I think it works best if you don’t think too much about it…
I’m writing this from the press lounge at Anime Expo, so forgive me my brevity. I’m trying to shoehorn in some episodic posts in-between forays down into the teeming masses (which really make me appreciate how well these sorts of things are organized in Japan). That they’re going to be including both Series Review and First Impressions posts makes the job that much harder, of course.
Fortunately, Koutetsujou no Kabaneri is one of those shows that lends itself to economy of composition. There’s not much point in beating the dead horse that analysis of this series has effectively become, because it is what it is. This just isn’t the kind of series that’s going to hold up well if you’re looking for something that isn’t there. It’s pretty dumb, if we’re honest, but if you can shut off the part of the brain that cares about such things I still think a smart viewer can enjoy it. Kind of.
I’m seeing a lot of Guilty Crown references in discussion of these last couple of episodes of Koutetsujou no Kabaneri, which to honest it a bit harsh. Guilty Crown has sort of become synonymous with pretty but vapid anime, and not without good reason. I suppose those terms apply to Koutetsujou too, and it doesn’t do itself any favors with its runway model narrative style – slow-mo “money shot” imagery, J-Pop intercuts at key moments. It practically screams out “Disdain me!”
So why don’t I disdain this series as much as G.C.? To be honest I don’t completely know the reason. But there seems something less calculated in Koutetsujou somehow, which makes me feel more positively disposed towards it. Does it belong anywhere near the NoitaminA block or is it remotely substantial or memorable? Hell, no. But it is pretty, and mostly harmless. And I hope you enjoy it, because I suspect you’ll be getting more of it as soon as Wit can free up the staff.
As to what happened in the finale, if you saw it you certainly don’t need any further analysis. Ikoma derailed a koutetsujou with his mind. Ikoma rescued Mumei from those nasty red butterflies (where’s Hisoka when you need him?) with the white blood (is that a representation of what all Kabane are seeing in their minds?). It seems as if Biba injected Ikoma with white blood at some point during their final battle – a token of respect for being an opponent worth fighting for, maybe? And Mumei killed Biba because he never listens to her.
As to who and what the Kabane are and what brought the world to this state, there’s zero mention – that’s for the second season I guess. In theory at least that could be the more interesting part of the story, though I think it would be smart to keep expectations realistic as long as the same creative team is involved. I’ll watch that season when it comes around, but at this stage I’d need some hard evidence of leveling up before I decided to blog it. I enjoyed Koutetsujou no Kabaneri, but ultimately it never broke free of its own limitations and became something truly memorable.