Coming off of Mecha March, I may know a thing or too about Mecha Anime, but there are still a few special directors that I need to catch up on. Masaki Yuasa is one of them, because everything I’ve from him has a very unique and cartoony visual style that I really like. Kaiba is the fourth piece of media I’ve seen from the guy, with Devilman Crybaby, Ping Pong: The Animation, and The Night is Short, Walk on Girl being the other three. I’m currently sold on whatever Masaki Yuasa wants to present to me and I know that I have access to Mind Game, Lu Over The Wall, and Kickheart, so I will have to watch those soon. I’m not sure if I have some way to watch Tatami Galaxy though, but oh well. Maybe I will at some point. At this moment though, I need to talk about Kaiba. So yeah, I am stalling for some time while my mind connects so I can sound somewhat intelligent when talking about this show. Screw it, let’s jump into this.
To start this off, A Kaiba is a creature in Kaiba that absorbs memories. That is a massive hint about what Kaiba is about, lost memories. In this series’ universe, bodies are things that you can just buy and can be traded willy nilly for whatever body you like. I mean, if you are rich that is. If you are poor, that is a completely different story. There is a complete possibility that your body could be sold to some one in hopes that you get one later or your entire personality is put into a storage bin to maybe be touched later. Possibly. So yeah, memories are stored in a chip that can be put into any other body and they contain all your memories and personality. Unless you are weirdoes that like your original body and don’t have a chip. Who does that? Sheeesh.
With all that memory intrigue down locked, Kaiba is also kind of a space opera anime. I mean only in the way that the first half of the anime is episodic with different characters on different planets leading very different lives. One episode centers around an old lady and her loser sons running a light house. Another episode centers on a market planet where you can buy whatever body you want and a man who lives a cyclical life of manufacturing bodies, see through the eyes he put on a dog, and then has his memory reset to continue working forever. The other half digs deeper into the hypocrisy of this universe with a religion centered on original bodies only though most of the main followers don’t care about that at all, and dramatic game of Thrones of power. I can’t say that this first half did not lead up to that, because there were terrorist attacks and such that gave that hint, but it’s still a very interesting turn. That is what the structure of the anime is like, but the content within the structure is colorful, strange, and brilliant.
So usually, this is the part where I would talk about the main character. Well, I can and can’t do that. I can’t tell you who the main character turns out to be, because that’s a spoiler for the end of the anime. I don’t want to give away things, because I want more people to watch this series. What I can tell is that the main character spends most of the time not in his original body and his name is Warp. During that first half, he’s either in a funny dinosaur/lizard costume or has his chip transferred to a cute girl’s body. He also wakes up with any memories and doesn’t know who he is. So yeah, he is a bit of a blank slate with no recollections of who he is is at all, but his various adventures helped him find that. In a girl’s body, he found out that he was a boy and didn’t belong in his current form at all. All of that from when he helped a girl in a huge man’s body pee. Take from that what you will, because I am sure it references many things that I don’t think I am nuanced enough here to cover.
That last point brings up how casually sexual Kaiba is. Not in a bad way, because it’s never extreme or shows anything at all. Still, it is far more then subtext here. Warp wasn’t able to get on a spaceship until he dropped his pants in front of a hooker who approved of his “package”. This of course leads to someone else in Warp’s body having sex so hard with the hooker that she exploded, telling us that Warp is not just a nobody, he’s super strong and a somebody. Just a note here, that scene wasn’t portrayed as how a sex scene usually was. Instead, it’s very visually evocative in many forms, even if the sounds made it obvious what it was. And the series continues to make more casual from then on. A cop follows around Warp because Warp is in a cute girl’s body. I mean, the camera focuses on that girl’s butt when she is walking for a reason after all. There was a scene of a male in a female in a hot tub together casually naked and while they don’t do anything during that time, that still tells you a lot about that couple’s relationship. I’m sure there is more that I am not remembering, but that is the truth. Kaiba being casually sexual allowed the anime to tell the audience meaningful messages over a shorter amount of time and it really works here.
And that leaks into some more of the visual aspect of Kaiba. Except for a scene that Warp is witnessed how memories work in the first episode and how bodies and family dynamics are spelled out for him right there, the series is an interesting mix of showing and telling with more focus on the former. I mean, of course there is lines of dialogue between characters. This isn’t a silent film after all. At the same time, things like using a device to see how a person’s mind is tell you how a person’s mind either works, how much capacity it has, and so many other things. Warp’s mind is a huge bookshelf filled with new books from all the things he is relearning with endless space for growth. The factory worker that I mentioned before hand has a small book shelf life with books too tight together to allow new information, so the guy’s brain has no room for growth. Many other elements in the anime are like this and it’s so interesting, and the art style lends itself to this sort of story telling.
The cartoony art style and extra colors adds so much fluidity and fun to this show. Everyone has their own unique character design that is barely related to some one else’s. Especially when each character has their own color as well. They are a lot of simple designs, so their movements are incredibly fluid and also gives the show a major sense of it’s own identity. Everything piece of technology and every character moves in their own unique, and it’s just so cool. I love how some of the walkers in some episodes are on two thin legs that shouldn’t work, but yet do and are able to bend and compress in whatever way they feel like. Combine that with the world’s with unique designs and colors all over the place, and get the unique wonderland that is Kaiba. Man, the Blu-Ray was totally worth buying.
In the end, Kaiba is another one of Masaki Yuasa’s visually interesting works that I would gladly watch again very soon so I can get more out of it. It’s a visually interesting and unique experience about memories and being comfortable in your own body. In all honesty, I am probably not doing this anime series any justice with this post, because it’s hard to describe other then “it comes from Masaki Yuasa”. It’s really hard to describe something like that to some one who hasn’t watched it. None of the things I’ve watched from him have the same sort of experience tied to them. Visuals and art styles yes, but Masaki never uses the same approach twice. Something that I find for the betterment of his anime. For this one, if you want to watch a series similar in concept to Ghost in the Shell with some fun character designs, then this one is for you.
Thanks so much for this! Kaiba is my second favorite of Yuasa Masaaki’s works and I love to hear what other people think of it.
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I didn’t want to say anything when I saw your list post because I’ve had this one scheduled for a couple weeks. Maybe I should have?
Either way, this one was pretty great 😁
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Okay, you’ve convinced me to put it on my Plan to Watch list. If I can track down a copy to watch with my friend whose an animator, it’ll be even better. I’m always looking for stories with a bit of a twist to them and Kaiba seems to be it.
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Thank you! Just you saying that made it worth it to write this!
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