In Flowing Blood, the fourth episode of Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, we learn that stupidity isn’t always rewarded (sometimes karma steps in!). We also learn that some Kabane can learn considerably more than we expected! Plus, a trip through the beautiful mountains — teeming with tons of Kabane!
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What Happened (Spoiler Free)
The Kabane attack and force the Koutetsujou to get underway before repairs were complete. The skittish crowd, under pressure from demagogues who want to consolidate their own power, lock Mumei and Ikoma, along with friends, in the last car. After pressuring Ayame to give up the train’s master key, some of the demagogue and his followers try to detach the last car. Unfortunately for them, they had to go outside to do it. Also unfortunately for them, their foolish demagogue overlords ordered the train to change course from the plains to the mountains, theoretically because would be shorter. Unfortunately, the mountains teemed with Kabane, who rained down on the train and killed the men trying to detach the car. The men also left the outside door open, and the Kabane poured into the next to last car. Worse yet, one of the Kabane (called a Wazatori), had learned to wield a sword! Trapped in the last car, watching humans die right in front of them, Mumei and Ikoma try to come up with a plan.
The rest of this review may have spoilers, so please be careful!
What Happened (Spoilers!)
The crowd that had just been screaming to be saved from the pregnant Kabane now calls Mumei a murderer for protecting them — from the pregnant Kabane. She calmly explains that the child was tainted, too, but the crowd doesn’t have time to digest that information because the bushi on guard sound the alarm. Kabane are approaching.
Meanwhile, overcome with hunger (for blood), Ikoma has pinned Ayame to the ground. Just as he lunges for her throat, Kurusu knocks him into the wall. Mumei saves Ikoma from being shot by announcing the Kabane have arrived and they must launch the Koutetsujou before they’re overrun. The repairs incomplete, the train waits for everyone to board before getting underway.
Kibito, one of the ranking bushi, tells Mumei and Ikoma to stay in the last train car. In fact, he locks them in. Unlike many of the others who treated Mumei and Ikoma with fear and disgust, he calmly explained to them that others were afraid, so he thought it best they stay out of this fight.
The passengers complain that that the Kabaneri somehow brought the Kabane and that the Kabaneri are jinxes. Of course, the malcontents who tried to attack Mumei and Ikoma in the last episode are supporting those rumors in an effort to consolidate their own power. Feeling emboldened, those trouble-makers confront Ayame and demand she take responsibility for what just happened. Too inexperienced with command to defend herself, she steps aside and gives their leader the Koutetsujou’s master key. The demagogues are now in charge of the train.
Their first decision? Change course. Their current track took them through the plains on the way to Kongoukaku, the shogun’s city. The demagogues want to take the faster way through the mountains. They shrug off Ayame’s protest that the mountain passes will give the Kabane more places to launch attacks.
Of course, demagogues being demagogues, they decide to consolidate their power. So, they round up several steam-smiths like Takumi and Kajika and throw them into the car with Mumei and Ikoma. Their pretext? They don’t want any “Kabaneri lovers” loose. Takumi, ever prepared, happily presents Ikoma with his Kabane-killing gun. The group’s starting to relax with each other when Mumei announces that their arrival is perfect because she and Ikoma were just getting hungry! Mumei even approached Kajika to say people should have a choice.
Sounds outside of their car interrupted their increasingly uncomfortable conversation. Three cowards, led by the same man who had tried to attack Mumei and Ikoma before, were using the key Ayame gave up to detach their car from the rest of the train. They had to do that from outside the train, which, in the mountains in particular, was dangerous because they were open to attack.
And the Kabane attack.
They rain down from a tunnel opening. The coward leader who had used fear of the Kabane to try to cement his own power died when a Kabane slashed his throat with a sword — with a sword! This Kabane had learned to wield a sword. Even worse, the cowards had left the outside door open, so the Kabane stream into the next to last car. All Ikoma and his friends could do was watch through a slit in the door as the Kabane feast. The Kabane had overrun the cars beyond car seven by the time the bushi are even aware there’s anything wrong.
The leader of the insurrection demands to know if they can detach the cars beyond number seven without the master key (with the other group of cowards had tried to use to get rid or Ikoma and Mumei). There isn’t, but the very request disgusts Yukina as they was driving the train. Kurusu offers to try to retake the cars and leads Kibito, among others, aft. Ayame grabs her steam-powered compound bow and demands to go with them.
Mumei’s showing signs of starvation when Ikoma announces they’ll use the emergency hatch to exit the car and attack the Wazatori, the sword-wielding Kabane who seemed to be leading this attack. As they’re about to move forward, Mumei tells Ikoma that she’s almost at her limit and asks if he can do this alone. She seems pleased when he says there’s no other choice. As they rush forward, Ikoma shows that Mumei’s fighting lessons paid off.
Closer to the engine, Kibito sees how the Kabane fight, and he urged Kurusu to get his sword, which would likely be more effective than their guns. When he returns, he does well against the Kabane, until the Wazatori attacks. Everyone’s shocked and horrified that a Kabane can be so skilled. Kurusu, to his credit, recovers quickly and fights as well as he can. But his human strength and speed are no match for the Wazatori. The Wazatori stabs him in the abdomen. Kibito and the other bushi’s hail of bullets temporarily drive the Wazatori back.
By this time, Mumei, traveling on top of the train cars, is out of energy. Ikoma has to lash her to the top of the train to keep her from falling off. He pushes forward, but he, too, is running out of steam. By the time he arrives at the standoff, he can only declare that if anyone will give him some blood, he will defeat the Wazatori.
Ayame doesn’t hesitate. She slashes open her arm and offers her blood to Ikoma in exchange for his pledge to fight for them. He drinks a few drops of her blood.
Ikoma again used Mumei’s combat training to good effect when he attacked the Wazatori. “Your moves are too big,” he tells the Kabane before he fires his gun through its heart. That battle ends.
There’s an expectant pause. No one seemed to know exactly what to do. Should they praise the Kabaneri? Condemn him? Ayame breaks the silence with the cry, “Rokkon Shojo!” It’s their victory cry. Kibito takes up the cry, then Ikoma, before the entire train erupts with the cry.
Later, as the steam-smiths try to repair the train (in motion) and everyone else pitches in to clean, Ayame reclaims her key and leadership role. She tells everyone that the Kabaneri will stay with them to help protect the train. The demagogue who just lost his power tries to make a final grasp, complaining that the Kabaneri need blood. Ayame says she’ll supply it. Kurusu, too, volunteers his blood, as does Kajika and others. Kibito declares it’s good to have the Kabaneri on their side.
What I Liked
I still love the opening theme! It’s fast-paced and dramatic, just like the show it represents.
The show has dealt realistically with the politics of power in the context of a larger threat — reminiscent of how may regimes in today’s world use the real threat of terrorism to consolidate or extend their own power. The so-called community leaders confront Ayame and demand she take responsibility for the Kabane’s attack that ended the prayer services. Of course, no one seems to mention that it would be as legitimate, and perhaps even more so, if they had thanked her for getting them out of the overrun station; or for evacuating everyone so quickly and with so little loss of life in the latest attack. Ayame was still too young (or honest!) to know what they were doing, so she stepped aside. She made an honorable decision that dishonorable men took advantage of.
I like how this episode showed how the demagogues rounded up more than just Ikoma’s actual friends. In real life, demagogues will turn on anyone they suspect of not supporting them. It’s realistic, so in that context, I like it. But within the show and real life, I find the practice detestable and small-minded.
When Takumi approaches Ikoma after being locked in the same car, Ikoma tells his friend to stay back because he might be a Kabane. Takumi’s been through that conversation before, so he sarcastically observes that yeah, Ikoma might be a Kabane because he attacked Ayame — the implicating being he attacked her for very different reasons. Mumei jumps on that bandwagon and calls Ikoma a pervert. In other words, Ikoma’s the only one still worried about himself become a Kabane. His friends have moved on.
After announcing she was hungry, Mumei approached Kajika and said she wanted to give humans a choice to contribute their blood. The smile Mumei gave Kajika was so innocent she might have been asking Kajika to share her bread or soup instead of her blood! In fact, I thought this gave more credibility to the question I asked last week about blood donors — can humans simply drain some of their blood to share with the Kabaneri? Mumei and Ikoma won’t actually have to bite anyone, will they? We find out the answer later in this episode.
When the cowards were trying to detach Ikoma and Mumei’s car from the rest of the train, the scene showed the Kabane raining down from the tunnel’s opening in slow motion, then sped up again to show them slamming into the cars. I thought that was dramatic and cinematic.
In previous episodes, we had some hints that the Kabane could learn. In this episode, we saw one example of how far that learning could go. A kind of Kabane that Mumei called Wazatori had learned to use a sword in combat. As if Ayame and the rest didn’t have enough problems…
Ayame has a steam-powered bow? That might be the coolest thing in this episode! It looks pretty effective, too.
The humans had portable shields, almost like something riot police would use, to protect themselves as they attacked the Kabane. I thought those brought another nice bit of realism to this episode.
As Ikoma and Mumei tried to exit the car to engage the Wazatori, the train entered a tunnel. Even at their speed, Mumei was able to read the sign with the tunnel’s name. Apparently, physical speed isn’t the only thing she gained when she began a Kabaneri.
Ikoma and Mumei are fighting their way on top of the train to the Wazatori, and they need to eliminate many Kabane on the way. Ikoma fights one to the ground and says, “You’re way slower than Mumei.” I like how the show ties its developments together. Mumei’s training wasn’t just an isolated scene; it affected Ikoma’s development as a character in concrete ways. I like tight-plotting like that!
The music during Kurusu’s fight sequence was outstanding. Maybe it had a hint of anachronism about it, but I find as a fan, when I enjoy a show as much as this one, I tend to be more accepting of its experiments. I think it’s a trust thing: I’m learning to trust the writer and director.
Just before Mumei falls unconscious, she tells Ikoma this his dying “would really inconvenience” her. How touching! From Mumei, that was the equivalent of an embarrassingly gushy expression of deep affection!
Kurusu’s one of those characters whose apparent thick-headedness makes me dislike them. But when he saw the Wazatori try to interrupt Ayame and Ikoma, as injured as he was, he threw himself at the enemy and called for them to hurry. Despite any prejudices, his loyalty to Ayame was his top concern. I have to respect that!
He did the same thing again at the end, when the demagogue who just lost power tried to complain that the Kabaneri needed blood. Kurusu also volunteered his blood along side of Ayame’s.
What I Liked Less
As the entire train echoed with “Rokkon Shoji!”, a baby smiled in its mother’s arms. Yeah, I couldn’t buy that. The babies I’ve been around don’t react well to crowd noises, especially at that volume level. Sure, a baby smiling in the safety her of mother’s arms was an “ahhhh!” moment, but this is Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress. I’ll take my “ahhhh” moments with a bigger dash of realism, please!
This episode felt like a chapter ending. Up until now, the show’s focused on setting up the world. We got to see the station as the Kabane overran it, and we saw the resulting political and humanitarian crisis unfold. Mumei and Ikoma, as Kabaneri, were new to these people. Given how the two showed Kabane-like powers, people feared them. But now, after proving themselves to the Koutetsujou, its passengers, and crew, Mumei and Ikoma are enjoying acceptance. Things might have gone otherwise. If the demagogues had succeeded in detaching Mumei and Ikoma’s train car, what would have become of the humans?
I’m really interested to see what happens next. Will the series bring us to Kongoukaku and the wonders of its Kabane research? We we learn more about the Kabane as the train tries to navigate out of the mountains?Or will we say in the wild longer and explore the dangers there? Will we see other stations that are still alive, or others that have fallen? I’m very interested in learning about Mumei’s mission and the family members who gave it to her.
And, we get to wait another week!
Reviews of Other Season 1 Episodes
- Episode 1: Frightened Corpse
- Episode 2: Never-ending Darkness
- Episode 3: Prayer Offer
- Episode 5: Inescapable Darkness
- Episode 6: Gathering Light
- Episode 7: Begging the Heavens
- Episode 8: The Silent Hunter
- Episode 9: The Fang of Ruin
- Episode 10: The Attacking Weak
- Episode 11: Burning Life
- Episode 12: Kotetsujyo