Kiba – episode 1

April 4, 2006 on 11:10 pm | In Kiba | Comments Off on Kiba – episode 1

“The Wind of Fate”

It’s dystopian shounen! I was pleasantly surprised by the compelling nature of this program, because I thought the phrase “This program is brought to you by Upperdeck Japan” might have said it all; it doesn’t.
I almost didn’t watch this at all because I hate time stamps. They make me feel like a hack.

In some sort of dystopian world, Zed is a teenager who is in the habit of destroying things so that he doesn’t feel powerless. Zed is constantly getting into trouble with the police and his school. With his mother hospitalised for some sort of mental trouble, his only support is his friend Noah.
Unfortunately there is no wind in the city and so the air has grown stagnant, causing Noah to suffer an illness that guarantees a slow and agonising death. Essentially what comes hereafter is a series of events that the police (who dress like fascists) blame on Zed, including the bizarre death of one of his teachers and an explosion at the hospital.
When Zed is presented with a warp out of there, who could blame him for taking it?

In such an early stage, it’s difficult to say what Kiba is about. This episode did an effective job of laying on mysteries without laying them on too thick. It turns out that Kiba is a budding young shard caster. We’ve got no idea what that is in his context, but we can see in a windy part of the world two people fighting with their shards: what that amounts to is people throwing down spheres and monsters warping in out of temporal gates, and then fights ensuing.
That would be where the card aspect comes in (but hey, at least it’s not as cynical as Yu-Gi-Oh!). The one fight that we’ve seen so far – a practice round – was actually quite clever in its devision.

We’re thrown many other terms that as yet mean nothing, among them are “Task” (some kind of bad guy) and “Jimot army” (possibly the militant remnants of a failed empire). Kiba’s mother is one of those excellently presented mystery women who has some kind of combustion power.
These ideas are closely tied to the production design, which effectively creates a dim and unhappy – if strangely unoccupied – city. The cars are all single seaters, seemingly so that they can have chases in alleyways with no worries whatsoever. And who am I to complain?
The fact that the design seems more than competent is what makes the look of Zed himself; a lot of this show is cliche – a person living in an unhappy world who discovers he may have the power to change it is far from new – but this is most obvious in his design. Zed looks like some sort of emo kid with a hairstyle that is shorthand for “troubled” and I find myself wishing for a character at least 60% better looking.
The rest of the characters are fairly pat, but at least they’re not ugly. The most striking part of the episode is the music of the conclusion, which sounds exactly like the ancient Japanese chants that Kawai employed for Ghost in the Shell. It’s even in the same context of a metaphorical awakening. Spooky.

Kiba might be worth my while; it might descend into tripe. I’ll give it a chance because I would like to see at least some of these issues explored.

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