Well that wasn’t great, now was it? I mean… It wasn’t terrible, just horribly mediocre. And considering the production values and jaw dropping animation in the finale alone, that’s a bit of a tragedy in itself. Kotetsuko no Kabaneri had a lot riding on this finale, if only because the crux of whether it was a good show, or just an okay one, was going to be determined by this week’s offering. The show’s spent the last three episodes of its rather limited 12 episode run on building up to the events of this episode after all.
Its with a heavy heart that I state, that when the big moment finally arrived this week, all we really got was a pretty generic, rushed and horribly cliche ending to what was a series of ultimately untapped potential. The finale really is most endemic of the problems that have plagued Kotetsujo no Kabaneri ever since Biba was thrown into the mix. Looking at it all in hindsight, it really does feel like the show didn’t really have a central conflict or problem for its characters to face in its closing episodes, and so Biba was kind of shoved in, as a last ditch effort to give the series some kind of story arc.
The problem with that, is that Biba’s actions and motivations are muddy, nonsensical and illogical in general, and that’s all magnified in the last episode. Biba is a character that’s the very example of a writer trying to feel out an idea, but never quite realizing it into reality. I get what the show was going for here, Biba was meant to be a complex villain that had both an evil, broken and twisted side to him, as well as a kind, misunderstood one. Yet for all the show’s grand ambitions, Biba never, at any point seems to fall into any of kind of comprehensible pattern. He’s either going super over the top and killing things for no reason, or he’s providing a helping hand to his own enemy which he only moments earlier, was trying to kill.
Biba’s actions don’t make sense, and the reason they don’t make sense is because he’s pretty much a tool for the show to reach whatever plot point or story conclusion it wants. To call that bad writing, is a bit of an understatement, its a crutch that doesn’t actually end up doing what its created for. And its the over reliance on that already flimsy crutch, that just bleeds the story out in the finale.
What’s perhaps the most disappointing aspect about all of this, is how poised the show was, for a pretty solid ending prior to this episode. Mumei was a Black Smoke Colony and Biba had successfully destroyed the very core of this world’s Japanese civilization. To add to the stakes, there was only one vial of white blood, and Ikoma basically had to use it on either Mumei or himself. So right from the get go, there’s a certain expectation that something powerful is going to happen.
For me, this episode should have been Ikoma’s last stand, his big shining moment. What should’ve been a death march to glory, ends up being nothing more than a mere misdirection. Ikoma ends up acting really badass, and together with Kurusu, makes it through the carnage of the Kongokuya and is able to save Mumei. He’s also able to defeat Biba, who faces him in some kind of twisted bid to punish himself rather than you know, do something more logical like escape.
Again, looking at the finale and its problems, it all goes back to Biba (a point I can’t seem to let go of). I see that Biba desired to punish himself for everything he did in pursuit of his “revenge”, but it just comes off as sloppy motivation for a slug match between the protagonist and the show’s sort of antagonist. Biba suffers a defeat, Ikoma saves Mumei, but not losing his vision and dying in the service of his grand mission.
Or rather, that’s how it should be, but it isn’t. Ikoma doesn’t die, he lives through it, because he’s the main character and the show decides that despite all logic and all odds, Ikoma needs to live because… reasons! I honestly have no idea why Ikoma doesn’t die in this episode. If Ikoma had died, his actions, his bravery and his intended sacrifices would’ve meant something. To basically get a jail out of free card, which ends up being ANOTHER vial of White Blood, is a pretty cheap way to solve the big “how will Ikoma survive?” issue.
And the fact that Biba is the one that actually saves Ikoma…. Well I have no idea why that even happens (and lets not even talk about when). Biba, who actually ends up being a Kabaneri himself, saves Ikoma after he’s almost won, because he feels… Guilty? This whole thing just breaks any semblance of logic or sense, and just kinda ruins it all.
In the end, the episode itself just turns out to be a bunch of great looking and well animated scenes. It may look pretty mbut there’s no heart or emotion in any of it. Even little moments like Ayame grabbing Kurusu’s hand, or Biba’s right hand man getting his just deserts don’t add much good to the overall package. Biba dies, Most of the capital is gone, Mumei is saved, Ikoma lives, and there’s literally no joy or excitement in any of it. It all just kind of happens, and taking that particular route with its story, robs the show of any real impact.
Is it an okay ending? Well, kind of. The show definitely gets “an” ending, and one where basically everyone except Biba and Takumi live to fight another day… But what’s weird is that as the finale ends, and Ikoma actually ends up coming back, it all just feels hollow and wrong. And I doubt, that was the intended effect.
The show doesn’t earn this happy ending for its characters at all, which is a big part of why this episode just doesn’t work. That’s also where I suppose the rushed nature of this episode comes into play. There’s just not enough time, or even enough effort put in by the characters, to really make it out of this hellish situation. It all kind of works out in the end, and that’s the worst kind of statement to end a series on.
“All’s well that ends well” doesn’t really prove anything other than making the audience feel like it was all for nothing. Unfortunately that is very much the reality of the situation. Kotetsujo no Kabaneri’s final episode is a huge slip up, and one that drags the series down from “pretty good” to “mediocre story with awesome visuals”.
I’m curious to see if this series gets a sequel and how well it ultimately ends up doing. This was a show that was financed and pushed forward by Amazon, and for a first foray into Japanese Anime production, its not a bad result overall. That said, when I look at Funimations first attempt at being involved in a series production, which was Dimension W, then I’d say Kotetsujo no Kabaneri leaves a lot to be desired. If there’s another series in this franchise, maybe it can correct and fix some of the mistakes from this one and possibly even deliver on some of this show’s initial promise. Until then, I suppose all that can be said is that Kotetsujo no Kabaneri ends with its weakest and most unsatisfying episode to date.
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