Anime Pocket Reviews Ep.14 – Kiznaiver, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress

Time for episode 14 of Anime Pocket Reviews!

With these two shows, I can proudly say that we have reached that magic thirty mark in terms of anime reviewed on The Culture Cove! With that in mind, the next anime action on this site will be the Thirty Anime Review!

If you’re still in doubt as to what that is, check out our Fifteen Anime Review. For now, here’s two of the biggest shows of the last cycle.

Kiznaiver Anime Review
Kiznaiver (2016, S1, 12x24mins)
Sci-fi, Action, Comedy, Drama
“Everyone wants to be special to someone. Everyone wishes to connect. Everyone wants to carve their scars into someone else.”

Kiznaiver takes place in the futuristic Sugomori City, a place created to test what is known as the “Kizna System”. The idea is that if everyone can feel everyone else’s pain and share it with them, then the world will see reason and achieve peace. This is currently at a testing phase. Kiznaiver follows Katsuhira (bottom centre), a kid who cannot physically feel pain. He, along with several of his classmates – each with their own quirks – are chosen by the mysterious Noriko Sonozaki (top centre, blue hair) to participate in the tests. They are joined as Kiznaivers, who split each individual’s pain evenly between them. The group of misfits are forced to become friends, and are set missions by Noriko to test their bond.

Note: as was the case with last episode’s The Lost Village, we reviewed Kiznaiver at the 6-episode stage. If you want to check that out, along with mid-point reviews for other big series from the last cycle, then click here.

Kiznaiver was always going to be a good series. You could tell that before even watching it. The Whole production – from voice actors to drawings – just screams class. This was never going to be anything less than good. But, is it great? That’s still up for debate.

As mentioned earlier, the production of Kiznaiver is top-drawer. The drawings are sharp and vibrant, but also feel earthy and real. The drawing for this show will probably rank among some of the best I’ve seen in anime.

The story is solid, if slightly unspectacular. As with many shows, the story – which mainly consists of the characters being put in uncomfortable situations to further their friendship – is just a vehicle for the characters to develop. Said characters are, again, solid. Their relationships are really good to watch, but are as individuals all slightly cliché, and I just felt that I had seen people like this before. That’s not to say they were terrible characters, though. The group of eccentrics are pretty exciting at the start, but they become quite plain by the end.

The story follows a similar pattern. At the beginning, there was a strong comedy aspect to this show which, combined with the range of personalities and vivid colours, worked really well. However, the series begins to meander as it tries to suddenly turn into a heartfelt story about emotion and human connections. I don’t personally think that the emotional side of the story was portrayed very well, and I got the impression that the comedic side of Kiznaiver – which is somewhat pushed to the back later in the series – was constantly straining to get out. I think the series would have worked better if it kept that light-hearted edge, or if it added some grit to the emotional side and simply embraced it wholeheartedly.

I think this is a decent series, but when all is said and done it lacks the originality to be considered a great anime. Yes, the show is full of great colours and interesting characters, but take that away and you’re left with an ordinary story about friendship and a show that lacks the emotion to do itself justice.

If you liked this you’ll love: Your Lie in April – Not the clearest recommendation, as this lacks any Sci-fi element, but hear me out. YLiA also stars a young and emotionless boy scarred by a previous event, and he is brought back into the real world by a mysterious girl. Meanwhile, his best friend, another girl, worries that she is losing her friend to this girl, leaving her with complex emotions as she is happy to see his friend saved but at what cost. It’s a similar story, just in a different, more realistic setting. Perfect for people who didn’t get along with the sci-fi/fantasy elements of Kiznaiver.

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress Anime Review
Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress (2016, S1, 12x24mins)
Apocalyptic, Tragedy, Horror, Steampunk
“He’s not a Kabane! He’s my friend!”

From the same team that produced the famed Attack on Titan anime, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress takes place in a similar alternate world. During the industrial revolution, a mysterious virus appears that turns people into Kabane. Similar to zombies, the Kabane are extremely aggressive, undead, human-like creatures that can only be killed by piercing their hearts, which are encased by a layer of iron. The virus is spread when a human is bitten by a Kabane, in which case they will become one themselves. Impossible to kill with normal weapons, the Kabane have taken over most of the world. To protect themselves from the monsters, the people of Hinomoto (Japan in the real world) have built fortresses with walls that protect them from the outside world. These individual fortresses are connected by huge steel trains that move goods and services throughout the country. The story follows Ikoma, a young engineer who creates his own steam-powered weapon in an attempt to fight the Kabane. One day, an armoured train is hijacked by Kabane and crashes into his hometown, flooding the town with the creatures. He uses the opportunity to test out his weapon, and it works, but in the process he is bitten by one. He miraculously stops the virus from spreading to his head, and becomes a human-Kabane hybrid, known as Kabaneri. Saved by Mumei, a young girl with excellent combat abilities and links to the rulers of Hinomoto, they, along with other survivors, make their escape on the Iron Fortress and travel through the country seeking shelter elsewhere, fighting the hordes of Kabane that cover the world on the way.

What a long-winded plot! This is a deep world with an interesting backstory, hence the long plot above. However, the plot (survival against overpowering monsters), story (passionate boy determined to kill them all himself), world (civilizations only safe inside walls) and everything else is alarmingly close to that of Attack on Titan. It’s remarkable! I’ve never seen such an obvious copy as there is between these two – the huge success from many years ago, and the team’s return to the genre. With the same production company, production team, director and composer, the connection between the shows are almost scary.

However, this is its own show (just about), and if you can manage to not compare it to Attack on Titan, Kabaneri holds up quite well. First of all, the opening sequence is probably one of the best I’ve seen in anime, with a great song and just an excellent feel that perfectly complements the show. It also looks very well-produced, which leads to this show having something of a Hollywood feel to it. Even compared to other shows released in this cycle, such as Kiznaiver above, the production on Kabaneri just appears to be on a much bigger and better level.

The story itself is pretty good, and as much as I want to avoid it I’m going to have to compare it to Attack on Titan again. It follows a similar idea, with a lead character who is determined but incapable without the help of a mysterious female sidekick. Kabaneri has a string of really interesting characters – the most interesting – and like its predecessor who I promise I’m trying to avoid talking about, they all have an air of mystery about them that leaves the story open to sudden changes. While the plot doesn’t necessarily change that quickly and suddenly, there is definitely changes in scenery or objective as the story goes along, which considering this is only a 12 episode series is fairly impressive. Also, the last few episodes are incredibly dramatic, and while the actual ending is fairly lukewarm there is plenty of drama and action in this show to make it worth watching.

With Attack on Titan season two coming in 2017, I get the feeling that this is almost the warm-up for the production team ahead of AoT’s highly-anticipated return. This is the anime equivalent of pre-season, as the team get prepared to produce a story that hasn’t aired since 2013. However, to be compared to a show like Attack on Titan shouldn’t be seen as an insult whatsoever. Yes, Kabaneri both compares and doesn’t compare to Attack on Titan at the same time, but if you compare this show to others besides its predecessor it holds up fairly well. The show is big: big action with lots of gore; big world; and big characters. I would definitely recommend watching this, but only if action/gore/horror is your type of show. If only it didn’t look so like Attack on Titan, maybe this show could have been great.

If you like this you’ll love: Attack on Titan – Obviously. Honestly, though, the likeness of these two shows is so close I’m surprised they were even allowed to do this. If you think The Hunger Games and Divergent’s likeness was bad, you’ve not seen nothing yet!

That’s it, the Spring 2016 cycle is over. What was your favourite show from the last releases? Let us know!

30 Anime Review CollageDon’t sweat it, though. While you may be disappointed that your favourite anime has finished, there’s plenty of great anime starting right now! I am personally extremely excited about Orange – I don’t think I’ve seen an anime that looks and feels as natural yet dramatic as this one.


Make sure you follow The Culture Cove to see the best anime reviews before anybody else! Look out for episode 15 of Anime Pocket Reviews, which will be our grand 30 Anime Review!

P.S. The 30 Anime Review will be split into two parts, to accomodate how long it is!

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One response to “Anime Pocket Reviews Ep.14 – Kiznaiver, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress

  1. Pingback: Anime Pocket Reviews Ep. 24 – Yuri on Ice, Danganronpa | The Culture Cove·

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