Well, dunno about the rest of you, but my weekend was what we are gonna call interesting. Between the increasingly ugly collapse of my publisher Booktrope, and my girlfriend coming down with a nasty flu virus, it’s nothing short of a miracle that this is even getting posted today.
Seriously. We’re talking Exorcist levels of vomiting happening over here.
I’m gonna talk a bit more about the publisher thing later on, where it’s left me, and what the future currently looks like. For now, let’s just leave it at me almost regretting I’m a writer by nature. All things considered, I think I’d have better off being a plumber.
Then again, it hasn’t worked out so well for Mario, so who knows.
For now, let’s turn our attention to the next episode of Koutetsujou, which reveals more about the nature of Kabaneri, develops the characters even further, and makes sure the world knows Mumei isn’t the only tough as nails lady around.
Picking up right where we left off, Mumei reveals that she, like Ikoma now, is a Kabaneri, something that is part human, and part Kabane. Naturally, Kurusu responds to this by threatening to shoot them both, because he is not an out of the box thinker. Mumei lets him know in no uncertain therms that if he plans to declare himself her enemy, she’ll kill him without batting an eye.
She tosses a little iron ball at him, but is surprised when he manages to deflect it with his rifle, repeating his mantra that Kabane are the enemy of humanity. He is struggling with the concept of a Kabaneri, which is understandable. He’s not a real bright guy, after all.
Ayame breaks things up by reminding everyone that these two saved all of them. Kurusu doesn’t give a damn, and for that matter, neither does Ikoma, who declares that as a Kabane, he can’t risk hurting everyone on the train and tries to get off. Mumei kicks his ass a little before asking if the train is going to Kongogaku, the Shogun’s greatest stronghold. Upon learning that it does, Mumei promises she and Ikoma will remain in the rear car of the train until arrival there.
Ikoma tries to argue this, but Mumei isn’t in the mood for his brand of help, kicks him in the nuts, then all over the car until he passes out. Once he’s quiet, she lets the others know she isn’t leaving the train regardless of hat they say.
It’s important to point out here that she is being bluntly honest with these people. She is willing to work with them to keep the rest of the refugees on the train from panicking, but she isn’t going to let them throw her off, either. She’s an interesting character, really. Not willing to to really negotiate, but willing to compromise. After what we saw last episode, I’ve no doubt she could take out everyone on the train if she wanted, so that she isn’t tells us, the viewer, a lot about her.
With all that dealt with for the moment, attention turns to the train itself, which was badly damaged during their escape from Hinomoto Station. Specifically, the water tank, without which the steam engine that powers the train won’t run, leaving all of them quite literally dead in the water.
We get a passing intro to some guy named Suzuki, who appears to be the head of the repair team. He’s got some nice hair curls going on, and is a bit of a pompous ass from what little we see of him.
Mind you, what he’s doing is crazy dangerous. Hanging off the side of the train to inspect the damaged tank, with possible Kabane lurking everywhere. He may be pompous, bit he’s no coward, that’s for damn sure.
Meanwhile, Kajika, a girl we’ve seen a few times, but hasn’t been named until a bit later in the episode, is passing out food rations to the refugees. She gives a pregnant lady an extra ration, what with her being pregnant and all. According to the shows wiki, she’s a childhood friend of Ikoma and Takumi, but really, you’d think they could have mentioned her name before episode three.
The same goes for the engineer lady. According to the wiki, her name is Yukina, but since nobody has actually said that on the show so far, I’m not sure how accurate it is.
If the biggest failure I end up having with this show is their inability to let us know the names of the characters, I’ll be fine with it.
Anyway, Kajika’s food delivery eventually takes her to the weapons storage, where Kurusu and the other Bushi are cleaning the rifles. He and another unnamed as yet Bushi are hoping Kongogaku will take them in, what with the city elder being Ayame’s uncle. Otherwise, they are all trapped on the train to eventually die of thirst and starvation.
As Kajika offers them some food, Kursu reaches for it and gets his hand slapped, because he’s covered in oil and will get it all over the rest of the food, as well as what he plans to eat. He tries to bluster about how it’s his body, but Kajika just reminds him it’s a body his mother gave him. The rest of the Bushi snicker quietly while Kurusu actually manages to look chagrined at that.
Bonus awesome points to Kajika for slapping down not just any Bushi, but Kurusu. She’s another of those tough ass ladies this show seems to love. I guess points to Kursu as well, for actually managing to have an expression other than steely resolve for five seconds.
I’m almost convinced he’s not a robot. Not totally, but almost.
In the rear car, Ikoma has the nightmare we’ve seen bits of before, then wakes up from the beat down Mumei gave him. She’s busy reading, but takes the time out to talk with him a little about how he now has a Kabane’s body, but a human mind running it. When he asks about Kongogaku, she lets him know she’s on an important mission, but won’t say what. She also possibly reveals that the monk guy in white that died in the first episode was her brother. Maybe. I’m not sure about that. Mumei likes to be vague.
Anyway, turns out Kongogaku is a the forefront of Kabane research, so I guess not everyone thinks the virus is a curse. Ikoma has decided that going there might lead to him being cured of his Kabaneri problem. Mumei thinks that’s fine and all, then declares him her new shield.
Alright, Ikoma! You’ve leveled up from cannon fodder to meat shield! Way to go, buddy!
And yes, that’s pretty much exactly what Mumei means by shield. She literally wants him to be her meat shield. Which is possibly her version of being thoughtful.
Actually, it’s that if she fights for too long, she falls asleep, which we saw last episode, so she needs someone to protect her when that happens. Ikoma isn’t super thrilled by this turn of events, but Mumei just casually kicks his ass for a while until he agrees. Or as she calls it, “training”.
I like her more and more all the time.
While all that’s going on, Ayame is dealing with problems of her own up in the locomotive. A group of really pissed off refugees wants to know just what the hell she was thinking letting two Kabane stay on the train. Sure, they aren’t rampaging around eating everyone, but that doesn’t mean anything!
She tries her best to reassure them that everything is fine, even going so far as to try and guilt trip them a little by reminding them that none of them would even be alive were it not for the two they want to just toss off the moving train. It doesn’t appear to do much good.
That group doesn’t get a chance to argue the point, however, as a whole different group shoves their way in, demanding the train be stopped so they can hold a funeral for all the people who dies back at the station. If they go to far away, their prayers won’t reach, condemning their loved ones souls to wander endlessly.
While I get where they are coming from, I doubt the souls of their loved ones would want them to be eaten by Kabane, either.
Back in the back, Mumei is still kicking Ikoma around, trying to explain what to do, with the worst instruction ever. When he points that out, she shrugs it off, arguing that she’s easily overpowering him even without taking off her restraint.
Which, we now learn, is what the ribbon around her neck is. A restraint that holds back her full Kabaneri power. With it off, she can fight at her full power, but quickly gets tired and needs to sleep, because the curse spreads. Ikoma is still wearing the choke collar he slapped on himself back in the first episode to keep the virus from reaching his brain, so it is likely doing the same thing for him.
This is interesting for a lot of reasons I’ll get into later. First, Mumei senses a Kabane on the train, forgets all about her promise to stay in the back, and takes off with a sword in hand to hunt it down. Ikoma can only follow, trying to drag her back before they both get tossed.
She barrels into one of the passenger cars, where a guy is giving the pregnant lady from earlier a hard time because she got two rations. Upon seeing Mumei run in, everyone flips out and hauls ass, completely missing that she’s not actually attacking anyone.
Making things even worse, Kurusu shows up! Yup, this guy never misses a chance to act like an ass, and threatens to kill them both again. Even though, and I am repeating myself here, Mumei isn’t actually doing anything to anyone, and Ikoma is trying to get her to go back to the rear car.
It mildly annoys me when people are stupid, by which I mean I want to drop them off a cliff. Kurusu is being very annoying by not using his head here, and thinking things out logically. Of course, he’s a Bushi, so I’m not surprised. Samurai in this world setting obviously aren’t big on brains.
Ayame arrives a moment later, along with the first bunch of pissy refugees. She’s hurt Mumei didn’t keep her word, while everyone else just wants to throw her and Ikoma off the train now. Mumei blows off Ayame’s question of why she left, but straight up dares the others to try and remove her.
Before things go from worse to catastrophic, Suzuki shows up to tell Ayame that they all have much bigger problems. The water tank is too badly damaged, and lost too much water. They won’t make it to the next station if they can’t give it proper repairs and a refill right away.
This is bad on so many levels. For literally everyone. Fortunately, the pissy people, including Kurusu, take the water tank issue as more pressing than Mumei and Ikoma, so those two are safe for now.
Later on, as the sun is going down, they locate a water tower. Before anyone calls it a plot device, back in the day of steam locomotives, such water towers placed at intervals along rail lines were common. As for why it hasn’t been destroyed by Kabane, there’s two possible reasons. The first is that there aren’t any in the area. We saw before they tend to stick close to the Stations they died at, after all. It’s also possible that since there aren’t any people near this water tower on a frequent basis, there’s been no reason for them to destroy it, as they only seem interested in property damage when it means getting to people.
So, not really a plot device, just a convenience. Those two things are aren’t always the same.
They circle the train around the water tower, but according to Suzuki it’ll take until morning to fix the water tank, at the very least. Ayame agrees to have the guards and lookouts on rotating shifts for the night, while the Bushi get ready to defend the camp. Takomi gets pulled into this as well, getting shown how to prep and use a steam rifle by that unnamed Bushi that’s always hanging around Kurusu.
Ayame decides that this is also a good time to give the second group of pissed refugees what they want, and hold a proper funeral for their lost loved ones. Kurusu doesn’t seem excited by this, but after she tells him she’d like to pray for her father as well, he settles down and agrees to it.
Night has fallen by the time they get everything in place, and start the ceremony. Pretty much all the refugees participate, except the people on guard, which includes Kurusu, who calms himself by practicing drawing his sword. There’s also a few folks up to no good regarding Ikoma and Mumei that skip the prayers. Those working on the water tank don’t really get to join in, either, not that it stops one from praying anyway.
When one of the technicians gives that guy crap, the engineer lady, Yukina, offers to do his work while he prays. The tech acts like a dick, and gets schooled by her on why he shouldn’t, bringing our badass lady count this episode to three.
Ikoma and Mumei watch the ritual from the train, by which I mean she reads while he watches. She asks him if he’s going to join in, but he tells her he lost his family years ago. She admits she did as well, pointing out that it’s a pretty a common story these days.
She turns the conversation to the little green stone Ikoma keeps tied to the palm of his right hand, mostly because it hurt when he hit her with it and she’s curious about it. Turns out, it’s just a common river stone that Ikoma found when he was young. He and his sister found two that were similar and kept them as good luck charms.
Five year ago, Kabane broke through the walls of the Station he lived at. Panic was everywhere, adults running in fear, causing he and his sister to get left behind. She was caught and killed by the Kabane. Ikoma ran, telling himself it was to find help, of which there was none. When he finally returned, his sister was well into the change, and he used a suicide bag on her to keep her from becoming a Kabane.
He’s never forgiven himself for running. He knows he probably would have died with her, but leaving her to die alone has been a burden on his soul since that day. He vowed to never run away again, to find a way to stand up and fight back. To find a way to end the Kabane threat forever. This is what drives him now, to be brave in the face of death.
He cannot bear to be the kind of person who would ever run away again. Not even if it meant dying.
Mumei admits that it really is a pretty common story. The weak die and the strong survive. It’s just the way the world is.
Yet, it seems to bother her, this fact. She doesn’t look happy about it, more like angry over it. Makes me wonder what her story is.
Outside, the conspirators from earlier have gathered, planning to kill Ikoma and Mumei while everyone is distracted by the prayers. Ayame catches them, however, and tries to reassure them once more that these two pose no threat. Rather than listen to reason, they react in fear and beg her to let them kill the Kabaneri.
Ayame manages to get them to stay back while she goes inside, only to find Mumei is more than ready to fight. Ikoma, less so. Before anyone can apply reason to the situation, Mumei says fuck it and handles matters with her own brand of diplomacy. Which means she goes outside and pretty much tells the angry mob, actually armed with pitchforks, to bring it on. Ikoma asks her not to provoke them, but she points out they are the ones provoking her, which is technically true.
I can see how a lot of people wouldn’t like Mumei, but I think she’s awesome. They are the ones provoking her, and really, she’s just defending herself. Still, considering what she is, perhaps the best method of handling the situation isn’t to go threaten them right back, but that’s the thing. Mumei is a flawed, complex character, and that’s really what I like about her.
Before everything can get totally out of hand, Ayame calls for them all to stand down. Mumei takes one look at her face, and lays off the aggressive posture, then wanders off to the camp the refugees have made inside the circled train.
There, still praying before the fire, is the pregnant lady we met before. For a moment, her heart beat glows, a sure sign of Kabane. She realizes this, and knows she has little time left. She uses it to apologize to her unborn child for not being able to bring it into the world.
Some may call this out as cheap, but think about it. Where’s her husband? Likely already dead back at Hinomoto. She’s already lost him, and likely any other family she had, as both times we’ve seen her, she was completely alone on the train. All she had left was her baby. Now, she can’t even have that.
This is the real tragedy of this world. This lady is what this world is all about now. Everything you love, everything you cherish, will be taken from you, sooner or later. There is only fear, and painful death. She is what Ikoma is fighting to save, what the Bushi struggle to protect, and even what drove the mob to confront Mumei.
She is this world, and it is terrible, sad, painful, and full of grief. That’s not cheap. That’s never cheap. It means something. It must mean something, or what our protagonists fight for means nothing.
This lady, Shino I believe her name to be, is everything that this show is about.
Before anyone can really notice what’s happening to her, Mumei wanders up, drawing everyone’s attention. She finds Kajika and is about to ask her a favor when one of the orphaned kids Kajika is looking after starts to cry. She runs over to comfort the little one, and Mumei follows, making funny faces at him until he starts laughing, making her laugh as well.
While everyone is tense about her, she shows them her humanity, and it’s a way better ploy than just kicking everyone’s ass until they leave her alone. She’s a thinker, that Mumei. Eventually, anyway.
Back at the train, Ayame decides to handle the situation with the mob, and turns to Ikoma, asking him about what he said to her father, that they were pointing their guns at the wrong target. She pulls a dagger and rushes him, driving it against his heart. Ikoma grabs the blade with one hand, holding her back.
Ayame demands to know if the Kabaneri are the enemy. She asks why he doesn’t use his right hand to grab her, or try to bite her. He says he can’t, and she leans into the dagger, demanding to know why. His answer?
Because he made a vow. Not to run away anymore, even if it meant saving his life. Not to sacrifice others lives. It’s the Kabane that are the enemy. His purpose in life is to destroy them.
Through all of this, he doesn’t move at all, except to hold back the blade. Slowly, the mob calms, seeing what Ayame has from the start. A new ally, a new weapon, a new way to hold back the horrible things that move in the dark.
A new hope.
Ayame pulls the dagger back, putting it away, as she tells the mob that any who still fear Ikoma is the enemy are welcome to come up and check for themselves. Deflated, the mob breaks up and walks away.
Badass lady count, now at four. I love this fucking show.
Ikoma and Ayame head back inside the train, where she apologizes for doing what she did. He says it’s fine, though she does wonder why he took the blade directly in his hand, rather than grabbing her arm. Ikoma admits he still doesn’t have a full measure of his strength, and feared hurting her.
Yeah. She’s holding a knife to his heart, and his biggest concern was that he might hurt her. This guy.
Ayame tells him not worry about hurting her and starts to leave when Ikoma gets dizzy and passes out, causing her to rush back to him. This doesn’t bode well.
Out in the camp, Mumei is laughing it up with the orphan kids, and slowly, everyone is starting to be at ease with her. At least, until she says all that laughing made her hungry. Kajika starts to offer her some food, but Mumei says no, that’s not what she hungers for. What she needs is blood.
This goes over poorly, to say the least. She either honestly doesn’t get why, or just really wants to keep everyone off balance with her when she says it isn’t that big a deal. She’s half Kabane, and needs the blood to live.
In the train, Ayame starts tries to make a bandage to stop his hand bleeding, thinking that’s what’s wrong, as Ikoma begins to come around, his eyes having turned red. Like a Kabane.
The people in the camp are horrified at Mumei’s suggestion and begin throwing stones at her, which she easily dodges while giving a really creepy smile.
Ikoma rises, going for Ayame, pretty much mindless. A zombie.
Shino completes her transformation into a Kabane.
The camp explodes into panic.
Mumei doesn’t hesitate, stripping off her inhibitor and grabbing swords from the stunned Bushi. She ends the Kabane in an instant as Kajika tries to tell her Shino is pregnant. It’s far too late now, and all Mumei can do is turn and look in horror and sorrow and what she had to do.
On the train, Ikoma holds Ayame down, and goes for her throat.
Thus ends episode three.
A few things I want to tackle in the after thoughts.
First off, the inhibitors that both Mumei and Ikoma have, which seem to prevent the Kabane virus from taking over their brains. While Ikoma’s is a giant ass dog collar, Mumei’s is just a ribbon, making me wonder just what the deal is with these things. How do they work, and more importantly, why do they work? I’m sure the show will give us answers to that soon enough, but judging from the state Ikoma was in at the end there, they aren’t working super great.
Which brings me to the big issue the episode raises. Apparently, Kabaneri need to consume blood to stay human. Based on what happened to Ikoma and how it was juxtaposed to what Mumei was saying, I’m guessing this works on a transfusion type basis.
Basically, to keep from having the virus take them over completely, they must take in fresh blood at regular intervals. While this is a bit vampiric in a show about zombies, it actually kind of makes sense.
Maintaining the delicate balance between Kabaneri and full on Kabane would be extremely difficult, and most certainly would have to come with some massive downsides. Otherwise, getting turned into Kabaneri would be a bit too over powered. The blood thing gives them a weakness, which keeps them from being overwhelming forces, and driving the viewer to ask why the Shogun just doesn’t make an army of Kabaneri.
Of course, I’m pretty sure making a Kabaneri isn’t a simple matter. Hell, Ikoma nearly died from the infection before he nearly died of strangulation trying to prevent dying of the infection. That’s a whole lot of room for things to go terribly wrong.
Not to mention, it likely takes a certain mental toughness to survive the process. We know Mumei and Ikoma both have that going for them, but others? Doubtful they would. I mean, can you see Kurusu allowing himself to be turned into a Kabaneri, much less surviving the process?
Honestly, this whole thing with needing to take in fresh blood periodically makes a lot of sense from a story structure perspective, as it gives the Kabaneri limits, rather ghoulish needs, and further alienates them from normal humans. From an inside the story perspective, it also makes sense, as being half zombie would most certainly not be fun, or simple.
As Mumei said, they have the body of a Kbane, and that body requires different things to survive than what humans eat. While Kabane normally eat flesh, there’s a lot of blood in flesh, and all Mumei asked for was the blood itself.
That she can limit her body’s needs that way says a lot about her mental fortitude, and the real horror of being turned into a Kabaneri.
Call it what you will, but this is one well thought out story.
Next week, episode four. See ya then, hopefully with less vomit surrounding me!