Posted by psgels on 27 July 2008 with categories: Anime Reviews, Kaiba


Welcome and say hello to one of the best anime of 2008, and along with Haibane Renmei and Hi no Tori, my favourite anime of only 12 or 13 episodes long. Kaiba is the product of director Masaaki Yuasa, who was the one behind Kemonozume, Cat Soup and Mind Game and it shows the result of when an already excellent director learns from his mistakes.

Kaiba is very much an experimental anime, which tries to be different from the stuff you usually see. The character-designs may look childish and simple, but make no mistake: this storyline isn’t afraid to show adult themes at all, and the perfect example of why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. It’s about a futuristic world with the fascinating concept in which people’s memories can be stored in chips and placed from one body to the other. The series smartly spends its first half fleshing out and playing with this concept, so that the viewer feels at home inside the setting, only for the second half to kick in with the real meat of the series, where the storyline keeps spiralling to the point of going out of control. The final episode is indeed one of chaos.

The setting may be already an incredibly imaginative one, what really won me over for this series is its sense of storytelling. It’s hard to explain, but if there ever was some kind of x-factor for anime, then Kaiba would have it. This is one series that knows exactly how to progress a mystery-storyline: lots of random flashbacks, in order to flesh out both the storyline and characters, a back-story that goes way beyond the “person x killed person y in the past” and lots of different hints to keep you guessing.

This also really helps fleshing out the characters, and the interesting twist that they keep changing bodies (made possible because of the setting) puts them in interesting different spotlights. The romance can be incredibly sweet when it’s in its element and even the villains get their own piece of development.

Overall, Kaiba is definitely recommended if you’re into experimental, mystery or science fiction anime. The only bad thing about it is that the plot isn’t the most solid one, so don’t expect everything about the setting to be fully explained by the end. Nevertheless, Kaiba is an masterpiece that makes excellent use of its limited time of only twelve episodes, and it has been my top pick of the past spring season ever since it started.

Storytelling: 10/10
Characters: 9/10
Production-Values: 9/10
Setting: 10/10

20 Responses

  1. John says:

    I kind of liked the drawing style a bit. Maybe its because it has that old lets get it done as fast and cheap as we can so we can work on other things feel.

  2. Denizen says:

    I can’t wait to finish this series, it truly has been good.

  3. midenz says:

    turtly cannot wait to finish this series, its really good and wow like u said, one of the best animes this year of 2008.

  4. BlueYoshi says:

    I’ve been checking AnimeSuki non-stop in the last 10 days or so, and I’m still itching for Episode 10 and onwards. The waiting is killing me.

    95? That would be up there in your top ten I think?

  5. Denizen says:

    @ BlueYoshi – TokyoToshokan is worth checking more than Animesuki

  6. Omisyth says:

    Thank god for fansubs, just got finished watching the series, and I can honsetly say that its one of the best I’ve seen.

  7. Gabe says:

    Hey, thought i’d drop you a line to say I am completely agree with your review… I managed to finish watching it today, and I made sure I watched the last 4 episodes one after the other to understand what was going on! but excellent overall! Oh and thanks on putting me onto that other excellent under-rated series Baccano! :)

  8. Z.A. says:

    well i agree with some of the comments above. i liked everything about this series, BUT for the animation style. i couldnt stop thinking about how terrible the animation was the entire time. i think this ‘experimental’ animation style and the character arts were a disaster. i aint obsessed with hardcore Hokuto no Ken, or slick Seirei no Moribito, but cmon kaiba’s character designs absolutely suck! good story though…kept me entertained…

  9. Perrin says:

    Didn’t everyone find it weird that Popo helped Kaiba escape into the ship back in episode 1?

  10. AlexS says:

    Perrin: He just wanted to get rid of him (by sending him to another planet), since he realized he could not physically destroy him.

  11. David says:

    If you watch the whole series, you wouldn’t be suprised why Pop wanted Kaiba to leave the planet.

  12. Ehtesham says:

    Wouldnt it have been easier for Popo to just take Kaibas memory chip and destroy it?? I mean all the trouble he went to send him away.
    Kaiba should have a remake with better animation style.

  13. fernanda says:

    I began watching Kaiba because of the posts you wrote. I though that it had to be somewhat good. I wasn´t prepared, though, for it to be amazing! I loved it, absolutely! It is very rare (and I can´t remember any) for an anime to tell a love story right from the start (instead of the confession being left for the ending). I entered your top ten today, as I was hoping it would be there… Well, in mine it certainly is!

  14. totoum says:

    Just finished this today.

    Even if you don’t like the style (thought that’s not my case,i really like it) you’ve got to admit that the animation is topnosh.
    Definatly a very creative series,loved the universe (Hippo body is one of the coolest things ever!).But my rating would more like 85 than 95.

    Maybe it’s because i’m not that into mystery series but i would have definatly prefered it if the content of episode 10 was at the start of the show,definatly there’d be less mystery but i would find it intersting that the audience would know stuff the character didn’t and watch him try to get his memory back (but i guess that’s just me)

    I’m just getting tired of the “main character has lost his memory so the audience can’t know everything” routine , off the top of my head i can think of ergo proxy,noir,el cazador de la bruja,denno coil and .hack sign that use this.

    As was said in the review,the plot isn’t the most solid one,i can let it pass if i get really attached to the characters but i just didn’t,especially vanilla,his death was pretty meaningless to me.

    Wow,these last few lines make it sound as if i don’t like this show…but i liked it,i’m not crazy about it.

  15. Dariel says:

    Guys, the animation was simple so that you could focus better on the deep meaning of the story.
    It’s full of metaphors, just like an Osamu Tezuka work.
    I loved it. One of the best animations I have ever seen.

  16. Marktheknife says:

    Okay, just finished this show (pretty incredible, though I’m dying for just one more episode. Or an OVA?!? One can dream), but uh, yeah. Does anyone know what Masaaki Yuasa’s working on now? I honestly can’t get enough of his work all of a sudden.

    Also, I’ve been really impressed that no one has mentioned many of the visual similarities/scenes taken right out of Cat Soup. Not that there’s anything wrong with that as it is another Yuasa work, but man, it’s almost the exact same! For instance, the guillotines going off and the people being hung are almost unchanged, and Patch and quilt are definitely nods to the cat sewing lady of Cat Soup.

  17. tealovertoma says:

    I still need to see Cat Soup. I tried to see it back when I was 15-16, but I was still too much into longwinding boring shounen back then :P

    *Love* his other work. Bought Mind Game on DVD (plan on doing the same with Kaiba… if we ever get it) and Happy Machine is just terrific. Still need to see Kemonozume as well.

  18. Kara says:

    Just wanted to let you know that I read your review of this the other day and marathoned straight through this series. I loved it. The animation style took a bit to grow on me, but I really began to enjoy it awhile; it’s a nice contrast to the typical art featured in anime.
    Thanks for blogging this, otherwise I may have never heard of Kaiba. :)

  19. Johnson says:

    The drawing style is totally how they got away with the woman who literally exploded from too intense a fuck in episode 2.

    Or so I thought until I saw Kemonozume.

    Anyway, great series.

  20. Solaris says:

    What a review (lol)!! The only thing you take out from that is you liked it very much. I’m really glad for you.

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  • Bam
    (Saturday, Apr 30. 2016 10:44 AM)
    In a world where Urotsukidoji gets 3 series of OVAs there is nothing you want to make that is too risqué or edgy that nobody would want to pick up. I get a small startup trying to push their fist film out, but most big Kickstarters are ran by bigname talents that already have a string of hits on their resume. C’mon, just have some faith in your work, it’s just crazy to ask for money upfront.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Apr 30. 2016 10:37 AM)
    SuperMario: I assume you mean Charlie Kaufman’s new film, in which case he already did pretty much whatever he wanted. Have you seen Synecdoche, New York and Adaptation? Now I’m a big ran of the man, but this creative control card gets a bit overplayed. The Under the Dog producers claim the same thing, but looking at their trailer it doesn’t look like anything that Japanese studios don’t already greenlight.
  • SuperMario
    (Saturday, Apr 30. 2016 09:01 AM)
    for me though, I only pay for projects that I’m certain to watch (and have to pay for it eventually), so I don’t see the point not to “helping” them out. It’s all the same for me.
  • SuperMario
    (Saturday, Apr 30. 2016 08:58 AM)
    @Bam I think the core concept is 1) with Kickstarter, many projects that otherwise never could have made is get supported here and 2) creators have more artistic control over their project. Take Amonalisa for example, big studios was very hesitate to fund the film, because of the commercial failure of his first film, but he insisted to get crowdfund and we have one of the more creative animation output last year.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Apr 30. 2016 08:53 AM)
    A lot of the tech stuff is things you will never use twice; like a smartphone microscope attachment. they’re usually pretty shifty with it too. Yeah I’m sure it takes the price of a house to make a video series about sexism in videogames- right? And it takes almost a million dollars to make a 4 level indie game with three guys- seems legit. Must be pretty nice to basically do business with zero chance of failure.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Apr 30. 2016 08:47 AM)
    I just don’t get the core concept of why I should pay for someone else’s business endeavors? They’re going to reap the benefits, they usually have money, let them pay for it. I get it if it’s research, or some strange art project for the sake of the art, but movies, games and anime that are going to get a commercial release? I swear people are so easily bamboozled.
  • SuperMario
    (Saturday, Apr 30. 2016 08:21 AM)
    @Kaiser:I have been supporting Kickstarter for a while, but not for games or movies, but for animation projects. I think it’s worth it. But like Bam, Aiden and K-Off said, sometimes it gets a bit muddy. For movies for example there are a lot of projects that was just ideas… and ideas alone are not enough.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Saturday, Apr 30. 2016 08:08 AM)
    Ah but that would frustrate me in muv-luv, I’d be the one suffering as a result of having to wait for the characters suffering to start.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Saturday, Apr 30. 2016 08:06 AM)
    I’ve heard kickstarter being used for crowdfunding indie films, honestly as a film buff I really should get on that and start supporting.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Saturday, Apr 30. 2016 07:41 AM)
    I generally don’t pre-order unless its a gift for someone else, so I can guarantee for 100% sure I can get it for them and it won’t sell out.

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