- Titles: Kaiba
- Genre: Science Fiction, Adventure, Surreal, Romance
- Episodes: 12
- Studio: MADHOUSE
Warp is a blonde boy with a hole in his belly, a hole in his memories, and maybe even a hole in his heart. He just doesn’t know who he is anymore or what he wants other than getting his memories back, maybe. And in a world where both bodies and experiences can be bought and traded, how can anyone be sure of who they are. That’s the question that Warp or Kaiba is going to have to answer as he wanders this strange world meeting all the people that both suffer and thrive under these unique circumstances. They all have something to teach him and something they want from him. However, at the end of the day, the only one who can truly know you is yourself. And Warp (or Kaiba) needs to get to know himself again if he ever wants to fill those holes.
I have a feeling this post may be a little divisive. That is if anyone reads it. Kaiba isn’t exactly a fresh new show everyone is talking about. But I have a feeling that those who have watched it are already divided since the show itself is that way. I’ll try to explain myself better.
Kaiba is a Masaki Yuusa anime. For those of you familiar with his work, that will instantly evoke a certain aesthetic. I have often heard his anime described as “ugly” (especially Devil-Man Crybaby) but that’s in the eye of the beholder.
It certainly is a unique art style and personally, I love it. I would say the art is the best thing about Kaiba. I thought it was beautiful and although the screencaps do not do it justice, I would still stare at them for minutes after each episode just to enjoy the images.
I was slightly disappointed that the distinctive jerky and exaggerated animation style that the director often adopts, wasn’t as pronounced in this show. Since Kaiba is an earlier series, maybe the animation style was still being developed.
In any case, the production is one of a kind and won’t appeal to everyone but it’s certainly not boring. I liked it quite a bit.
Story & Characters
This is the divisive part… I think.
You see, I read the comments under the episodes while I was watching it on Crunchyroll and it was all sorts of WTF did I just watch!?! and This is the weirdest show ever! People seemed to either love it or hate it and well, I just kind of thought it was ok. Neither particularly great nor awful just you know, fine.
Structurally, Kaiba is split into two rough halves. The first and slightly longer half is purely episodic character of the week stories. Kaiba travels and meets new people and then learns about their circumstances and moves on to the next destination. I say roughly the first half because I think it’s a bit longer, at least it felt that way. I think of it as a very depressing Little Prince retelling.
The second half brings all the little clues Kaiba has collected about himself together and pieces the story of his past as well as that of the world they live in. This is a continual plot with a bit more action and a lot more follow-through.
All of Kaiba is told in a generally surreal tone with a lot of abstraction. Again those familiar with this creator will know what I’m talking about. It’s a narrative style he seems to enjoy. And to be fair, so do I.
But there is a lot that made Kaiba a mixed bag for me. Let’s get the stuff I didn’t enjoy out of the way.
The pacing is not great and honestly, I found the entire episodic part of the show a complete slog to get through. The first few episodes were interesting by virtue of having an interesting world full of mysteries to explore but they quickly became repetitive. Because of the style of storytelling used, it’s difficult to relate to, or even get to know, any character in more than an abstract way. And characters we only see for part of an episode have little chance to make any emotional impact.
Moreover, Kaiba has a tendency towards, for lack of a better term, misery pr0n. Everyone Kaiba meets has survived some sort of tragedy, is reeling in the aftermath, and ends up badly. Pretty much without exception. It got to the point that I started to find the heaped-on melodrama really funny. I laughed out loud a couple of times but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t intended to. I’m afraid I didn’t really care about any of them. And actually, I never managed to truly care about any of the characters, I was interested in the story itself, but everyone could have died and it would have made no difference to me.
Full disclaimer, I have very little patience for drama and tend to be quite picky when it comes to stories that pour on the misfortunes. I’m sure a lot of viewers won’t be as bothered by this as I was. To be frank, it was difficult for me to get to the point where I started enjoying Kaiba again, but I did. So there’s something to be said about that.
Finally, for all the surreal and evocative storytelling used, the message and themes explored were quite mundane. That’s neither good nor bad but I did find it surprising and maybe a little disappointing.
On the good side, Kaiba is a very accessible anime. It’s easy to understand and easy to follow along. The themes explored are carefully spelled out and repeated so that even if you’re not paying close attention, you won’t get lost. And that’s a real achievement for this type of story. I think that a lot of people who dislike “artsy” anime will like this one because it doesn’t fall into those usual traps. In my opinion, it’s the easiest Yuusa anime to simply watch. It’s still a very surreal offering, don’t get me wrong, but there is an effort made toward clarity which I find refreshing.
And although I found the conclusions and morals the show nudges us towards to be a bit trite, I really liked the questions it posed. There are a few but the most important one is the exploration of identity. That’s what I focused on in my synopsis. Are you still you without your memories? If you got amnesia would you become someone else? What if someone got your memories somehow, would they be you? Ok now what if they got your body as well. At which point is it no longer the ship of Theseus, but with people! And I like this question. I find it fun to think about. I liked how the show attempted to answer it. I would in fact happily watch another show on the same theme.
So there you have it. At the end of the day, I’m left with a show that was…o.k. It definitely could have been better. I almost dropped it a few times but when I finally got into it, I thought it was pretty good and I liked the answers we got.
You might like this anime if:
You enjoy Masaki Yuusa’s anime. You want a surreal story that isn’t purposefully trying to confuse you.
My favourite character:
I don’t have one. This show is just not a character story.
- Every time we see the blurry picture in the locket – take a sip
- Every time anyone mentions a “Body” – think about the implications
- Every time we see a memory cone – put the drink down
- Every time the image goes black and white – take a sip
- Every time anyone gets shot – pour some out
- Every time Kaiba/Warp changes body – take a sip
- Every time he gets separated from his little helicopter friend – oh no!
- Every time anyone hits on Kaiba – blush
- Every time Kaiba/Warp uses the memory gun – take a sip
- Every time anyone mentions “Lord Dada” – worry
- Every time we see the Kaiba plant – take a sip
- Every time Warp’s power is mentioned – wonder
I save all my screencaps on my Pinterest and you can find more there if you are interested. But I still like to show you a few in the post. If you’re like me, screencaps are something that really helps you decide to watch an anime or not.