So I’ve had this idea floating around for a while where I would write about which I had already watched previously, was one of my favorites and wasn’t Legend of the Galactic Heroes could provide some interesting things to discuss. After Raph from Borderline Hikikomori linked to a DVD release of Kaiba in Australia, I suddenly had an urge to watch it again.
Kaiba is one of the examples of shows that was well-received, yet pretty much failed commercially. Other examples would be Dennou Coil, Trigun in Japan, the original Mobile Suit Gundam TV series, Big O or anything number of series that have made it to the West. The most obvious thing that will stand out to viewers will be how it is stylized. The character designs could be considered post-war in my opinion, but I’ll try to revisit that at some other point.
The story of Kaiba begins with our as yet unnamed protagonist laid out on a ledge looking down on people being attacked by machines, all the while having no idea who the hell he is. There are various clues to his identity, the hole in his chest, the fuzzy picture of a girl in the locket he was wearing; but there is little time to dwell on that as he is whisked away by a flightless-bird like creature just as he was caught between someone shooting at a machine preparing to attack him.
The first thing that came to mind as I was re-watching this was The Bourne Identity. You have an immensely important protagonist suffering from amnesia in both with the only clues to their identities being on their bodies all while being chased by larger entities. One thing that film trilogy did very well were chase scenes. The one below is from the first film, though they only really took off in quality once Paul Greengrass took over for the 2nd and 3rd films.
After he is freed, our protagonist meets with a group of people who people who free some of those captured by one of the robots at which point we learn that in this universe memories can be separated from bodies. One of them tries to figure out whose memory chip belongs to his brother so it can go in the right body. To do so, he uses a machine which allows him to talk to the person, but in this case he gets it wrong. They eventually work it out, but decide against putting him back in his body as it means they have one less mouth to feed.
At this point, another entity which consists of an entire family comes out and begins to bicker very publically. In this case it appeared that the father had sold all of their bodies so they could be put in one so as to save some money. The arguments between the family members all center on this fact as they really have no freedom as the son can’t play, the daughter has no privacy and the grandfather can’t even be free to die, but this is supposed to keep them all honest from the father’s point of view. Then an old man tries to tell a story about a princess he met on another world, but as he’s taken away, a woman tells him that it was all made up. Then 2 others talk about the memory in their house being full, but they aren’t able to delete data from the numerous unclaimed chips to free up space. Then, a couple walked through arguing about the girl having changed once she won a new body. Some chips from the dead are dropped off at another place, which leads one of the residents to lament about when they get them. Finally, a young child comes by and asks if the protagonist is okay, before playing with the hole in his chest with a toy bird and then asking about the blurry photo.
I found this particular scene very well-directed. The way this would have been done typically would have been to have the protagonist get involved in all of these scenes and start to ask questions to try to figure out who these people were. Instead, we have our main character sit back and watch all of this happening around him. I think it provides a better feeling for what life is like in this little village more than the outsider getting involved. There could still be some observer affect in play, though the nature of the conversations would have implied there was none.
The man who shot at him earlier, Popo, gets to our protagonist. After confirming that his memories were lost, Popo takes him on a tour. There we learn that the world is separated into 2 worlds, the rich who live above the clouds, and the poor who lie below it. They walk past a couple of people working on getting above the clouds with a balloon, after which Popo tells him that they had succeeded before, but the effects of the clouds meant they didn’t remember. Popo then runs through the background of the world some more in that a way was discovered to separate bodies from memories and since then the rich have been buying bodies while others pray on memories. They are then attacked by someone trying to steal our protagonist’s memories.
This is a pretty classic set up for a dystopian world, the rich sit back and exploit the poor to take everything from them. One thing I noticed here was the change in color palette as they walked around to more of a black-and-white. It struck me very much as something in the mold of Metropolis.
Popo takes our protagonist up an elevator as they have to leave because it is too dangerous. They go to a bar and meet with a woman who agrees to let him on the ship after visually inspecting his body fully. A body collector notices the mark on the front of his body and then chases after them. Popo and the woman create separate diversions which allows them to make it to the ship, but not before Popo tells him that he should go by the name Warp.
The bar scene itself was interesting for the fact that drugs and sex were being traded and used as just another commodity of sorts. It just serves as yet another reminder that in this society, there is no such thing as privacy.
The woman and Warp get on board and he is told that he will be transported in a different body and transported as luggage. Elsewhere on the ship, Popo enters a room where someone who works with memories has the girl from the photo on a table. Popo warns him about scanning her memories.
Outside, the collector, named Cloak, figures out where Warp is and tries to stop the ship. At the same time, the bird from before tries to get on the ship as it is pulling away. They are both stopped by the sheriff of the ship named Vanilla. They both look on as the ship pulls away as the episode ends.
There is notably a bit of comedy as Cloak tries to beg and buy his way on to the ship. He is stopped by running into pillars a couple of times. Each time he makes it back to the ship he has more bandages on his head. Perhaps that is a tribute to the style of animation more than anything.