Wednesday, January 4, 2012
What are memories? Souls? Spirits? This is a world where memories can be turned into data and stored. Even if the body dies, its memories live on and can be transferred to another body. Bad memories can be erased, and good ones downloaded. However, this is something only the privileged can do. In a world like this, our protagonist, Kaiba, is traveling in another body with no memories of his own.
Kaiba is an original SciFi/Romance anime. This twelve episode show is from Studio Madhouse (Monster, Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad) and directed by Masaaki Yuasa, premiering in the spring season of 2008. It currently is not licensed in America, but is licensed in Australia. Kaiba won an Excellence Prize for animation at the 2008 Japan Media Arts Festival.
One day a man, Kaiba, wakes up in a broken room. He has no memories, only a pendant with a picture of an unknown woman. Outside of the room are grotesque floating electrical clouds of disjointed memories. Kaiba is suddenly assaulted, and escapes into space. He travels to various planets, encountering various people and retrieving his memories. (Anime News Network)
The story is simple, yet complex. Simple because, on the surface, it’s about an amnesiac man trying to regain his memories and find out whom the woman in the picture is. The story is complex because below the surface the series brings in the concept of editing personal memories, selling your body for money, and similar cyberpunk “loss of self” concepts that Ghost in the Shell usually tackles. And the transition into the complex story line is done really well. For half the series, you’re dealing with the simpler story of getting Kaiba’s memories back. However, the memory and body thing is visited throughout each episode as you meet characters that are tied into that part of the story in different ways. When you get to the second half of the series, the complex story becomes even more complex. I don’t wanna give anything away, but I’ll say that clones, altered memories, and planet eating plants are involved.
The Japanese dub for Kaiba is decent. The only complaint I have is the use of adult voices for characters that clearly looks like children. I’ll admit, this is because of the animation that I have this problem, but still it looks awkward. I have to give a lot of props to Houko Kuwashima (Claymore) as Kaiba, who pulls off the character really well. Starting off as curious and child like, it makes a smooth transition into the mature Kaiba after regaining his memories. Another well done performance is Romi Park (Full Metal Alchemist) as Popo. She has just the right amount evil and innocence put into the role. The third role that was a lot of fun was Hisao Egawa (Mobile Suit Gundam 00) as Vanilla. Both parts caring and flirtatious, Egawa plays them both really well. The one voice that I had a little trouble with was Mamiko Noto’s (Monster) Neiro. Again, it’s the problem with the animation making them look more like kids rather then adults, but the role is a good fit. Not amazing, but good.
At the end of the space trip, Kaiba is a unique SciFi anime where you ask questions about your own identity and memories. Again, it’s kind of upsetting that this never reached farther then Australia with licensing, but this is certainly one of those, that I would deem, to be a cult classic anime. Very underrated, very different, but if given a chance would become pretty popular elsewhere. Kaiba is a must see, even though some of it’s content can be a little graphic (ex. episode 2, a woman sounds like she’s having sex, but we never see it).
If you want something different or more commonly known to you as an anime, then I suggest looking toward the 1960's version of Astro Boy. The animation is similar looking to Kaiba, but doesn't quite have the though provoking questions Kaiba gives off.