A Fitting Epic Ending:
I was shocked to find how mixed the response was to this finale. My take was that this was epic, glorious, and typical Kabaneri. Was it predictable? Yes. But predictability doesn’t mean it can’t be satisfying. It may mean it doesn’t reach that level of quality that diehard viewers may expect, but I never expected Kabaneri to transcend to that level. In fact, I think the most apt comparison to this episode would be the recent season finale of Game of Thrones. If you haven’t watch it yet, then don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything. But what I will say is that they both tried to be big fan pleasers. The creators behind both shows tried to give the viewers exactly what they wanted, but I would say it turned out more satisfying with Kabaneri.
Kabaneri is a smaller franchise, but this last episode felt fitting with the rest of the show – it was a blitz of blood, gore, violence, war, mayhem, with the good guys winning at the end of it all. However, Game of Thrones is a different beast; earlier seasons were loaded with intrigue and political machinations that meant what you were seeing on-screen wasn’t what you were going to get – there was often three, four, five layers of backstabbing going on, and it always proved unpredictable. That’s the fundamental difference between both shows, and both decided in their recent episodes to give something that should make us happy. And because Kabaneri was never a deep story aiming to deconstruct the tropes of its genre, it doesn’t feel cheap. It may be an unpopular opinion, but the recent Game of Thrones episode, while wonderfully epic, was a step-down from the intrigue that we’ve come to expect. We’ve reached the point where what you see is exactly what you expect. Fan theories are more complex than what we’re actually getting, and that’s when things start feeling disappointing. Unless you had unrealistic expectations of what sort of series Kabaneri was trying to be, I find it difficult to understand why people feel betrayed by this ending.
There is one turn of events that didn’t play out as I predicted, but for the most part this finale was exactly what you’d expect. Ikoma is a brand new badass, he encounters Biba and they have an epic showdown, Mumei is brought back to humanity by Ikoma, and gets revenge on her brother. Thankfully, the stellar production and impressive battle animation helped make the most of these expected plot turns. It was satisfying seeing the good guys succeed, because it’s what they deserve. The pacing may have been faster than previous episodes, but I wouldn’t say it was rushed. It had the same spirit as most Koutetsujou no Kabaneri episodes, and I’m glad it finished more or less how it started.
A Happy Ending:
One thing that did come as a surprise to me was how happy this ending was. When I said ‘let the bloodbath commence’ a few weeks backs, I thought that was what we were in for; but it turns out Takumi was the only member of the main cast to be taken out. Miraculously, everyone else made it out alive, happy, and celebrating. It was nice to see everyone smiling by the end, riding off into the distance after defeating Biba and bringing Mumei back to the human side… but I thought there would at least be some more casualties along the way. That’s the only part of the finale that stuck out as odd, but it is forgivable enough considering how entertaining the rest of the episode was.
Overview – Final Impressions:
And so it ends – or does it? I was always under the impression that Kabaneri would tell a complete story in the 12 episodes it was given, but after this finale it felt like there’s more story still to tell. Biba the Liberator may have been defeated, but the kabane still roam the land, and it feels like the main crew’s journey has only just begun. Could we get more? It’s not uncommon for Noitamina titles to have sequels, and since Kabaneri looks to sell fairly well in the BD department, that could be a positive sign. I’d be eager to explore this world further if there is another cause to fight for. The focus on this train journeying through the lands has been small-scale compared to what the series as a whole may have to offer, but I do fear if this story continues it will end up less personal than these 12 episodes.
Putting the possibility of a sequel aside, if I were to judge Kabaneri as a whole I’d say it did exactly what it said on the tin. It was a fun zombie thriller, with brilliant action, plenty of violence, and few surprises along the way. For the most part it did exactly what you’d expect, and it did it to great success. Compared to its spiritual predecessor, each episode felt tightly written, as the scenario was clearlyly made with 1-cour in mind. Every week we got something that was grand and bombastic, fast paced, and never boring. It even managed to be rather touching and heartfelt in the middle, where I expected it would dip in quality; instead it managed to make Mumei a believable character, and turned Ikoma into a easy-to-root-for badass. Biba was just as evil as you’d expect, but I was fine with that. His character archetype is fairly common in anime, but there’s always something satisfying about seeing an overconfident bishounen get what they deserve.
I’d say as an action anime, Koutetsujou no Kabaneri was great. It knew what it wanted to do, it was unabashed in its inspirations, and it proved itself to be a fun watch throughout. This season has been an interesting one for me – not only because my real life has been busy, but because both anime I blogged weren’t particularly deep or insightful or had themes I could pick apart. They were action/horror/supernatural flicks that did their own thing, and didn’t try to be anything too profound or hard to swallow. I’d recommend Kabaneri to anyone who enjoyed Shingeki no Kyojin, or to anyone who feels action anime have lost their flare in recent years. It’s fun, in-your-face, well-made, and proves itself a blockbuster worth your time. After all, there may be more that awaits on the horizon.