So, I would imagine a few of my regular visitors will be wondering how I can find the time to recap an anime episode right now, after what I talked about last week. There’s two separate answers to that question.
The first can be found in the post preceding this one. The second is that, to put it simply, it gives me something to do. Don’t underestimate that. It matters more than you know.
The thing is, I’m not good at dealing with crisis. Especially the kind that I can’t do anything about. You know the kind. Where all there is to do is sit and wait for others to handle the situation. I’m very bad at that. My natural instinct is to do something, to fix things.
In the situation I currently find myself dealing with, there is nothing for me to do, but trust the medical professionals. So, I fidget a lot. And worry. Remember, I’m a writer. My imagination is capable of conjuring up the worst possible case scenarios, then replaying them to me on an endless loop.
It’s far better to talk about anime than to let myself go there. So, here we are.
After last weeks episode, the Kabaneri aboard the Kotetsujyo had earned themselves quiet a bit of good will from the Bushi and the refugees for saving the entire train from a Wazatori, a type of Kabane that has learned how to fight like a human. Not as many people are questioning their motives at this point.
Yet, that goodwill can only last so long. This seems to be the driving force behind this weeks episode, as Mumei meets a shady figure from her past, making her doubt herself, and acts rashly in a situation that calls for calm reason.
It also adds a new layer to Mumei’s personality, giving her some flaws that create a lot of depth, while raising a ton of questions about her past. More importantly, it makes me wonder just who is the real star of this show. Is it Ikoma, or is it Mumei? I wonder this because at this point, she’s the far more compelling figure.
Let’s take a look at this weeks episode.
Since they escaped the ambush in the mountains, where Ikoma got to show off his piercing gun by taking down the Wazatori, our weird technician friend Suzuki has been busy. Seems he’s teamed up with Ikoma to create a new type of bullet based on what Ikoma uses in his piercing gun, making the steam rifles the Bushi use capable of piercing a Kabane’s heart cage as well. These new “jet bullets”, as Suzuki calls them, are basically game changers.
First off, it means the already existing weapons can be modified to be on par with the gun Ikoma created. As I mentioned back in the first couple episodes, getting everyone, from the Shogun down, to accept Ikoma’s new gun design was going to be tricky. Thanks to Suzuki, now it’s just an ammunition modification, which should make things a hell of a lot easier.
Provided they reach the Shogun, that is. We’ll get into why that’s suddenly an iffy prospect in a bit, though.
For now, the Bushi, especially Kibito, are impressed and pleased. Even more so after Ikoma shows off a sword he coated with the iron like material that surrounds a Kabane’s heart. At the very least, it is now much more durable. We saw what happened when Kurusu tried to stab the Wazatori in the heart last week, so this is obviously a good idea.
Takumi looks very pleased, by the way, as the Bushi laud Ikoma with praise for his ingenuity. I can imagine finally seeing his life long friend being appreciated must feel good.
Elsewhere on the train, two dipshits get into a fight over a morsel of food. Granted, there’s a food shortage on the train, but this isn’t going to help matters any. Especially when they disturb Mumei, who’s trying to play a game with one of the orphan kids. All the struggling over the tidbit causes her to mess up the board.
To say she is not pleased would be an understatement. The two dipshits find this out in short order when she kicks their ass into apologizing for upsetting and scaring everyone. Now heavily bruised, they are happy to comply.
To Mumei’s surprise, this earns her a round of applause from the other people in the car. A moment later, Ayame arrives, and seeing that Mumei has handed things, calls her the Kotetsujyo’s bodyguard. She blows it off, but I get the sense she actually liked that.
Before everyone can get too touchy feely, the train comes to a sudden stop. Seems they’ve arrived at Yashiro Station, but nobody is responding to the trains horn. It appears that the station has fallen to the Kabane. A spotter sees a signal fire, though, so there may be survivors, which means that their desire to resupply here has just turned into a rescue mission.
They take the Kotetsujyo into the rail yard, but find that a watchtower has fallen on the line leaving the station. They could back up, and go another way, but they don’t have enough food to get there, especially now that they’ve just added a bunch of refugees from Yashiro. The only option is to find some way to clear the fallen tower.
More disturbing is that the survivors of Yashiro are telling of a black smoke that washed over the wall, engulfing the entire Station into a living hell, full of Kabane. Nobody has any idea what that’s about, and even the survivors can’t really explain it, only that it happened.
Among the survivors, Mumei spots a shady looking dude with an eye patch and a peg leg. As he passes near her, he tells her to meet him outside. She doesn’t look happy about it, but does as he asks.
Apparently, this is someone she knew at some point, who has since fallen out of favor with someone called the “Young Master”, which may also be Mumei’s brother. I thought it was the dude in white from the first two episodes, but now I’m not so sure. Apparently, her brother is someone much more important.
Anyway, sketchy dude, who’s name is Enoku, warns her that the Shogunate is stockpiling weapons, and not for killing Kabane. Something big is about to go down, and he wants Mumei to warn the Young Master, as well as to pass word that when it does, he’ll be there for the Young Master.
Mumei doesn’t think that’ll be enough to get him welcomed back, then goes to leave. Enoku pulls a sword, which she easily blocks, then threatens to kill him. He pulls a gun, startling her. He warns her that she only has value as long she kills Kabane, and chumming it up with the peasants isn’t part of her mission. That is what she should focus on, while she’s still human, unless she wants to be cast aside as he was.
Mumei has a brief flashback, in which we see someone killing someone, but we don’t get enough context to know what it’s about. Clearly, the memory deeply affects Mumei, as she goes from her usual brash attitude to almost trembling in fear.
Over in the locomotive, Ikoma has come up with a plan to move the fallen tower. Basically, he wants to lead a team of Bushi to the central boiler in the rail yard, and fire it up to power one of the cranes. Takumi and Sukari can operate the crane, lifting it long enough for the Kotetsujyo to get by. The only hitch is that most of the Kabane in town seem to be in the boiler room. In order to circumvent that problem, Ikoma wants to take a narrow walkway that goes the long way around, forcing the Kabane to attack them in a single file. With Mumei’s help, they’ll be able to over power them.
Which is a great plan. Actually, it’s a staggeringly brilliant plan. Too bad Mumei’s not on board with it. She wants to take the wider walkway and just bum rush all the Kabane in the boiler room. Ikoma tries to point out how much more dangerous that is, but she’s got Enoku’s words ringing in her ears, and ignores him.
This makes the Bushi second guess, but Ayame sees that there really isn’t another way, so they have to trust Ikoma, and hope Mumei sees reason. The thing is, she knows Ikoma is right as well, but thanks to Enoku making her doubt herself, feels the need to prove herself, at the very least, to her own self. This is the reckless thing I mentioned before, and boy does it end up biting her in the ass.
She storms off, and shortly comes across a couple of the kids. Seems their dog passed away from an injury is sustained earlier. Mumei reflects on how lucky he dog was to die before it could be discarded for no longer being useful, which angers the kids, and the adults trying to comfort them. In the end, they more or less drive Mumei away, and the goodwill she’d earned is lost.
The thing is, from her perspective, the dog really was lucky. From what we’ve learned this week, in her own life, she is only allowed to live so long as she is of use to this Young Master person. The moment she isn’t, sister or not, he’ll have her killed, or worse, abandon her to the Kabane. From that point of view, the dog was lucky, because it was loved up to the moment it died. Something she knows she’ll likely never experience.
Yet, from the perspective of the regular folks she said all this to, she’s being cold hearted, because who would ever think of abandoning a beloved pet just because it couldn’t run anymore? That’s insanity in their minds. The two view points can’t co-exist. Either you treasure those you love, be they people or animals, or you do not. Mumei is on one side of that equation, wishing she was on the other, but not really able to understand what it would be like.
More and more, her personality becomes clear. She isn’t rude, brash or arrogant because of her strength and abilities. It is because where she is from, showing weakness is unacceptable. She literally can’t be weak in front of others, in her own mind, as she believes it will make them care for her less. That kind of a mindset tends to create a certain type of personality, which is what we’re seeing.
It’s wonderful to me the way this show weaves character development into the plot and action so effortlessly. My only complaint would be that the death of the dog comes out of nowhere. If we’d seen the dog sooner, that might have made it’s passing more significant. Yet, I also know, it isn’t about the dog. It’s about Mumei, and how she sees herself as no different than the dog.
Or at least, in her mind, that’s how it is. Much as she can’t fathom being loved herself, she can’t see how these people could love the dog. This creates the strife that washes away the goodwill she’s gained with these people. She knows this, and it saddens her, but at the same time, she is glad, as what Enoku said about wasting time with the people will only dull the weapon that she is. Now, she can be sharp again.
Such a sad, complex thing, conveyed so quickly.
Elsewhere, Ikoma is asking Takumi and Sukari to operate the crane. Takumi is thrilled to be helping.
Shortly after, Ikoma finds Mumei preparing for the fight ahead. He asks why she won’t go with them, but she doesn’t give a straight answer, which aggravates him. He does ask her to stay away from the boiler room, as there’s no need to charge head first into the Kabane’s nest. Mumei decides not to take that under advisement.
With everything in place, they move the Kotetsujyo around to near the fallen tower. Ikoma and the Bushi head out, while Takumi and Sukari head for the crane. Everything is going according to plan until they spot Mumei hauling ass for the boiler room, intent on slaughtering all the Kabane inside. Pissed beyond words, Ikoma leads the Bushi back around to follow her, more to back her up than because he thinks she’s making the right move. Honestly, he seems to figure she’s going to get herself and everyone else killed the way she’s acting.
In a way, I can’t help but wonder if dying is exactly what she’s after. Better that than to be abandoned by her own family. Too bad she doesn’t see the new family she has gained, but those raised by duty rarely do.
Two other things that get noticed as they make their way to the boiler room. The first is one of the Station’s defense cannons lying on the ground, apparently knocked from it’s place on the wall. The second is the way the fallen tower is bent, as if it was twisted. Whatever hit this Station was nasty.
Figured it was important to point those out with what’s about to happen.
Mumei hits the boiler room and makes short work of the Kabane she encounters, but a bunch more come out, so she keeps fighting, taking them out with style and ease. That she’s a badass, nobody can question. It’s her motives now that are the problem.
As an added bonus, her reckless actions wake… something.
By the time Ikoma and the Bushi arrive, she’s waiting by the control panel for the main boiler, acting as if her way was the right one all along. Frustrated, Ikoma just focuses on getting the boiler fired up. While he’s doing that, one of the Bushi goes and has a look out the window, spotting something moving in the shadow of the tower the boiler is on. A moment later, they realize the entire shadow is Kabane, thousands of them, now climbing up after them.
Taking down the Kabane in the boiler building was pointless. All it did was alert the rest that they were there. Realizing her mistake, Mumei tries to assure them she can handle it, but Ikoma shuts her down, focused on getting the boiler running so they can all get out of there before the Kabane arrive. Once he does that, he turns to find Mumei gone. There’s no time, though, so he and the Bushi run for it as Takumi and Sukari get the crane working and start lifting the fallen tower.
Ikoma heads to the crane, telling his friend that the Kabane are coming, and sending them back to the train with the Bushi while he works the crane. Takumi isn’t super happy with this plan, but goes anyway, and soon, the Bushi and the the technicians are aboard as the train heads around to clear the wreckage.
Outside the crane, Ikoma spots Mumei as she tries to hold off the Kabane, but she’s been fighting for too long as is getting weak. Her aim is starting to drift, and soon, she finds herself tangled up with a Wazatori that throws her off the platform. Realizing that if he doesn’t save her, she’ll die, Ikoma abandons the crane to go save her, hoping the tower has been lifted enough for the train to get by.
Which it was, until he left and the controls slipped, lowering the tower again, blocking their way. Like I said, Mumei acts recklessly and endangers everyone. Not at all like her, and something she wouldn’t have done had Enoku not whispered doubts into her ear.
Ikoma heads down, taking out the Wazatori, but things go from bad to way, way worse when the boiler, which was left unregulated, explodes. The entire structure is about to come down. Ikoma carries Mumei into a mine shaft at the base of the tower, but the entire thing collapses, burying them both.
Up above, that something Mumei awakened rears its ugly head on the trapped Kotetujyo.
And that, my friends, is how you do a cliffhanger.
One of the big things they accomplished this week was to explore Mumei’s character more deeply, giving her some flaws, as well as showing her world view, and how much trying to live by it is hurting her, and by extension, everyone around her. This is something the character needed, too, as up till now, she was a grade A badass, but lacked much in the way of character definition.
Unfortunately, we get that at what now seems the cost of literally everyone’s lives.
More importantly, however, is the way Mumei doesn’t talk about what’s bothering her. Her inability to share her fears and doubts with those around her leads her into reckless action, trying to prove herself worthy of not being cast aside by someone who only sees her as a tool, and will ultimately do so regardless of her actions.
Her biggest failure, though, is that she cannot see the real family she has around her. A family that would never cast her aside, because it isn’t what she can do that makes them care for her, but who she is. I get the feeling that this is going to be her character arc for the series, and it is a worthy one for her.
On the other end of the Kabaneri coin, we see Ikoma make a solid plan, try to adapt when it goes wrong, and make a choice to save a single life, which is all in keeping with his often stated desire to never sacrifice anyone. Sadly, for him, it doesn’t work out so well, and now everyone is facing certain doom, him included.
There’s also the hint that the Shogunate is amassing weapons for the purpose of killing people, rather than Kabane. My guess on this is that there’s a food shortage, and rather than deal with it, the Shogunate is simply going to do away with some extra mouths. How and why the Young Master would be opposed to this isn’t clear.
Of course, it’s also possible that we can’t take anything Enoku says as the total truth.
Last thing. What the actual fuck was that thing at the end there? I mean, a giant freaking Kabane made up of individual Kabane? What the hell? That is both cool, and utterly terrifying. More importantly, how the hell did these mindless things figure out how to do that?
Could it be there is a master Kabane? Or a communal mind? So many questions the existence of that thing raises, I can’t even guess at what it means.
Hopefully, next week will shed some light. See ya then!