Lost Village and Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress: Two Spring 2016 Anime with Intriguing Ideas That Could Have Been Better Executed

Lost Village

A boy and a girl walking through a tunnel at night, with a bus heading towards them. The title reads "Lost Village".
Image via Crunchyroll

Genre: Supernatural/Mystery

Synopsis: A bus tour filled with people wanting to leave their old lives behind heads for Nanaki Village, an urban legend that may not even exist. And even if it does, those who go there don’t come back. Everyone has their own reasons for traveling to this mysterious village, but no one knows what they’re going to find. A new place to live out their lives in peace? A fake story about a place that isn’t real? Or a mystery that pulls forth the characters’ motivations and forces them to confront who they are?

Series: 1 season, 12 episodes.

I’ve Watched: The full season.

Verdict: Has interesting things about it–certainly enough to watch. Not quite sure if it’s good as a whole, but parts of it are good.

Available: Crunchyroll. 

Dub or Sub: Sub. Don’t think there’s a dub at this point.

Lost Village is immediately intriguing, which is especially notable given that it introduces over a dozen characters at once. It pulls this off by making those characters interesting as a collective instead of delving too deeply into one character’s perspective. They’re a disparate group of people with very different reasons for being on this journey, but they are all going on the same journey–to start over in a hidden village that doesn’t officially exist. This ties them together from the get go. The staging of the show’s beginning, with all of them on a bus in the rain traveling down a lonely highway, only heightens that.

It’s a classic horror set-up, with an isolated group of characters going towards a mysterious location, though the show is not particularly scary. (It’s more like supernatural therapy, really.)

Lost Village is a bit of an anomaly, because it still manages to be interesting with thinly-drawn  characters. It relies on atmosphere, a sense of mystery, and tension between its many characters to engage the audience. That sense of mystery continues to drive the show as things slowly happen, things that don’t quite make sense. And the characters–who don’t expect anything unusual–are left wondering what’s going on and what the other characters know, while the viewers speculate on the nature of the threat and how it’s going to unfold.

The show does a good job of pacing itself by not rushing towards the more stereotypically exciting parts of the story. Instead, it devotes itself to a good build up and the character conflict that comes with it.

As might be expected, when we actually start seeing something, it’s a bit anticlimactic. I definitely enjoyed the first half of the season more than the second. But it was still interesting enough to continue, if only for the thematic contrast to most Western media.  

Many characters never received much development, and at times the show veered a little too far into melodrama. I can’t even say that I actually liked any of the characters. Individually, none of them stood out as particularly interesting. But overall, it was an enjoyable experience with some cool ideas and themes.

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress

A large metal train station, with an armored train leaving over a bridge, a cliff and open sky in the background.
Image via CGMagazine Online

Genre: Post-apocalyptic

Synopsis: Humanity survives the zombie invasion by holing up in several fortified cities. Armored trains are used to travel between them. But there’s a constant danger of these cities falling. Protagonist Ikoma is just a boy working to keep those trains moving. But he thinks he might have discovered something to help his people put up a real fight…

Series: 1 season, 12 episodes.

I’ve Watched: The first 3 episodes.

Verdict: Pretty decent, but not great–though with beautifully drawn settings.

Available: I believe this is exclusively on Amazon.

Dub or Sub: Sub. Don’t know if a dub is available yet.

Humanity is under threat from the Kabane–which are essentially super-acrobatic zombies.

In contrast to zombie shows in America, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress is thematically different. Where American shows tend to be about making hard decisions and survival horror, this show is about holding on to the good parts of human nature in the face of crisis. It’s kinda refreshing.

It’d be wonderful if it didn’t go overboard with melodrama at times. Unfortunately, it isn’t subtle enough to really achieve that pinnacle of emotion.

This show does look really nice, though. I’m not usually a visual person, but the art is so good even I noticed. The scenery looks great, to the point where one of the best shots I saw is literally just the wheels of a train coming to a halt, covered in blood.

Our protagonist, Ikoma, starts off the first episode as a little abrasive. That’s because he doesn’t show any fear of the zombies or of the power structure in his own society, instead exhibiting an almost fanatical anger at these things. I do appreciate that this is what Ikoma is about–being compassionate even in the face of things that turn people selfish. But it isn’t until the second episode that he starts executing those ideas to more interesting effect.

Mumei, a mysterious and capable young girl,  is great right off the bat. She’s got this charismatic irreverence, that doesn’t quite go over the edge to indifference–we still see her treating some things with the gravity they deserve. Though she’s near the cusp of being overly aggressive.

Ultimately, this show has potential, but is perhaps not quite executed strongly enough for me to feel driven to keep watching it. I don’t feel compelled to see what happens next, or attached to any of the characters.