Kaiba 05: Observations

Kaiba continues to tell its story of multiple dystopias with a utopian aesthetic (distinctly unsettling, like a scary clown).

Horned

It’s a nice touch that quilts are made of (if only grammar would allow ‘by’) patches, and it’s nice, too, that the body designer’s own body is practically unusable. Actually, the nice touches are everywhere: did anyone else smile to hear the horn-eared Patch picking on horns as a useless feature? Kaiba excells at this kind of whimsy: Vanilla’s ice cream may be people (the novel was better – although I would say that, wouldn’t I?), and the tension between setting and aesthetic may be unsettling, but there are still gently witty moments like the pursuit which opened the (otherwise rather serious) fourth episode.

The cigar smoking plutocrat’s description of Patch didn’t really match my impression: he seemed to idolise the body designer as a withdrawn genius, but what I saw was a crazy and angry man. Obviously the plutocrat’s gold isn’t something Patch wants – indeed, it makes him a target for thieves. Strangely, the plutocrat puts me in mind of a figure who sometimes crops up in Chandler: the aged, rich man whose success in business has made him de facto ruler of his own small town, and who can’t get his head around something which doesn’t involve money (usually, Philip Marlowe having a sudden attack of morals).

Patchwork of Dogs

We haven’t reached the state of Kaiba‘s society yet, and I think it would be an exaggeration to say that we’re even approaching it: Kaiba‘s catastrophic devaluation of memories and of the body comes from some rather unlikely-seeming (though I’m no scientist) technology. Here in the UK, though, we do seem to have reached this point with pets: I’m not an animal person, so I lack strong feelings on the issue, but we do discard a lot of pets (plenty of dogs among them) every year.

Incidentally, there’s apparently a concept in European geography called the ‘fat-cat/thin-cat line’. You can, they tell me, draw a line across Europe dividing countries in the north, where cats are kept primarily for company, and countries in the south, where cats are kept primarily to kill vermin. This is probably useless information, but at least it’s more entertaining than the Blue Banana.

Simply Point and Click

Does Kaiba sometimes remind anyone else of one of those old point-and-click adventure games? It’s probably the use of items (‘use MEMORY GUN on COMATOSE PATCH’), but whatever the cause I actually wanted to grab my mouse and start clicking in this particular shot.

The Little Statue

Not only is Kaiba riffing on The Little Prince, it looks to me like Kaiba may actually be a prince. Or was a prince, until he lost his memories (if amnesia changes your character enough to make you a different person). Or was using a prince’s body.

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17 responses to “Kaiba 05: Observations

  1. I like the outburst of Kaiba posts, and coincidentally, I just bought a copy of The Prince yesterday along with a certain other book (ahem).

    Is it an exaggeration to say that our society is moving with a Kaiba-vector in mind? Have you seen this film called The 6th day? Not to say that this is a more ‘believable’ version of Kaiba (the Governor’s presence is laughable, too), but I find that kind of science/technology pretty fascinating, to say the least, although Kaiba’s world is truly horrifying at the same time.

    I think there is somewhat of an ironic devaluation of our bodies, in the sense that we do not treasure their ‘chasitity’, their originality, and we succumb to breast implants, botox, plastic surgery and whatnot in attempts to fit the status quo. Obviously the wealthy are the only ones capable of affording this, but it’s not like they steal bodies – and it is an exaggeration (I’d hope) to say the Triangle Trade v.2 would be revitalized in the coming years.

  2. well now you’ve got my interest

    I watched the first episode of Kaiba and really liked it, but never continued watching it. I suppose either I’m lazy or subconsciously I was just being contrary to popular demand.

    I suppose it’s time to pick it up again

  3. berkles:

    No, it’s time to read Fear and Trembling. ^___^

    SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE!

  4. Mike you really need to, like, watch some anime, or something (this does not include reading, reading, and more reading)!

  5. I will! I’m midway through the second episode of G00! WOOHOO!

  6. kaiba has been thought-provoking for sure, but it’s the emotional reactions it elicits that have surprised me every time. I can’t recall a time when an anime felt like this, for instance the time-lapse camera scene.

    Episode 6 is also very good, and also contains some story revelations. Things are starting to move very fast now.

  7. Michael:what philosopher worth his weight in salt hasn’t read fear and trembling?

  8. I suppose that in some ways this episode is about the closest Kaiba has come to contemporary society – in that it was about the bodies as currency not the memory juggling. It’s generally interesting how uncrowded and neglected many of the settings in Kaiba have been, and how little surveillance there is. Really cool episode too – I loved the greyscale factory and the intro sequence, some of the best of the shows visual adventures.

  9. @ Lelangir: The Prince, not The Little Prince? Given the choice, I think I’d rather read the latter.

    It’s an exaggeration (and thank you for reminding me that there’s only one ‘r’ in that) to say that our society is approaching/nearing the state of Kaiba‘s, certainly. I simply can’t see a situation where we start treating our minds like software on USB sticks arising in my lifetime, though I’d be the first to admit I’m no futurologist. It may be that we are on a Kaibesque vector, true. But I think (hope) we’re a long way off yet.

    I haven’t seen The Sixth Day, though I noticed (as I think Owen did) that Kaiba has one or two similarities to another Schwarzeneggar vehicle, Total Recall – which takes us to Dick, and you could say this show’s like quite a lot of Dick, as drawn by Disney.

    @ berkles: To be honest I sometimes have to make a bit of an effort to start an episode of Kaiba. But once I start I always enjoy it, and it is rather good – so yeah, time to pick it up again.

    @ Michael, lelangir, Michael, berkles: Sheesh, get a room &c.

    @ otou-san: That time-lapse camera scene was gently very affecting, though I think I found the third episode to be the most powerful of those I’ve seen so far. For some reason I didn’t feel so engaged by the fifth, but that may be why I felt able to write about it. And I’m glad to hear that the main plot (if there is one) could be about to kick in.

    @ coburn: Good point. The transience of the bodies in this episode made the memories seem much more like the fixed point that they are. This one did remind me more of our society today, while the previous ones felt more personal, reminding me of people I know. Maybe the fifth episode was meant to be a more society-wide view, especially given the ‘utopia’ of the title.

    I rather liked how this episode looked, but I found the disjointedness of the scenes a little off-putting. It reminded me of Yukikaze, in which nearly every scene feels like it’s ending in the wrong place, or is a little out of sequence – and this became quite an effective tool for unsettling me. I’m not sure it worked as well in Kaiba, but it didn’t ruin the show, or anything, and I think it’s probably a progression from the way the previous episodes worked rather than a break.

  10. Oh dannng, I should keep up with this series lols

    The pictures are so adorable~~

  11. “It’s an exaggeration (and thank you for reminding me that there’s only one ‘r’ in that) to say that our society is approaching/nearing the state of Kaiba’s, certainly. I simply can’t see a situation where we start treating our minds like software on USB sticks arising in my lifetime, though I’d be the first to admit I’m no futurologist. It may be that we are on a Kaibesque vector, true. But I think (hope) we’re a long way off yet.”

    I’m not nearly so sure. Certainly they’re not USB sticks but they’re not “us” anymore either, so much as part of us.

    I don’t know if it’s even worth trying to project Kaiba as a society since it’s full of holes – which isn’t necessarily a flaw, since filling it out would be impossible – but as for some of its ideas, I think we really are heading that way. People have always thought dualistically and funnily enough recent scientific developments like AI, prosthetics and cosmetics have exacerbated this mode of thought rather than dispelled it.

    It seems to me like Kaiba is a particularly absurd and cartoony version of the premise of ghost in the shell. People have plenty of attachment to their bodies (not sure if you’ve seen Kaiba ep 6 yet so I won’t say anything else) but they’re getting to where that’s because they’re extremely useful and tailor-made tools rather than because they are us.

  12. Woops, I just realised I mangled your analogy.
    I meant our bodies aren’t “us” anymore, our minds might still be. How I managed to get that confused I don’t know, the USB thing should have been pretty clear…

    And while I’m doubleposting (doh) I should clarify myself. I’m basically talking about identity. Body modification for a lot of people is like a more emotional, more long-term pimping out of mobile phones. Body is a part of identity in a similar way to our styles of clothing, though with the differences you’d expect due to its comparative permanence, but it’s not the centre of it anymore.

  13. Does Kaiba sometimes remind anyone else of one of those old point-and-click adventure games? It’s probably the use of items (’use MEMORY GUN on COMATOSE PATCH’), but whatever the cause I actually wanted to grab my mouse and start clicking in this particular shot.

    Haha, yes. It wasn’t obvious till you mentioned it, but now that you have I can’t unsee it.

    I hope the subtitle quality of episode 5 wasn’t too terrible, since I literally edited it in an hour or so (long story), and it looks like a lot of my script is intact, if your screenshots are anything to go by.

  14. @ blissmo: I guess that proves my point about the utopian aesthetic, then . . .

    @ Shiri: Well, you said yourself that we’ve been thinking dualistically since – well, a long time, anyway (Plato?) – I remember there were several gnostic religions which went in for the rejection of the body in a big way. So I don’t know if I’d say the way we think about the mind and body has radically changed or is about to slide down a slippery slope.

    It’s a good point, though, that for many people plastic surgery is now something on the same spectrum as the pimping-out of mobiles and cars. I guess the people in Kaiba 05 and a lot of first-world people nowadays actually change their bodies because in some ways bodies have become more important (glamour, fashion, weight issues &c).

    Actually, looking back at my use of the USB stick image I’m reminded of reading that philosophers tend to use the technology around them as a metaphor for the mind – currently we talk of software and hardware and programs, but Spinoza, if I recall correctly, spoke of the mind as something like the workings of a grain mill and I’m fairly certain I remember Plato talking about chariots at some point. But that’s probably tangential.

    @ Owen S: Welcome to the ‘Must Click On Kaiba Club’, then. I didn’t have any trouble with the subtitles, but I don’t ask for much from fansubs in the first place, so I might not have noticed if there were any errors.

  15. What Owen said. I wonder if Kaiba will become ScummVM compatible?

    Also, a pox on thee for introducing me to the Blue Banana. Seeing a giant blue phallus stretch across the European continent like that is deeply unsettling.

  16. That last scene with Prince Kaiba’s statue was an epic teaser! I thought Masaaki Yuasa’s artwork for this episode was kicked up a notch in its minimalist insanity. I like the point that you brought up about the appeal and use of domestic animals. Your ‘fat-cat/thin-cat line’ provides more insight into the classism theme in Kaiba in so far as how people’s interaction with their pets could be telling of their status and social philosophies.

    On a less analytical/formal note: LOLOLOL YOU FINALLY BLOGGED ABOUT KAIBA, /M/ECHA MAN! <3

  17. @ Hige: Fund it, &c. The phallic cast of the Blue Banana reminds me of the Renaissance practice of distorting maps so that one’s country looked like something (a lion, a queen and so forth).

    @ itsubun: It’s odd – especially given how I’m not really keen on pets – but the business with the discarded dogs seemed somehow more affecting than a lot of the other cruelties of Kaiba‘s societies. Maybe it’s the dogs’ lack of agency, or something. It’s odd how illuminating the fat-cat/thin-cat line is in real life, too – it’s a division which quite accurately marks out southern Europe from northern Europe.

    And I have a suitably /m/echanistic post lined up to compensate for this one, I’m glad to say. Though Kaiba does have starships, so it’s not a complete loss.

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