Wit Studio’s “KABANERI OF THE IRON FORTRESS: THE BATTLE OF UTANO”
Review by Dennis D. McDonald
The Battle of Utano takes place after the events of the 2017 12-episode series. Three clans fight to wrest control of the mountain city Utano from control of the metal-hearted Kabane zombie horde. Again our main focus is the giant fortress locomotive and train we followed in the initial series.
Here again our main characters are the warrior Mumei and the inventor Ikoma. Both are “Kabaneri” and combine both human and zombie features. As before, mistrust of these two is constant despite their superior speed and fighting abilities. There is plenty of melodrama throughout the three episodes as they deal not only with the general mistrust of their multi-species natures but also their own self-doubts and questions about their own feelings for each other.
Much of Utano probably won’t make any sense to someone unfamiliar with the original series. Still, it is again made very clear in Utano that we are following a human clan where women have leadership positions unlike the other clans they now must team with to defeat their mutual zombie enemy. The women, including Mumei, exhibit both aggressive leadership and – sometimes confusingly -- very traditional familial and emotional roles. It even appears at time that warrior Mumei and emotional Mumei were drawn by two separate teams.
But that is a small quibble. The “series,” which appears to actually be a full-length movie chopped into three parts, has some of the most breathtaking animation I have seen. The world of Utano is rendered in almost spellbinding detail. This detail acts as a counterweight to the phantasmagorical action and fight scenes. But, be sure to watch the 12 episode series first, otherwise you will be totally lost.
Review © copyright 2019 by Dennis D. McDonald