Tuesday, 31 May 2011

牙 / Kiba

Kiba was one of the big disappointments of the last year. I so wanted to like it, I felt so sure that it could be a great series, but ultimately, it just tried to do too much at once, was too ready to lower itself into really goofy territory, and ended up after 51 episodes with only as many good ones as there are fingers on one hand. Which is a shame, because early in its run it was being tipped as the new Hagane no Renkinjutsushi.

There was a lot that was right about Kiba: some really great character design in a slightly more adult style than Madhouse’s usual (and I love Madhouse’s designs); a good set of lead rivals with interesting characters, both a little dark and certainly imperfect; an appealing love interest with a great design and an interesting past; and a childish sidekick-like character it was easy to genuinely care for, useless as he was (though the subplot making him a temporary antagonist was ill-judged). The opening episode, set in a cyberpunk-like world from which the two main characters, Zed and Noa, are drawn through a portal, promised the interest of contrasting settings – but then other than in brief flashbacks and snippets, that world was never seen again!

The rest was the kind of stuff an anime can only carry off if there’s enough that balances it out, and here there simply wasn’t. Our lead character Zed, a pretty awesome teenaged boy with spiky white hair and emerald eyes, wearing a long red coat with one sleeve, finds himself in a somewhat daft fantasy world, where big monsters stored in pokéballs embedded in the flesh fight one another. Different countries are in conflict with one another, and the bulk of the story revolves around the struggle to stop various of these countries conquering the rest with the latest strong Digimon. It soon develops that the strongest of these monsters, the ‘key spirits’ (one of which of course Zed is blessed with) will grant great power when they are all gathered, so various big-shots try to gather all the Dragonballs, until it turns out that it’s necessary to be the ‘chosen one’, all of which leads to a rushed, meaningless and uninteresting ending.

It’s a shame that this wasn’t better. Zed, Roia, Noa, Miki, the main bad guy (before he takes the bandana off his face) and the little girl were all great character designs, and for the most part their actions were interesting too. But when you throw in big hulking beast-men that look like badly-drawn yetis and duels between big blue things with bird masks and giant gold golems with faces on their shoulders, it’s hard not to wonder how much better this setting could have been without that kind of goofy anime nonsense.

A nice-looking but overlong series with some really badly-judged plotlines and settings, as well as a woeful lack of focus, redeemed somewhat by a couple of interesting low-key character-based mini-arcs. Overall, though, a very disappointing mess.

(originally written 26.3.08)

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