You often hear the word ‘gem’ be used to describe anime. But what does a gem actually mean? It means:
- You won’t hear of it often
- It will be difficult to find (a few years after its release)
- It is very different to your standard anime
- It is very, very good!
Kaiba ticks all those boxes. Poke your head round anime forums and you will barely see it mentioned compared to Code Geass or Soul Eater. There is a very slim chance this anime will be licenced. The animation is far from what you would usually see; it looks like some kind of children’s show (though that is far from the truth).
And yes, it is very, very good.
Kaiba is a story about a man called…oh wait, he has no name at the start. He wakes up with no memories and his only possessions are a pair of trousers and a locket with a picture of a girl inside. He also has a giant hole in his chest. But he doesn’t have a clue whats going on, where he is or even why he looks like he has just been dropped into a Dr. Seass book.
In a certain sense Kaiba is told in the second person. You are the person with the hole in his chest (who’s name is Kaiba, for future reference), exploring this world and learning the traits of the various people here. One thing you will learn is that people can move bodies, which can get very confusing as you try to learn who’s who. Kaiba inhabits a few different bodies over the course of the show, including a mute hippo with an expressionless face.
Being told in the second person, Kaiba makes you feel the emotions that the hippo is not able to convey. There is no angstin Kaiba. Characters shoot each other down with little to no remorse, leaving you sitting horrified at what has just happened. What it does is it assumes you are intelligent and you don’t need to be spoonfed what you are meant to feel and to be told at every interval what exactly is going on. This means will be confused on occasion, especially with characters switching bodies the whole time, but believe me most of it makes sense in the end.
Ah yes, the animation. Asyou can tell from the screencaps, the animation is far from standard. It looks first off like some sort children’s show. It’s trippy and weird and very other-worldly. Either way, you will either be enthralled or completely put off. I was put off at first, but it did grow on me, particularly in episode 5 with Patch the body builder (and I mean this is the very literal sense of the word). If you decided not to watch the show due to the animation, I’d say you should go back and try it again, it will grow on you…eventually.
The real strength in Kaiba is in its story-telling. The first half of the show gets you used to the world of Kaiba while the second half gets down to the actually plot of the story. Many things in the first half that happened and left me in complete confusion were all explained by the end. From the weird one-eyed emu with the fish bowl on its head, to the little flying creature who could only say ‘Hyo’, even to that thing in the picture, it is all explained by the last episode.
At its very heart, Kaiba is actually a love story, a very weird and twisted one, but that’s only to be expected when lovers are constantly changing sexes (yes, that does happen) and even species. You will hate some characters one episode and love them the next, like our dear Vanilla. Others will shock you how evil and twisted they are, but every character has depth and conflicting goals. There is a memorable scene towards the end where people start killing each other like its some sort of Shakespearean tragedy.
Kaiba is one of the best, and also most obscure anime I have ever watched. While the animation may take some getting used to and the story occasionally hard to follow, this really is a special anime. Best of 2008? Well, I’ll have to wait and see how Code Geass R2 ends before I make that judgement.