In my earlier anime watching days, a lot of shows that didn’t instantly seduce me were reduced to stalled purely because of my flippant nature and lack of staying power. A few years later, I have decided to revisit some of these mediocre series in the hope of finding a gem. Next to check off the list is Kiba, a fantasy anime that had remained on my stalled for four years.
One of the first shows I ever watched (and bought, for that matter) was the deceptively dark Escaflowne. Chock full of violent action, the surface of Kiba exudes the same intriguing aura of a fantasy anime but lacks the balls to show any real brutality. Both start with a kid transported into a strange world and forced to battle against other-worldly humans, but the similarity between the two soon ends; Kiba quickly settles into a more family-friendly rut and a real lack of kick-ass-ness aspires to be nothing more. A potentially more mature aspect of the show is the political intrigue, something that swiftly becomes less like the well thought out Twelve Kingdoms and more akin to a care-free Yu-gi-oh.
Sadly, pacing is a real issue in this show; numerous plotlines are crammed into the already sinking story and the writers scrabble desperately to keep the whole thing moving. As the action jumps around the various cities in the new world, life continues for other characters and the viewer is left feeling like they’re missing out on something important. The speed in which Kiba flits from location to location makes the head spin, and it often feels like something is ultimately missing. Probably a cohesive plot.
During the midpoint, a large competitive Joust becomes reminiscent of a proxy battle show, such as Pokemon. Part of me expected Zed to cry “Amil Gaoul, I choose you!”, but obviously the show’s writers lack my sense of humour. Instead, the tale gets bogged down as more characters are thrown into the fray, and just as many disposed of as unceremonious second thoughts. Unfortunately, this also leaves numerous plot holes and too many unanswered questions for my liking; surprising, considering how many episodes the show forces me to sit through. Even the conclusion plays out as somewhat of an empty husk; the finale plays out over a lamenting closing track, and every characters story played out in two minutes – something that never ends well...
For some reason, the clean lines and exotic apparel reminded me of that used in Avatar: The Last Airbender. Even the characters look like they come from far-flung continents with their varied features, however movement is hampered on occasion and instead of free flowing battles the visuals use cut scenes to avoid any tricky art design. The variety of different cities emphasised by striking architecture and other background scenry is beautifully diverse as the characters travel across the land.
Although the first opening track was a little dull and bland for my tastes, the second OP ups the ante and suits the show down to the ground with a more typical shounen-sound. Even the strange addition of jazz during some battle scenes fits the fantasy element, almost echoes of Cowboy Bebop. My only real audio complaint would be the voice acting. Brilliantly performed throughout the show, the final two episodes mostly consist of various characters screaming in anguish. Forty minutes of this and I am pretty fed up with the sound, especially as it spoils something that is excellent... to a point.
As much as I want to love Zed, I find he is distant and difficult to comprehend. His actions tend towards completely irrational and this leaves a void where the viewer should feel empathy for his situation. Seemingly having more to do with the scripting, rather than the character them self, the focus jumps between the protagonists whilst forgetting about those not in the main line of the camera, leaving many unresolved issues. The relationship between the two main protagonists is often left hanging and unexplained, and their actions are, for want of a better word, completely bizarre.
The growth of the main character, Zed, is the focus of the storyline and this gives an overall feeling of a half-hearted approach to the surrounding cast. Roia is the token female whose fighting abilities are questionable at best. Instead, she is given a crappy healing touch that does the square root of sod all. And of course she has a crush on Zed! What fantasy show would be complete without an utterly pointless romance that goes nowhere and instead completely forgotten about as the real action kicks in? As per usual, the mushy love is flat and predictable. I didn’t particularly like any of the characters, and a lack of development from anyone apart from the main character makes the entire show akin to a grade C – not bad, but could try harder.
As is becoming more and more common these days, anime series try to distill the awesome from other shows, and attempt to serve it up as something completely new. Kiba is no exception and tries to fit in too much, borrowing from many other fantasy epics. It is far from being a bad show, but definitely pales in comparison to the majority of the genre. A more focused approach to the main cast would have definitely made this easily recommendable; instead I would only prod it in the direction of those with nothing better to do.
I dropped this show after 10 episodes or so, but I wanted to like it.
Main character looks cool and so do other characters and their pets.
Fighting scenes are well done.
The story is surprisingly for the genre, very unpredictable. Supposedly dead characters pop up again episodes later and people get captured or visit a different dimension in the middle of a fight or crisis. You never know what's going to happen.
The main character looks cool but has a bland personality of a turnip-with-an-attitude. This is the guy that's supposedly there to be liked and drive the story forward, yet all he seemed to do was annoy me with his I'm-too-cool-and-moody-and-brash-and-everyone-loves-me-for-it. He's like Naruto but worse. He is not endearing in any way.
There was one part where the main character was supposed to undergo a trial. One of those trials where it’s not really about your physical skills but your mental or spiritual aptitude. Well, the main character just wins by being stubborn and the old dude in charge of the trials just congratulated him for it. Like if he had been wise or honest or something worth it of praises, but he just kept on being arrogant and brash. Great! The show is trying to shoehorn his character into my liking but showing other people approve of his personality. Well, I still think he’s a punk! And this happens several times. Instead of getting slapped in the back of his head, everybody acts like “he’s just that way and he seems to be on the wrong but let’s support him anyway.”
The fights are similar to Pokemon, or at least that’s how they immediately feel like. Everybody’s guardians are giant pets and in every single fight they get called or summoned to do all the fighting. After a while, I could not take the whole concept seriously.
Characters act quite unpredictably too. For example, one of the characters gets a moody break and decides to go on their own back to a place (world/dimension/whatever) where they very recently got captured, held down and nearly killed in a ritualistic fashion just because that’s where part of their family was from! Yeah, that's reasonable. Because nobody can relate to me, I’m just going to go to the place where I will most likely get re-captured and disemboweled.
If you don't mind giant pets doing the heavy physical work for their masters, (the bulk of all the action scenes in this anime) and can withstand variable degrees of boring or annoying main characters, then I guess you can enjoy this well-animated series.
For me, it didn't work though I wanted it too. Luckily, there's more similar stuff out there.
Animated by Studio Madhouse the king of anime shows. These guys almost always manage to create exceptional show… emphasis on almost. In this particular show they didn’t bother much and it looks bad. Direction is done by Koujina Hiroshi, a man with a most unimpressive roster (Grenadier, Neuro, Rainbow).
Kiba is a show doing everything wrong. Not only it has an unimpressive story that easily reminds you other ones, it also has some of the crappiest directing you can hope NOT to encounter in any show. The first thing that looks bad right away is the fact that it tries to make you feel it’s a fantasy adventure in a magical land. Which isn’t; in fact it is on the same level as Pokemon. Forget all the fancy swords and spells and medieval castles, all the work is done by summoning monsters. And even if you like that sort of thing, you are again pitted with some horrible writing that makes it impossible to enjoy.
In order to prove my point, I will describe to you the storyboard of the second episode in the end of this review*. Don’t consider this a spoiler since it’s still the beginning of the series and it is still the point where the makers were still trying their best to win your first impressions. You can also not bother reading it at all if you consider it unnecessary and you are content with me just saying the writers of this show were 5 year olds.
So for similar reasons, I objectively give an ace to the cast as well. Not only they are generic shounen characters, but the terrible storyboard is making you hate them despite all efforts to appeal as likable to you. Presentation is everything and this is done so badly, there is no hope for them to deserve more.
The sound part is also bad. The dialogues are impossible to tolerate for long as they feel completely cheesy and immature, plus the characters keep repeating things that happened five minutes ago because the scriptwriter forgot what happened. Not only the BGM feels completely irrelevant to what happens half the time, the sound effects during battle are very annoying to the ears. It’s like bubbles popping and plastic toy guns making silly laser sounds. The opening is rather good for being a song full of teen angst that fits the mentality of the protagonist.
The visuals are the best part in this piece of poop show, as they are full of colours and medieval fantasy stuff. The amount of detail is high and the battles are full of cool spirits going BAM BOOM on each other. And I deliberately make it sound so immature, since if you try to see them from a more mature angle, you will definitely yawn at the boring choreography and the childish premise of the whole thing. The way the spirits appear in a bubble in the sky looks plain laughable. Most monster designs are also very unappealing to the eye; the protagonist’s spirit looks like a blind naked guy with freckles.
So what you basically have here is a Pokemon variant done in a medieval world. And don’t expect any awesome mission to go save a princess from a dragon or something, because midway the show turns to a typical fighting tournament with pokemons… err, I mean spirits. And even after that it tries to go all dramatic by bringing in the protagonist’s best friend who are now in a conflict for reasons that not even the scriptwriter knows. And guess what, the series ends in the most terrible way possible and so I warn you not to watch the last ten episodes.
There is no value or enjoyment in this anime. It is a complete waste of time and if you found it even slightly enjoyable, then I advise you to watch Digimon Tamers or Berserk as means to realize your folly. For the same reason DO NOT PAY ATTENTION TO ANYONE SCORING THIS HIGHER THAN 6! They don’t know what they heck they are saying.
* So this is how it goes in the second episode:
- The protagonist is taken to a magical land, right where a villain is fighting two other heroes, an old man and a girl. The old man tells the girl to protect the newcomer while he is summoning his spirit. And exactly here you realize how crappy the storyboard is, because for the next 5 minutes the protagonist is trying to evade the attacks of the enemy spirit and the girl is NOWHERE TO BE SEEN when just a few seconds ago she was right next to him. They just forgot about her!
- Not only that but she also doesn’t summon her own spirit to aid in the battle. And it’s not like the summoning takes more than a few seconds to happen.
- Not only that, but then you see how the dragon spirit of the old man defeats the enemy spirit by throwing fire at it. Well why didn’t it do it right away and for five minutes it was just wrestling with it? Chewing time for no reason, are we?
- After that the protagonist runs in the city near by instead of thanking them and is immediately questioned by the guards for why are his clothes so different. Instead of explaining, he starts fighting them before out of nowhere the old man knocks him unconscious and explains to everyone that he is a newcomer.
- In the meantime, a thief kills a soldier in the forest in order to steal his spirit.
- After that the protagonist is taken to the old man’s house where they explain this is a different world. They also give him a fancy sword to protect himself if something happens. So what is the first thing he does? He runs in the street where the soldiers are AGAIN asking him why his clothes are different and he AGAIN starts fighting them instead of explaining he is a newcomer now that he knows what happened. They completely forgot what took place a few minutes before and repeated the exact same scene!
- Not only that but the girl comes in and instead of stopping the fight with a few words, she summons her spirit to kill the very protectors of her city INSTEAD OF JUST TELLING THEM HE IS A NEWCOMER! What the hell girl, your tutor ended the battle civilized and you repay his kindness with this brutality?
- They run towards a bridge which is supposed to be the borders of the kingdom. At this point you have no idea why they both want to escape since the guys back in the kingdom were really nice and civilized and were just doing their job asking if the protagonist had shady business in their homeland. But no, they prefer to run in the surrounding areas, which are full of criminals and monsters. They don’t manage to cross it because the champion of the city teleports in front of them and arrests them. The thief is watching all that behind a tree.
- They are both taken to a prison where the old man arrives to tell the protagonist that the charges against him will soon be dropped because he is a newcomer. The protagonist can’t wait and demands to be freed right away since “he didn’t do anything wrong”. Yeah, nothing wrong other than starting a fight TWICE for no reason and killing the city protectors.
- So the old man orders for the cell to be opened and even gives him a spirit of his own despite being nothing but a troublemaker he hardly knows. What do you think the first thing the protagonist does afterwards is? He runs to the cell where the girl is and smashes the bars in the window for her to escape, a thing that was completely unnecessary since their charges would be dropped in a few hours anyway. And instead, they AGAIN cause havoc in the prison and escape with the girl’s flying spirit.
- They are AGAIN going to the bridge and for some reason decide to cross it on foot instead of just flying over it with the spirit, despite well knowing the champion will AGAIN just appear to stop them. Well this doesn’t happen because for no reason the champion is nowhere to be seen. Instead, they are ambushed by the thief, who wants to kill them and take their spirits. The thing is, he has captured the girl and yet DOESN’T kill her, despite not showing the slightest remorse and having killed the soldier before in a second. How consistent!
- Furthermore, the protagonist is attacked by the enemy spirit and is about to be killed, when his own spirit appears on it own to save him. This is against the summoning rules, since a summoner must first touch his hands and pull out a pokeball… err, I mean a summoning orb, and then throw it towards the enemy. But no, instead we get this ridiculous plot armour.
- His spirit easily kills the other spirits and even the thief, a thing that seems impossible since he was using the girl as a human shield and was even hiding behind his spirit. Yet with a single shot, he kills all three of them. Did I mention his spirit is blind?
- All that are observed by other guys hiding behind some trees. AGAIN!
And that was just the second episode, where the story was still at its best. You can now try to imagine how crappier it becomes later on.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 6/10
General Artwork 1/2 (generic)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 2/2 (basic but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 1/2 (basic)
SOUND SECTION: 4/10
Voice Acting 1/3 (stupid)
Music Themes 2/4 (average)
Sound Effects 1/3 (crappy)
STORY SECTION: 2/10
Premise 1/2 (typical)
Pacing 0/2 (horrible)
Complexity 0/2 (none)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 1/2 (cheesy)
CHARACTER SECTION: 3/10
Presence 0/2 (retarded)
Personality 1/2 (typical)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 0/2 (messy)
Catharsis 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
VALUE SECTION: 1/10
Historical Value 0/3 (none)
Rewatchability 0/3 (no reason to rewatch this crap)
Memorability 1/4 (just a lame Digimon clone)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 1/10
Art 0/1 (looks typical)
Sound 1/2 (sounds meh)
Story 1/3 (feels generic)
Characters 0/4 (they are retarded)
i got to episode 10 and couldn't watch anymore. this has to be the worst translated, worst presented, most rushed, most boring anime i think i've ever seen.
Overall it's a great Anime leaving you wanting more with a more mature badass vibe then most shounen great Anime loved it