“The Silent Hunter”
Biba and Bad Intentions?:
Kabaneri is all about surprises these past two weeks – first we had a quiet and reflective episode devoid of action that worked well, and then this week we have a return to the kabane frenzy while managing to be compelling in a way I did not expect. First up is Amatori Biba (Miyano Mamoru), the son of the Shogun, the Liberator, and the adoptive brother of Mumei. His entrance was grand and jovial last week, but Ikoma knew something was up, and he was absolutely right. Biba has an air about him that’s common amongst anime villains, with his feminine looks, long hair, and icy disposition. There are examples of this character archetype that go back decades, but Griffith from Berserk is the most memorable in my eyes. If anyone is as much of a scumbag as Griffith, then it’s obvious they’re rotten to the core, but there’s a fair chance there’s more to Biba than him simply being good or evil.
A month ago I would never have thought of Kabaneri as a series that would make me seriously questions its characters, their motives, and allegiances beyond what was presented on the surface. In a surprising turn of events the popcorn has been put down and now we should actually be paying attention to what’s going on. The action is still thrilling and just as entertaining as ever before, but this episode (along with last week’s quiet affair) hints that Kabaneri is going in a different direction than I think many of us expected. The real question right now is whether Biba is truly evil, or if he is doing what is necessary to eradicate the kabanes. No matter what, he seems to be doing this to get rid of the threat that ruins the lives of the weak, and he sees himself and his hunters as the answer to their prayers – he did save Mumei when her mother was murdered, after all. But while there is a good chance he’s not completely evil, it’s clear there’s nothing trustworthy about him; he’s brutal, unwavering when it comes to his ambitions, and sees himself as better than others who can’t properly defend themselves. He could just end up being a big baddie with no redeeming qualities by the end, but for now an argument can be made either way.
Perhaps most surprising of all is something I realised mid-way through this episode – and it’s not something I expected to occur – that I actually like Mumei’s character now! Last week showed a new side to her that I appreciated, and finally it feels like her actions make sense within the context of the story. And now that her age has been confirmed, it puts a lot of things into perspective. Her past is devistating, from her mother being murdered, to her becoming a killer, and then being turned into a kabaneri by the man she now calls her brother. Her naivety is clear, but her bonds with Ikoma and the rest of the crew have shifted her mindset in the best way possible. Now that she’s conflicted on appeasing her brother and making sure her friends aren’t hurt, I found her struggles especially compelling this week. It’s clear she did not want to use her dagger against Ayame, as she appeared like a helpless child in that brief moment before eventually being fooled. Her argument with Ikoma then makes it seem like she’s siding more with her brother, but I think she will see the light before too long as she already appears to be doubting his words.
Overview – What’s Next?:
A surprisingly compelling and thoughtful episode this week, which isn’t what I was expecting, but it gives me more to talk about other than kabane killing! There was still plenty of those moments, mind you, from the hunters riding motorcycles against the army of zombies, to Mumei showing off her acrobatic skills in another impressive action set piece. It’s still great fun, but Kabaneri just got a little more serious, so we’ll see how that affects the remaining four episodes going forward.
Full-length images: 23.