Koutetsujou no Cabaneli – Review – Rail Wars! (Literally)

When Studio WiT announced Koutetsujou no Cabaneli, everyone was thinking that this show is another Attack on Titan rip-off. But, in actuality, it is not. It is actually a…

attack on titan

Highschool of the Dead rip-off…

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Guilty Crown rip-off…

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and most importantly, a Train Simulator 2014 rip-off, complete with $3000 worth of DLC, sold separately from the game itself.


Oh…Tetsuro Araki…how far you must have come…

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Koutetsujou no Cabaneli is a 2016 anime directed by Tetsuro Araki, famous for his work with Guilty Crown, Highschool of the Dead, and the most famous anime to date, Attack on Titan. If you ever watch anime aside from long running shounens like Naruto or One Piece, chances are that you have watched his work at least once. And this show is his second anime work that gives him free rein, Guilty Crown being his first. This means that this show is essentially Tetsuro‘s brainchild, and boy, can you see it clearly more than ever. So, is it a good thing, or a bad thing?

Let’s talk about it.


A mysterious virus began infecting industrial revolution era Japan and transforms ordinary people into undead creatures known as Kabane (lit. corpses) with increased regenerative abilities and superhuman strength. The only way to kill these undead creatures is to destroy their hearts. Either that, or you can just behead them, or flatten them with trains. Um…more on that later.

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Unfortunately for the survivors, it is not an easy task since the technology they possess do not have the necessary firepower needed to penetrate the steel cages surrounding their hearts, and most melee weapons and the steam powered rifles are not effective in dealing with Kabane. Enter Ikoma, a lowly steamsmith who is hell-bent on ridding the world of Kabane. In order to do so, he and his pal, Takumi, began doing their own research on these Kabane and even invents a more powerful weapon, the piercing gun.

One day, an armored locomotive called the Kotetsujou docks at the fortified station Ikoma and his friends are residing in, a day earlier than expected. Something happens along the way and soon, Ikoma and company board the Kotetsujou to escape the station under siege.


If you have watched Tetsuro Araki‘s work, namely Guilty Crown and Attack on Titan, you will have known what to expect. This show is by no means original, in fact, if you have been watching anime for sometime, it will not be a breath of fresh air for you. There are a number of recycled plot points and feel somewhat disjointed at times. At one point, it feels like Attack on Titan, then the next episode, it feels like Highschool of the Dead, then the next episode Guilty Crown. I don’t quite mind if the plot has been recycled or unoriginal as long as it’s a more refined version, Koutetsujou no Cabaneli is a more polished version of all of the aforementioned shows.

But, it is none of those shows. Attack on Titan has amazing action set-pieces and intriguing lore about its settings, HoTD is a fun, ridiculous ride that doesn’t take itself seriously and Guilty Crown is a gloriously, well-animated and spectacular mess.

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For one, KnC doesn’t try to establish its own identity, but tries to achieve a goal that wasn’t really there to begin with. It tries to deal with the clutter-filled plot of AoT, except that it’s plot is different from the plot of AoT. It tries to right the wrongs of the questionable main protagonist from Guilty Crown, but it itself is not Guilty Crown. It tries to bring in themes of fear like HoTD, but at the same time, tries to talk about family bonds and political stability.

The plot is way, way too ambitious that it left way too many blanks for the audience to fill, and that leads to unrelatable characters, a plot riddled with plot holes and a show that strives for the best but didn’t quite reach the height it aimed for.

Oh, can I talk about the ending? It was rushed, anti-climatic and so uninspiring that it made me wanna cry. Is it trying to build up for another sequel or something? What happened?

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Same problem here. There are way too many blanks left for the audience and we are left to our own imagination most of the time. First of all, what are Kabanes? In the first few episodes, we are told that they are drawn by blood, so technically speaking, if you don’t spill blood, you will have no problem, right? No? Okay, so they are very difficult to kill, right? But, you can run over them with trains, decapitate them, shoot them with guns that will kill them with three or four shots. You don’t need a piercing gun like Ikoma‘s that has a very limited range to kill them. So, they’re not scary? Plus, I’m sure by the Industrial Revolution, we are advanced enough to understand the anatomy of the body to know that viruses travel through the blood stream. So, how is it that no one but a steamsmith realized that you can still live even if you have been infected? What about gunpowder? Gunpowder was invented in the 9th century in China, so why didn’t they come up with cannons and whatnot?

So many questions, but no answers. In short, the settings are riddled with so many holes that the possibly interesting lore gets bogged down entirely.


*Sighs* So much potential wasted.

Ikoma is a good character, at least to me. That’s because I recognized his motives and understood how his mind operates. However, the show doesn’t explain that to viewers, not even briefly. For example, in the first episode, Ikoma was trying to stop the bushis, the soldiers from killing a supposed infected person. I was watching with a friend, and that scene drew two different responses from the two of us. I was rooting for Ikoma while my friend was literally screaming for the bushis to hurry up and kill the infected person. I’m sure many people have the same reaction as my friend, and if your reaction was like him, chances are you didn’t quite enjoy this show.

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There are too many things left unexplained to the viewers, and it relies on a matter of perspective as to whether or not you will enjoy this show.

But, if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that the rest of the characters had next to no character development. No backstories, no depth, and as the story progresses, they all get sidelined and nothing interesting happens to them. Even Mumei, easily the best character in the show was, by the end, sidelined to being a mere damsel-in-distress just because the plot requires it.

Graphics & Soundtrack:

Now, if there’s anything you should watch this show for, it’s for the visual spectacle and the awesome music. The show delivers in the visual department, and boy is it amazing. The visuals team use an unorthodox contrast of bright colours and shades of grey to deliver stunning backdrops, as well as to capture the haunting, steampunk version of Industralized Japan. A lot of effort has been put into this show to make it this beautiful and I have to say, this show is absolutely stunning.

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Oh, have I mentioned how much I love Aimer? No? I love Aimer, how about that? Her style of music and the songs she sings normally have a really melancholic and atmospheric feel to it. Add Sawano Hiroyuki to the mix and you will have a really awesome soundtrack. In fact, I can go out on a limb here and say this is better than Guilty Crown‘s soundtrack and if you’ve watched Guilty Crown, you know how high a standard GC’s soundtrack has. Though, Egoist’s opening theme wasn’t as great as I thought it would be.


A show that essentially bit off more than it can chew, Koutetsujou no Cabeneli is not necessarily a bad show, it’s just that it didn’t exactly reach greatness like everyone thought it would. It does have a few plus sides, like good pacing, intriguing characters and great visual effects. However, don’t expect another phenomenal Attack on Titan, in fact, it would be better if you prepare yourself for another Guilty Crown.

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After meticulously calculating the points awarded for plot, settings, characters, graphics & soundtracks and my personal enjoyment, I present to the rating for Koutetsujou no Cabaneli:

7.92 (Good)

So, there you have it. I am still looking forward to the spring season with– wait, ReLife released all its episode yesterday?? Wait, where can I watch it?! I’m gonna watch it and enjoy it (I hope).

Either way, what do you think about Koutetsujou no Cabeneli? Did you like it, or not? Also, what do you think about the new spring season? What shows are you hyped up for? Let me in the comments section below and I will see you in the next review! Ciao!