A Love Letter to 2016, part 6: sound and silence in Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress

As some of you may have noticed, this year saw me take a couple of strides into an area of anime production that few viewers consciously pay attention to: sound design. Not only did I research and write a shortish editorial focused around ERASED and Knights of Sidonia, I went out of my way to translate interviews with the sound director and sound editor for Yuri!!! on ICE. A few of you may remember that I first became curious about anime sound design when I was looking into the interviews for ERASED. What fewer people are probably aware of is that Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress was actually the series that made me look up and write that editorial.


Kabaneri is a bit of an odd inclusion in this list given the theme I have chosen. It’s the title I’ve gone back-and-forth about including over the past two weeks. But no matter what I think of the show as a whole, it’s opening salvo remains one of the few first episodes that has ever left me shivering. There was this palpable sense of dread that I can’t even remember sensing for many modern Western thrillers…though some of the older ones like Rosemary’s Baby and Hitchcock’s Psycho had it in spades. Oh, and I can sense people rolling their eyes at me comparing Kabaneri to those classics!

But when I rewatched the episode to find out how it had hooked me so effectively, I’d have to put it down to the sound design. And it wasn’t Sawano Hiroyuki’s music—although I like some of his earlier soundtracks, his score for Kabaneri is not one I remember—but rather the effective use of sound effects and silence:

Since then, I’ve found that this kind of moment is quite effective for a range of purposes. orange is another show where I noticed it, in episode 2 when Kakeru and Naho hang out together for the first time. Is it emotionally manipulative? Well, yes…but if you don’t really notice it at the time, then that’s effective sound design, is it not?

So, unlikely though it is, my sixth love letter to anime in 2016 goes to the sound design in Kabaneri. Whether I watch the sequel or not is another question, though… (^^;

About karice
MAG fan, translator, and localization project manager. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

2 Responses to A Love Letter to 2016, part 6: sound and silence in Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress

  1. DerekL says:

    “Is it emotionally manipulative? Well, yes…”

    Isn’t that what the production staff is trying to do in the first place? Whether with sound, or voice, or music, or art?


    • karice says:

      Hm…thinking back to that post I wrote about sound design, I’d say that it’s not always about emotional manipulation. This particular instance where there’s a sudden silence in one track (usually the music track) is, though I won’t try to discuss what might reduce its effectiveness. However, sound and music are also used to draw attention to or away from things – in that sense, it’s about presenting information, and I wouldn’t really call that emotional manipulation.

      Sorry I got a bit long-winded. I guess what I’m trying to say is that manipulating viewers’ emotions is just one of several effects that staff would use sound and visuals for.

      (And my apologies for the late reply!)


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