Uchida Maaya who voices Ayame followed by Hatanaka Tasuku who voiced Ikoma. Miyano Mamoru also did a very good job voicing Amatori Biba, the main antagonist in the TV Series. Ayame’s loyal bodyguard, Kurusu is voiced by Masuda Toshiki and I also consider her voice acting to be very good. Ikoma’s best friend, Takumi is voiced by Kaji Yuuki but I would consider her voice acting to be just decent. Ise Mariya voiced Yukina, the engineer and driver of Koutetsujou. She also did well. But of all the seiyuu above, perhaps the main star is the newbie seiyuu Senbongi Sayaka who voiced Mumei. Senbongi Sayaka made her debut in 2013 as Kokonoe Kurea on Kitakubu Katsudou Kiroku. At that time, she was still on high school and practically adds no more primary role on her voice acting list. She returned to voice acting in 2016, starting with Koutetsujou no Kabaneri and her career appears to be in the rise since then.
Dark and scary as it should be while keeping the details. The character design and color tone makes is a match for its Samurai era. While I actually dislike this kind of color due to it resembles old anime, I also feel that color is right for this kind of anime.
The opening theme song is “KABANERI OF THE IRON FORTRESS” by EGOIST and the ending theme song is “ninelie” by Aimer with chelly (EGOIST). I don’t like this kind of song as is match the dark atmosphere of the anime. But since it is a good match, I’d say the songs are good choice. The BGM also build the dark atmosphere while the sound effect is close to be awesome but still about 2 stops below Girls und Panzer.
Why so many things I dislike but I still ended up watching this anime? I was asking that question to myself. First, I took interest about zombie story. High School of Dead was awesome and well-directed. We can feel the emotion of each characters as they face threats and mind-breaking situation. Those feelings unfortunately, are not so visible in Koutetsujou no Kabeneri. The story of Koutetsujou no Kabaneri turns out to be unexpected. But since this anime wins NewType Poll of Best Anime for 2016, there is a reason to take interest in it. Unfortunately for now, the ending left us with some questions unanswered. Or perhaps it is best left unanswered?
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(+) Well-balanced between action and story telling
(-) Some unanswered questions in the ending
(-) Character development only visible on Ikoma and Mumei