In a future where memories can be downloaded, erased and traded, society as we know it has changed. Whilst the rich manipulate their memories and switch bodies as they please, the discontented poor can only look up and dream of such extravagance as they make do with what they have. Into this world awakens a man with no memories and a mysterious hole in his chest, a man who is given the name ‘Warp’ and sent on a journey through space. As he travels from planet to planet, Warp meets many people and sees many strange things, but nothing can compare to the truths that will be uncovered as his past is slowly revealed.
With its seemingly childish and basic character designs, at first glance, Kaiba may not look too appealing- in an age where we’ve come to demand perfection from our visuals, could such simplicity possibly deliver anything suited to an adult palate? By now, of course, we should have learned not to judge by appearances alone, for Kaiba’s quirky looks conceal a series that is detailed, thought-provoking and most certainly not to be underestimated.
A series packed with content and food for thought, Kaiba isn’t slow to capitalise on the potential of a world where memories and bodies can be bought and sold wherever the price is right. The unscrupulous prey on the weak; the rich purchase impractical, ridiculous new bodies simply because they are in fashion; terrorists plot to overthrow rulers who live in safety above memory-disrupting clouds, and at the top of the tree stands a man who has transferred himself from body to body for generations. Amidst all this, a story unfolds that encompasses both present events and flashbacks, weaving together something that will require every viewer to be on their toes in order to follow what is going. This is a series that demands multiple viewings, for only through them can you possibly absorb and order everything that is going on.
At only twelve episodes in length, however, it is perhaps understandable that Kaiba stumbles a little towards the end, providing a rushed conclusion to the many threads that permeated the series. Nonetheless, in some ways this ending is fitting, for although the pace is very swift, it reflects the mental state of a key character as he claims his dream, only to discover that he has lost everything important to him on the way. To say more would be to spoil the series, but his desperation certainly parallels the rate at which things happen at the end.
Despite being such a short series, Kaiba is packed with numerous colourful and memorable characters, with even one-shot personalities such as eccentric body designer Patch and the woman who loved him despite never being noticed or Chroniko, a young woman who cheerfully lives in poverty without realising she is being used, each coming to life and exploring a different aspect of the world they live in. The real meat of the series lies with the leads, of course, with the important trio of Warp, a man whose lost identity and memories are the crux of the series; Popo, a rebel who isn’t above manipulating anyone and everyone for his own ends and Neiro, a young woman whose entire self and memories have been altered by the whims of others. Between them, there is plenty to think about- everything from the nature of self to the lengths that one could and should go to in order to fulfil long-held ambitions.
As mentioned earlier, visually, Kaiba has a very unique look, with simplistic character designs that might look more at home in an early Disney cartoon than a 2008 anime series. Nonetheless, although it may seem odd at first, Kaiba’s visuals actually fit the series rather well- had the casual death and violence which permeates the series been animated realistically, it would have detracted from the offhand way in which life is treated in this universe. The quirky, sometimes ethereal music also fits in well, creating a world as colourful and quirky in presentation as it is in content.
Despite its deceptively simple appearance, Kaiba is an absorbing and thought-provoking that only rewards those who look beyond the surface and appreciate the series’ attention to detail. If you fancy ‘highbrow’ sci-fi that is genuinely worthy rather than merely shallow and pretentious, then throw your lot in with Kaiba- you won’t be disappointed.