Early Impressions – Kaiba Analysis

This is an early analysis of Kaiba (I’ve only seen the first four episodes so far) and will likely be weaved into a full-blown review once I finish the series. This anime is so unique and high quality, I couldn’t help myself and had to start out early. Impressions of Kaiba after this will follow the normal impressions format of episode by episode breakdowns.

“Kaiba” is a little known high-concept, sci-fi anime where memories are souls and can be transfered from one body to another. It is very reminiscent of classic anime and clearly draws upon Osamu Tezuka (creator of Astro Boy), reminding me very much so of the modern adaptation of Metropolis which was based on his original story. Like Metropolis, Kaiba calls back to the vintage look of “Astro Boy” and yet is in no way hindered by it as you, or at least I, might expect. I am very much a modern anime viewer and have a preference for distinct character designs that aren’t derivative. So naturally, I was at first turned off by the style because, visually, it just wasn’t my cup of tea. That’s what my first reaction was. Yet somehow, in the back of my mind, I knew this was a good thing. By association of Metropolis, I had a feeling that if they purposely decided to pay homage to this style, I knew that there was going to be a strong sense of self-respect for itself and an immense desire to get it right.

Kaiba is about is about a boy named Kaiba. He wakes up in a strange new world with no memories of who he is, where he came from, or how he got there. His only clue is a pendant carrying a blurry portrait of an unknown girl. Almost immediately upon awakening, he’s attacked and the adventure begins with jump start. There are two types of adventure anime: epic adventures where each episode is a piece of the grand scheme slowly building towards big climaxes. These are series such as Naruto or Bleach who, for the most part, are linear arcs completely focused on single goals. You wouldn’t be able to watch an episode out of context and understand what is going on because they’re only one piece of the puzzle.

Then there are procedural adventures, where each episode is a self-contained short story but have a grand scheme story arc beneath its surface. These are anime such as Wolf’s Rain or Monster, although the format of the show will remind you more of a straight-forward, non-adventure procedural anime like Mushishi or Kino’s Journey. I tend to have a preference for the epic adventure because procedural anime not done properly can sometimes begin to repeat itself or fail at being able to tell a compelling story in only twenty minutes. Procedural anime, adventures or not, live and die by the hit or miss one-shots. It’s with great pleasure that I can tell you that, so far, Kaiba is filled with excellent, top-notch engaging short stories that has greatly exceeded my expectations.

Kaiba’s world is a fairly dark place, making it feel like a cyberpunk setting because of its gritty realism infused into the stories. I’m hesitant using the word realism because the world is incredibly imaginative and really stretches the boundaries of sci-fi into fantasy. That’s where Kaiba’s classic style comes into play. The exaggerated, cartoony character designs fits so perfectly with this unbelievable universe, I simply can’t imagine Kaiba using any other style. At the same time, they don’t let these designs bog down the type of stories they can tell at all. I suppose that’s what I was, at first, anxious about. From my western view, if a series had chosen this style they would of been pigeon-holed into doing something childish. But no, far from it. The creators of Kaiba accept it, embrace it, and breath it.

Four episodes in, I have no hesitation in saying that this is one of the best series to air in 2008– no, in recent memory. I can’t wait for more.

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3 Responses to “Early Impressions – Kaiba Analysis”

  1. KT Samurai Says:

    I dig your work and I’ve linked to you from my own blog.

    Lookin’ forward to future entries.

  2. sublunaryxsoul Says:

    I’ve watched a couple episodes of Kaiba, and I do notice the absolute uniqueness of the show. But, really, I’m not into it. Is that all there is to “Kaiba”? I’ve seen a lot of positive rants about it, but I don’t feel the same. Sure, it’s imaginative and creative and different, but… it still doesn’t… impress me.

    You’ve obviously seen more episodes than I have, though. Is there a coherent story or anything in the future? Does something interesting happen? I’d appreciate your opinion, if you decide to reply to this comment. 🙂

  3. Absolutely there is a coherent story, the series as a complete piece is much more complete.

    The problem with avant-garde series like this is people try to take it TOO seriously, they try to read TOO much into it. They go, “is that it? I don’t get it.” They try to grasp for some non-existent message they think the story is trying to preach to them but Kaiba isn’t preaching. Just take it for what it’s worth, a good story.

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