*Review contains slight spoilers*
In the age of Japan’s industrial revolution its citizens lie in fear of an ever-growing population of man-eating monsters called Kabane. The threats held by the Kabane not only lie in their ferocity and fearsome strength, but once bitten by them humans will turn into Kabanes themselves. Living with this fear, mankind has holed themselves into fortresses, living each day in fear of the monsters out their walls. The only thing that can get people from one fortress to another is the steam locomotive.
I’m just going to say what’s on almost everybody’s minds, but yes this seems very much like Attack on Titan. Similar plot? Yes, but what really tops the icing on this cake is that the very same studio that made the Attack on Titan anime adaptation, Wit Studio, is making Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress. Before we go over the pros and cons about this, let’s observe the series itself.
Our main character in this series is named Ikoma. He lives in the industrial fortress of Arawakin, living life as an engineer managing the weapons and machines in the city. What sets him apart from the residents of Arawakin is that he disassociates himself from the fear of Kabane. Why fear those monsters when humans possess the potential to kill them? Near the end of the the first episode, he defeats his first Kabane but becomes bitten by one in the process. He was able to prevent the virus from spreading to his brain, but he became a hybrid between a human and a Kabane as a result, a Kabaneri.
I really don’t have that many qualms with how generic the premise is. The zombie premise hasn’t been overused to the point where it’s gotten old, and from what we’ve seen so far from the first 3 episodes it hasn’t been solely about the Kabane. Our main focus has been on how their society has deteriorated into one brimming with fear and paranoia. Even with so many strict rules, the humans lose all reason to follow them if they even hear the word “Kabane”. It’s really the fear of becoming of Kabane that pushes humans to the brink, even to the point where suicide seemed to be the only answer. With Ikoma’s brash personality, it isn’t so much that he’s refreshing and revolutionary as a main character, but he’s essential on progressing the story like he should.
So it’s important how the characters survive and how they do it, I get that, but what really draws me to the series are the character dynamics. People straight up have a phobia when it comes to Kabanes, but how the hell do they react to people that are Kabanes AND human? Obviously, the first reaction would be to kill them and throw out a racial slur here and there, but we know that Ikoma (and other Kabaneri of interest) won’t die because of it. As hard as most of the cowards and hard-ass humans on the train with them are, they’ll have no choice but to rely on them. We’ll come to see how badass Kabaneris are and how cool it’ll see all the gory action, but it’s how some characters will grow out of their shells to adjust to their situation. These dynamics are clearly more evident in episode 2 with Takumi (Ikoma’s friend) and episode 3 with Princess Ayame.
On a side note: Mumei is the best
How does this Attack on Titan clone fare to its predecessor? Its main character pretty much has the power of the species he has sworn to extinguish. Mankind is nearly endangered because of said species. Despite all the painfully similar traits, I still like Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress. Unlike Attack on Titan, this series has a main character that has a main character that has more than his rage fits. Ikoma’s intelligent and more realistic when it comes to dealing with the Kabanes. If anything, the plot has also progressed more in 3 episodes than Attack on Titan’s entire plot put together.
In my mind I’d like to think that Wit Studio is telling us that, like its main character, this series is something more than just being an Attack on Titan clone. They’re more than aware of how similar things are, but since the story is an original work they’ll have more free reign to do what’s right for the viewers and actually keep things interesting and straight to the point. So think of this series as Attack on Titan done right.
Watch Kabaneri of Iron Fortress on Amazon!