Kabeneri of the Iron Fortress Season 1 – Anime Review

“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.

Mumei (left) and Ikoma with the Kōtetsujō behind them

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.

Just some of the thousands of kabane featured in the show

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.

Here we’ve got the steam-powered bow, the kabane-infused samurai sword, and an assortment of steam-powered guns. Which will be most effective against the kabane?

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!

Coffee Bean and Tea Reads Rating:

4 Beans
4 out of 5 beans

Shirobako – Anime Review

After graduating from university, Aoi Miyamori and her best friends Ema Yasuhara, Shizuka Sasaki, Misa Tōdō, and Midori Imai—all five of them past members of the same high school animation club—are pursuing careers in the animation industry. Shizuki is an aspiring anime voice actress. Misa, a 3D computer graphics animator. Midori, who is still in college, is an aspiring scriptwriter.

Ema is a key animator for Musashino Animation, where Aoi also works as a production assistant. Aoi, the series’s main protagonist, is the only one among her friends without a clear idea of what she wants to be in the anime industry. And this uncertainty will play a major role in her character development throughout the 24-episode season.

Source: 1

Directed by Tsumomu Mizushima, Shirobako is an anime series about how anime is made, albeit from a very positive point of view. The title refers to the white boxes VHS tapes were stored in when videos were sent out to production members prior to the anime’s release. Despite the introduction of new technology, the old terminology is still used today.

This series centers around Aoi, whose job it is to ensure that every cog of Misashino Animation’s anime production machine works efficiently and effectively. Despite being a task that lends itself to Aoi’s talents, it’s a very difficult one that she struggles with throughout the series.

Shirobako is divided into two arcs of 12 episodes each. In the first arc, the animation studio is producing the anime series Exodus! under the helm of director Seiichi Kinoshita, whose reputation was badly damaged by a previous project of his. In the second arc, the animation studio produces The Third Aerial Girls Squad, an adaptation of the hugely popular manga written by Takezō Nogame.

Truly, producing anime is a gargantuan task, where a single problem, from poorly drawn key frames to incomplete storyboards, can lead to delayed production, substandard quality, or worse. The number of people, both company employees and freelancers, who work on producing individual anime episodes alone is astounding. What more 12 episodes of it? As such, the number of characters in Shirobako is astonishing as well. More amazing is how every single character is well-rounded, unique, and essential to the story.

A poster of Exodus! (Source: 1)

The series touches on a variety topics relevant to the anime industry, including the debate between hand-drawn and CGI animation, the relationships between anime directors and manga authors, as well as the never ending task of doing quality work and meeting deadlines. Each of the five protagonists also face individual challenges. For example: Shizuki’s inability to land a fulfilling voice acting job, Misa’s getting tired of designing computer generated tires all day, and Ema’s feeling inferior to her senior key frame animators.

Each of their story arcs, including Aoi’s, are resolved satisfactory by the end of the series, which will leave most viewers feeling happy and inspired. The series does a great job tackling serious themes like a parent falling ill, a humiliated director trying to make his comeback, and a once passionate anime lover now jaded almost to the point of leaving the industry for good.

Unfortunately, the series sometimes suffers from exceedingly obvious and obnoxious storytelling. One episode has the production heads of Musashino Animation choosing voice actors for The Third Aerial Girls Squad. Present in the meeting were three representatives of voice actor’s studios. Each of them were demanding their voice actors be chosen, one because she’s popular, the other because she can sing, and the last one because she’s hot (for lack of a better word).

A poster of Exodus! (Source: 1)

Obviously, all these have nothing to do with actual voice acting talent, so the whole shouting match was really cringe worthy, similar to watching politicians bicker on live television. There were a few other scenes like this, though that ‘having vested interests’ scene was, by far, the worst. Fortunately, the problematic scenes were few and far in between.

VERDICT: Shirobako is a wonderfully uplifting anime. It is also a very satisfying anime about making anime, providing viewers with a very in-depth look into the industry through rose-tinted lenses. Some episodes suffered a bit story-wise, but everything comes together in the end. The series is critically and popularly regarded as one of the best anime in recent years. An inspiring breath of fresh air. Shirobako definitely deserves the praise.

Coffee Bean and Tea Reads Rating:

5 Beans out of 5
5 Beans out of 5

Oh, and let me leave you with this epicly cute scene. For more of Ema and her cuteness, watch Shirobako! 🙂