“Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress” (Kōtetsujō no Kabaneri) is a post-apocalyptic steampunk anime set during the industrial revolution. On the country island of Hinomoto, a mysterious virus that transforms infected humans into kabane (corpses) is rapidly spreading.
The surviving humans have built high-walled fortresses to protect what few cities remain against the kabane. They also serve as stations for armored steam-powered locomotives called hayajiro that transport people and goods from one fortress to the next.
One day, a kabane infested hayajiro crashes into Aragane Station. As the city falls to the kabane, train engineer Ikoma takes the opportunity to test his invention: a steam-powered piercing gun built to kill the undead creatures.
The only way to kill kabane is by piercing their glowing hearts, protected by thick iron cages, which the army’s steam-powered guns and standard-issue melee weapons have been ineffective at penetrating.
Ikoma’s weapon works, but he is bit during the attack. He manages to prevent the virus from fully taking over his body, but he is no longer fully human. Now half human and half kabane, he is a kabaneri.
With the help of Mumei, another kabaneri, Ikoma and other survivors board another hayajiro called the Kōtetsujō, captained by Ayame, eldest daughter of the Yomogawa family, which governs Aragane Station.
“Kabeneri of the Iron Fortress” is one of the most beautiful anime I’ve ever watched. Production values are through the roof and it shows! They really nail the zombie-steampunk atmosphere, with all the billowing steam and glowing corpses.
I’m still astounded at how they managed to fit hundreds of kabane simultaneously on screen, without sacrificing detail, several times. I can imagine all the animators and CGI people working overtime to make the director’s vision a reality, like in an especially intense episode of “Shirobako“.
Story-wise, I felt the first season was a bit rushed, like three seasons of “The Walking Dead” television series condensed into one. There wasn’t enough for me to feel involved in either Ikoma’s or Mumei’s story lines. It all developed too fast. I would have preferred more episodes even if that would have resulted in less pretty sound and animation.
The action in the anime series is great. Mumei is a skilled fighter able to dispose of dozens of kabane using her steam-powered rifle. Ikoma, meanwhile has no idea how to fight. He mostly shoves kabane around, while managing to kill a few with his piercing gun.
There are dozens of other characters in the show, each with their own personalities, histories, and fighting styles.
Not a dull moment exists in “Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress.” If you’re looking for a beautifully rendered action packed zombie killing anime and are excited about the steampunk setting, you will surely enjoy this one!