Kaiba and What We Expect Out of Our Anime

Kaiba is an unusual show amongst unusual shows. Its visual style is not like any anime airing on tv, it visuals existing somewhere between Tezuka and 60s manga, and the high art of Japanese artists such as Aoshima Chiho. Kaiba is different, and people will inform you of this fact.

I’ve heard numerous polarizing comments in regards to Kaiba, among them being that it’s (one of) the best of the season, that it’s so much better than all that crap out there, that it looks terrible, and that it’s nothing special and catering only to those who want high art in their anime. Either Kaiba is the savior of anime as an artform, or it is damning evidence of an incestuous circlejerk for highfalutin posers.

Kaiba animates well, but anime has never been known for spending elaborate time and money on movement, especially not for a tv series. Its characters are cute, but in a very illustrative, non-tactile manner. Characters have sex but are not sexualized. It uses characters as icons, but then subverts this by having the physical look of characters be interchangeable.

I think the divided opinion on Kaiba comes from the varying and often times contradictory roles that anime plays or is supposed to play. It is both an elevation of animation as something to be taken seriously as well as entertainment that anyone can enjoy. It is so much more realistic than other cartoons, but look at how weird and stylized these characters are!

There’s nothing wrong with seeing or wanting to see physical, human-like beauty in anime characters (see name of blog), even if it’s on a purely visual level. At the same time, this idolization of characters may be the root cause of the divisive opinions in regards to Kaiba. In fact, in the eyes of some, anime is currently the incestuous circlejerk and to others those same wide-appeal shows are what make anime great.

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7 thoughts on “Kaiba and What We Expect Out of Our Anime

  1. I just think Kaiba is too arthouse for the mainstream to appreciate, thus the conflicting opinion. I mean if the people who says “ZOMG Code Geass R2 MacF ftw” says the same thing about Kaiba, people will invariably see it and get disappointed.

    Kaiba is made for a very different otaku audience; it’s a circle jerk–just not the kind of circle jerk you expect from the likes of Kanokon or ToLoveRu.

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  2. I think that the existence of Kaiba (and, regardless of whether I end up watching and liking it, or watching and disliking it, I respect it–and Yuasa’s other works–for at least being different) simply proves a point I’ve always firmly believed: there’s something in anime (and in any other medium/genre/medium-genre) for everyone.

    Everyone expects something different out of anime–if we didn’t, we wouldn’t have arguments like this, or even differing opinions about individual anime series, or even anime in general. The important thing is keeping in mind that, just because an anime isn’t what you expect out of anime, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be what someone else expects out of anime. You may think that that guy in the corner who thinks ToLOVERu is the greatest anime since ever has the worst taste in anime you’ve ever seen, but keep in mind that he likely thinks that Kaiba, which you love to death, is insufferably pretentious and you have terrible taste.

    Which just goes to show that there is no difference between “good” and “bad” taste–simply perspective.

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  3. Kaiba turned out to be one of my favourites so far. Although I would never expect it to go mainstream, It’s a great watch and would do so much to popularize anime amongst people who’re generally seeking thoughtful entertainment. On the other hand, I agree that it would probably turn of people who have no interest in thinking for their entertainment.

    So, yeah, I guess it does boil down to taste at the end of the day. However, I feel the industry needs more Kaiba-like anime and definitely more patrons of such shows.

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  4. Had an interesting conversation at the Firefox Launch Party in Tokyo last night. This cute girl who was working for Big Smile showed up and we were talking with her about otaku-ism in general, and whether she was Oono-ha or Ogiue-ha when it came to her own fascination with yaoi. It was pretty bizarre to sit there and debate the various pros and cons a gay porn comics with a cute (straight, of course) Japanese women in horn rim glasses that look so good on Japanese women for some reason.

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  5. Kaiba is visually compelling but I find the overall script, direction, and characterization lacking. There are a few bright moments where emotions seem to bubble up to the surface (the original Chroniko episode, various hints of Vanilla’s unrequited love) but for the most part the plot just plods along. Characters are introduced, sketched, and then abandoned without being fully fleshed out. I compare this show to Mononoke, Mushishi, and Kemonozume and it just fails to blow me away. I think it’s comparable to Hakaba Kitarou, which is similarly pretty but falls pretty flat.

    Not to say it’s bad, and claims that it’s the best of the season are probably more right than they are wrong.

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  6. Pingback: My Donation to Kick-Heart Was Not an Obligation « OGIUE MANIAX

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