Kaiba [01]: this is how we operate

Hi, I’m the new THAT blogger. My own anime blog is here. I like anime. A lot. Now I am going to write about it.

Originally, I was scared that the series wasn’t going to get subbed because it was so radically different from mainstream anime. So I was ecstatic when I found out that Ureshii and Froth-Bite has picked up the series. The amount of time and effort they put into their work is remarkable and it really shows through the excellent quality and wonderful subs in Kaiba. A big thank you to the people over at Ureshii and F-B subs. And now onto the spoils of their hard labor.

Short summary: The series is about a boy who wakes up in a strange world without any memories of who he is or how he ended up there. The only clue to his lost memories is a locket with the picture of a girl inside. This series has been described as a romantic sci-fi. I think it’s the best thing since I discovered Nutella.

Kaiba really took the concept of classism and ran with it. The stated facts are: the rich live above the clouds, the poor live underground. Now what about that ominous purple cloud separating them? A cloud is a cloud, a cloud is not a wall because a wall is something that is impenetrable. But a cloud is just water droplets in the air, just soft wetness on your skin. It is not a physical obstruction. But it’s still there as a perceived entity taking up space in your awareness along with all of your doubts and reservations. Now how do we get through this meta-barrier?

Villager X proposes that they fly there on a hot air balloon. But their makeshift, patchwork hot air balloon is what it is, just hot air, hasty goals, and clumsy dreams. There is no point in making it to the surface and then forgetting who you are or why you wanted to go there in the first place.

Let’s see if Warp will have more luck with that in the future.

In Japanese culture, purple signifies royalty and wealth, and is worn in different shades by the various characters who chase after Warp. During the scenes where they are in the club, the purple is volatile and so unnatural when meshed with green that it violates the eyes, forces you to see a world in infrared, a stark contrast to the earthly colors of the underground (clay grey, mud brown). The color schema here suggests that the rich are the abnormal beings because they are the ones who seek to bypass death and violate the order of nature. Whereas the poor live underground, so close to the earth, among the mud and dirt, that they themselves are extensions of nature. But beware of this natural vs unnatural binary because the world of Kaiba as a whole functions on very different standards and values from our world, intentionally so in order to encourage out-of-the-box reflection on our own societal norms. Therefore what is unnatural to us, may actually be ordinary to them, and that’s what makes the prospect of it so horrifying. That something so cold and so UGLY (like the harvesting of human bodies, like Neo-slavery) could be normalized.

I found the scene with the faces on the wheels extremely disturbing. Because of an individual’s debts, the whole family unit must collectively suffer for it. The face of the adolescent girl who said, “I want to fall in love,” the lack of privacy and the constant struggle to talk over each other and be heard, the future of little Momo who can’t even speak yet, all of these individual dreams and ambitions have been compromised by of the lack of a physical human body to carry them out.

cold fuckers

My initial reaction to the people who shook their heads and walked away from the wheel, the same people who decided not to put big brother’s memories back in his body because he was a burden on them, was that they were cold fuckers. But then I finished the episode. And then I mentally kicked myself, really hard, for being such a high-minded bitch. It’s so easy to look down on those who are lower than you and condemn them for lacking in human compassion and empathy, for being something less than human. It’s so easy to ignore their circumstances and say that they deserve their plight because they don’t have the luxury of being generous or kind when there is a whole network of institutions in place that create these horrible circumstances. It’s not that people don’t give a fuck, it’s because they don’t know how they could possible help with their own hands tied behind their backs. People are just trying to make do with their own lot, and it must be hard when you live in a giant mud pie and the rich are after your body.

This girl is the epitome of perpetual discontent. She has the nice body, she wears the cool colors, but she’s still unhappy. Why is that? Does her discontentment hint at the problematics of wealth and beauty, that maybe those two things don’t exactly equate to happiness? Or maybe she’s just a greedy little girl who doesn’t acknowledge there are so many other people worse off than her, because at least she has the freedom to pursue the things that makes her happy even if she keeps failing. I think it’s interesting that her pursuit of happiness entails the changing of bodies. Her failure thus far indicates that her discontentment transcends the physical, that’s it’s something inherent within her and it follows her around as she keeps trying on different bodies. It’s vexing and heartbreaking and it’s all in your head.

The notion of being able to preserve memories and transfer them into different bodies is profoundly interesting to me. The idea that you will not end with death, that something so fundamental to you will live on after the rest is gone, will still exist in this world without the prospect of an afterlife. What a mind-fuck.

I give Kaiba two thumbs up for being able to convey and facilitate the multiple discourses that I have barely touched on in just the first episode. Looking forward to the rest of the series. I am not an episodic blogger, so I won’t write on every episode. But I will most likely post more editorials on Kaiba in the future. Thank you for reading. Do comment.

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19 Comments

  1. Posted April 29, 2008 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    Popping your comments cherry!

    Now seriously, very nice analysis on Kaiba 01, specially the part related to the purple color. I had totally missed that.

    Keep up the good work, you just did fine for your first post.

  2. Posted April 29, 2008 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    I have watched Kaiba and it does make me think a little about the fragility of humans. We all have self-esteem, be it higher or lower. Nonetheless, we all yearn to be better, yet in our quest to do so, we never become happy. Yet, we hope to gain attention from people, since we are social humans that depend on interactivity to survive.

    That is why that girl in that show attempts to make herself beautiful. It is simply a projection of society that demands beauty. Yet, within her heart, she is never happy. She strives for excellence but her soul is unable to fill up due to doing it due to societal and peer pressure. Think of it in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. She cannot attend self actualization from this, the motivation of human life.

    I have never thought about the symbolism of the color. That is a good observation and seems to describe the yearning of the elite for longevity and eternal life. Yet, it is mere greed because humans can never truly transcend life. It is sad how they try to cheat life, but they are merely cheating themselves.

    Good job with a first entry. ^^

  3. Posted April 29, 2008 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    Oh, fuck…I quit.

    Amazing editorial for an equally amazing show. That’s the thing I love about Kaiba…it offers a world that makes me want to look at it in a profound way…not just force myself to do it in an attempt to be intelligent or thoughtful.

    It’s on the short list of stuff I watch ASAP.

  4. B1
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    It’s not just Ureshii who have taken this on – it’s actually a joint between Ureshii and FrothBite… which is probably why they’re doing such an awesome job.

  5. Posted April 29, 2008 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    Awesome first post, itsubun! =D You have a very eloquent writing style…I’ll definitely check out Kaiba when I have a chance.

  6. Posted April 29, 2008 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    @B1: My bad. I got the torrent from Ureshii’s site, so I didn’t realize they were joint-subbing with another group. Will fix.

  7. Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

    Enjoy your foster family, itsubun! :D

  8. Posted April 30, 2008 at 12:16 am | Permalink

    Just wanted to mention:

    Thanks to your post title I now have ‘Feel Good, Inc’ by Gorillaz stuck in my head.

    Watch the way I navigate hahahahaha…

  9. Posted April 30, 2008 at 12:51 am | Permalink

    Nice one. I didn’t know purple was assoc. w/ wealth and royalty in Japan too; add another item to my collection of ‘things to argue about Lelouch’.

  10. KaeBoo
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 1:40 am | Permalink

    Hey, great entry! nice analyses, and oh, I love nutella as well. :D

    looking forward to more of your posts…

  11. Posted April 30, 2008 at 1:54 am | Permalink

    OH MY GOSH, no wonder you reacted so happily when I said I was eating pancakes with Nutella for tea break.

    Nutella = goodness. Cheddar Cheese with anything = heaven.

  12. gaguri
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 3:06 am | Permalink

    I hear you like raving about Kim-Ki-Duk. For that you are officially my fav blogger here.
    Well, that and you actually touched on aspects of visual language used in the show (but I suppose one like Kaiba demands it). I don’t think people needed to be aware of the obscure symbolic value of purple in Japanese society (definitely the first time I heard about it), because like you’ve already mentioned, the juxtaposition of two colours used to depict two separated societies were incredibly strong. I imagine that bizarre sense you get when entering the whole place painted in purple is still achieved regardless of its symbolic value, because the bright purple and subdued green and gray have those associations with radical/poor to some degree, especially if they’re juxtaposed with each other in such a manner. I loved the first episode but I’m currently considering to patiently (with great pain) wait for it to finish first, so I can enjoy the whole series at leisure. I found that this approach works better for a series like this, well, for me anyway.

  13. Posted April 30, 2008 at 4:58 am | Permalink

    @IKnight: Speaking of the matter of Lelouch’s eye color
    ?

  14. Calaveth
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    I watched the first episode of Kaiba and was fairly stunned by it. It reminds me of old art-house animation, of old films like Metropolis etc, so ripe in symbols. No doubt it’s a fantastic piece of animation. I just don’t know if I have the stamina to digest it, episode after episode of this. I would have preferred this as a feature length film instead, watch it in one go and then had the opportunity for lengthy analysis.

    I’ll be following your comments on the show with great interest.

  15. Posted April 30, 2008 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    “What a mind-fuck.”

    It gets better in the second episode. :D

    It does seem that the idea of what it means to have memories, identity, and life, especially when it seems that all can be changeable, will be very important throughout the whole series.

    A nice start at THAT. :P

  16. Hoshi
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    sweeet. a blurb on Kaiba. Loved it from episode 1. (and the OP. since I’m so crazy about OPs, this one blew me away)

    Looking forward to your posts in the future!

  17. Posted April 30, 2008 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    Thank you all for taking the time to read and comment with your kind words.

    @Impz: Oh, Impz. Your relentless pimping of my soul has made me lose all my self-respect and pride as a writer. Now I really am part of THAT.

  18. Posted May 1, 2008 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Ow my head hurts a bit.

    But a couple of bits of info.

    Purple was traditionally the color of the royals and the rich. Dunno about most of the East but in the West, purple used to signify royalty and the rich because of how hard it was to procure the dye.

    Slavery may seem unnatural and unconstitutional now, but slavery before the 1800s was not just accepted but also a booming business. Rock and Roll may be accepted now, but in the 1980s people wanted rock and roll outlawed. I’m just saying.

  19. kayxice
    Posted May 4, 2008 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    I’m up to ep3 and its the most soul touching yet…
    kaiba is godlike

    i’ve watched mind games and kemonozume also by Masaaki Yuasa and this yet another success by him IMHO

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