The Characters – The Idiots, the Unlikeable, and the Impressive:
We return to a full-on action fest this week, which I think makes for better viewing. But even with all that splendour, it’s the characters who deserve some attention this time around. First off, there’s always idiots who survive the apocalypse and just have to go ahead and make everyone else’s life a misery because of their own ridiculousness. It’s a common trope that’s been prevalent in all the episodes to date, but this time around things just got silly. Of course, I don’t blame some of them for reacting to having kabaneri on board and fearing for their life, but when the people whose lives were actually in danger seem to bear no grudge against them for their bloodlust, it seems ridiculous that others would. But these stock characters are meant to be ridiculous (and annoying), before they eventually get a taste of their own medicine, and get themselves killed for being the idiots they are.
And then there’s the unlikeable characters. I would have put Kurusu in this category, but he’s warming up to the progressive ideas of his lady, and he doesn’t seem like a genuinely evil guy; it’s easier to sympathise with someone who may be making a silly decision in the eyes of the viewer, but is so doing because of their own principles and because they sincerely believe they’re making the best choices. As such, Kurusu is good for now. However, there is one character I’m not liking. I’m gonna say it – and it’s not going to be popular: Mumei. I just… don’t like her character. If any of you know anything about my tastes, you’ll know it takes a hell of a lot for me to dislike a female character. I often reserve love for the women who don’t get the material or development they deserve, but every one in a while there’s one who just sticks out for all the wrong reasons, and this time it’s Mumei. Simply put, I don’t get her.
I love characters that are inconsistent, filled with flaws, and make poor decisions that come to bite them later on, but for as beautiful as her design is, I honestly don’t understand who Mumei is. Each episode she seems to embody a different archetype. She started off as a lazy, ditzy type who turned out to be a the secret badass. Cool. And then we saw more of the badassery, making her seem like the stoic fighter who didn’t take no shit. Also cool. And then last week she was the antagoniser, playing into the fears of the common people and treating the only person who shares her curse like shit. Not cool. And then here she’s all over the place. One minute she’s epic and stoic, next she’s goofy, then mouthing off to Ikoma, then whimpering that she doesn’t want him to die. There’s potential for her still, but I can’t get behind a character that seems to change with the direction of the wind – someone who was made more to fit the necessity of the plot and each new scene rather than having their own personal arc.
Which brings me to my new favourite character: Ayame. I said last week that she was beginning to impress me, and this episode sold me on her. She rocks. She falls victim to the necessity of the plot in the opening minutes of the episode by giving her key to the worst possible people after feeling guilty and unfit for the job, but once that subplot is established, she returns to proper form. I like that she can both sit back or take action depending on what she feels is right. Seeing her shoot down some kabane is awesome, but perhaps my favourite scene of the episode was when she climbed to the roof and slit her arm for Ikoma to drink her blood. She was the first one to act, and has proven to be the most sensible of the group. I’m glad she’s returned to leader by the end, and convinced everyone else to keep the kabaneri onboard. It makes complete sense to house those who saved your lives on multiple occasions; she just saw that much quicker than the rest of the survivors.
Action Set Pieces:
I’m also happy to report that this episode was just as epic as the rest. We finally see the train sequences teased in the OP, and watching it in full did not disappoint. You can clearly tell when the best animators have been used, and when they’ve been complacent in the scenes that don’t matter as much. Because of that, the action set pieces of each episode remain impressive, even if there are some less than gorgeous shots here and there. It still retains its shine and remains the best-looking show of the season. And it may also have the best soundtrack as well. When it looks as good as this and the music is pumping in the background, it’s hard not to admit that Kabeneri is an epic watch.
Overview – What’s Next?:
Remember when people were saying that this was going to be a Shingeki no Kyojin clone, as if to imply it would be lesser? After four episodes, I much prefer what Kabaneri is doing. It’s going to be a shorter story, but that makes each episode feel more sharp and tightly woven. The cast of characters may not be as memorable, but this is proving to be one hell of a thrill ride. I’m glad this is as popular as it is – it looks to be one of the best-selling anime of the season – and isn’t being shrugged off as some failed rehash. it’s easy to see why this is a winning formula, but with episodes as entertaining as this, I can’t help love it for what it is, and for it doing a damn fine job at it.