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.