The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials


Title: Kaiba
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Madhouse Studios
Format: 12 episodes
Date: 10 Apr 2008 – 24 Jul 2008

Synopsis: The world is in shambles and people’s memories are no more than data. This is a world where memories can be transferred between bodies and can easily be manipulated at one’s own interests. In this world, a boy named Kaiba wakes up in a broken room with no memories. He has only a pendant with a picture of a girl inside as a clue to help reclaim his lost memories and his true identity.

The Highlights
Creativity: Redefines the meaning of thinking “out-of-the-box”.
Animation: Simplicity has never been so fantastically profound.
Characters: Kaiba, Popo and Neiro are the main stars.
Opening sequence: So touched that I wept.
Ending: So sudden that I wept too.

Kaiba is perhaps the most unique series of the decade; there, I’ve said it. What do I precisely mean when I say this? I’ll elaborate. Kaiba is a series directed by Yuasa Masaaki, who is responsible for another unique series: Kemonozume. What makes Kaiba such a precious stone is its creativity. In Kaiba, people’s bodies and their memories can be compared to a storage disk and priceless data. The interpretation of this concept is done with impeccable creativity, both visually and logically. Even the idea of how memories can be captured and explored physically is a unique idea I’ve never seen in anime. Additionally, the creativity is spread to the conceptualization of how the world works, rendering Kaiba‘s universe so absorbing that I sometimes forgot I was watching an anime.

The idea of transferring and manipulating memories is not only creative, but it also raises something not found in many titles – the questioning of ethics. What if people can transfer their memories into different bodies at their own will? What if people can remove their bad memories and replace them with pleasant ones? Questions like these are put under the microscope and explored through different scenarios and sub-stories that are intriguing as well as thought-provoking. This is also all done with an unorthodox approach towards its animation style. Adopting a simplistic child-drawn-like approach at visually creating the world of Kaiba is not only a good change from the norm but it aids in making the deep and complex story more apparent.

The story, filled with questions on ethics, is played out by the undisputed main stars of the show: Kaiba, Neiro and Popo. The limelight is shone onto them in immaculate style as each episode vaguely hints about each of their backgrounds, motives and rationales for their actions. Clues about Kaiba’s hazy past, Neiro’s suspicious actions and Popo’s rationale in his quest for a better world are given in each episode which keeps the viewers riveted towards the climatic end.

In what seems to be Kaiba‘s shining armor, I see cracks which are too evident to be missed. In its exhilarating development towards the end, certain issues seem to be solved so conveniently that it ends up unconvincing. As well, the ending is somewhat reminiscent to Evangelion‘s – out of the blue. I was left stumped when the credits began rolling; I thought things could have been tied up more tastefully. It left me with a sour aftertaste, especially when the series had been otherwise spellbinding.

Kaiba is a series that truly stands firmly on the ground with its two feet when it comes to originality and ingenuity but there are blemishes which have stained a potential for series of the year. Nonetheless, with such an imaginative story and an opening sequence which made me weep, Kaiba is still a diamond among anime series. It’s just unfortunate that it is not completely polished.

The Rating: 8

Reviewed by: AC

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