Oh Kabaneri, how can I describe you? By the end of the episode I wasn’t sure if I was excited, upset, scared, relieved or what! I just felt the need to scream.
The premise is that zombie like creatures called Kabane have infected humans through a virus by biting them. This danger has forced people to live in train stations. They have build towns in these train stations and walls around them to protect them from the Kabane.
Trains are able to enter the towns as the bridge can be lowered down. All Passengers are subjected to a full body inspection for bites from the Kabane before they are allowed to enter the city.
The trains are also hosed down before leaving the docking area. They are often covered in blood and Kabane body parts from running them over on the tracks.
If you are suspected of being a Kabane, you are killed on the spot or pressured to commit suicide by destroying your heart with a suicide bomb. Technically they are supposed to be jailed for 3 days, but who is going to oppose the Bushi?
There are similarities to Shinkgeki no Kyojin. The walled off cities, the threat outside of those walls, and the way they fight back are similarities. The Bushi, or warriors/police have airsoft-like guns to fight the Kabane.
The protagonist-come-antihero Ikoma is a train engineer who is researching the Kabane in secret. He appears to understand how the virus spreads because he has been stealing Kabane body parts from the train underbelly before it is cleaned.
Through later events he becomes infected with the Kabane virus himself, just as he creates a gun that is able to destroy a Kabanes heart cage.
The animation in this episode is phenomenal. It is so heavily detailed, even the trees in the passing forest have all of their layers, the trains are riveted to the nines, even the steam is drawn and not added in as a CGI effect. The outlines are sharp but minimal. It resembles God Eater in the way that it is delicate but firm. Close-ups of the faces are so intensely detailed its insane. Wide shots are more undetailed, but medium shots are detailed, and close-ups are super-detailed.
While the ‘camera’ follows the trains while they are moving, the trees that pass the train have an appropriate amount of motion blur. You can tell they are fir trees without having to pause and examine them. In the train station the buildings are unique; some have lights, some have laundry lines, some are in disrepair.
The color scheme for the episode is on the dark side; browns, reds, greys. The play on light and shadows adds to the heavy feel of the show. The shadows bring down the color or illuminate areas to focus or sharpen. It also illiterates that the characters are essentially trapped in these walls by the Kabane. Moonlight adds a whole new level of creepy mid-battle. In some cases the scenes and characters are too shadowed, distorting the look of the character. It is not uncommon to see 3 different light tones reflecting off of someone’s face in a frame.
With an air of hostility and suspicion, Ikoma has to be sneaky to conduct his research. Low angles are used when he is whispering with Takumi his only friend and supporter, as if he is being watched. POV angles are used when he is in jail. In frantic and intense scenes, the cuts are quick changed, and change angles frequently, following the characters hands as he works until a wide shot is used to show the final project. The details in these quick scenes are precise. They were not rushed, and it makes the scene shine.
Flashbacks are used in between quick cuts, showing the character when he was weak and helpless, flashing to when he is strong and taking charge. The character development shown from just that emotionally attaches you to that character, especially just as shit hits the fan.
The music in the episode is minimal and sound effects in the episode are in abundance. Trains on the tracks are a constant sound when the train is in motion. Crowd sounds re used when there is a crowd. Music is used really only in battle scenes, and even then it is more percussion tones than an actual melody. The low sound echoing for a while acts as a heartbeat pounding while the action and suspense builds.
I cant think of a negative. I don’t understand why this was not praised more last season. One episode has me hooked, and begging for more. I am already invested in Ikoma, I want him to succeed! I want to see more battles, I want to see more of the trains and of the Kabane. It is all done so well!