3 Episode Test: Kaiba (includes spoilers)

March 2, 2009


“What are memories? Souls? Spirits? This is a world where memories can be turned into data and stored. Even if the body dies, its memories live on, and can be transferred to another body. Bad memories can be erased, and good ones downloaded. However, this is something only the privileged can do. In a world like this, our protagonist, Kaiba, is travelling in another body with no memories of his own.”

Kaiba is a 12 episode series that came out in Japan spring last year, from Masaaki Yuasa (MindGame, Cat Soup) and Madhouse, which won the Excellence Prize for animation 2008. After the first 3 episodes, I can see why. Aside from the fact it’s like someone mashed together 50’s Japanese animation, the Yellow Submarine film and Richard Morgan’s harsh, ubernoir cyberpunk novel Altered Carbon (and its sequels), it’s a unique and surreal show brimming with emotion as well as a surprising amount of intelligence. And can’t wait to see more.

Before I carry on, I should say: If you are into surreal psychological SF, or interesting retro animation styles, go and watch the first three episodes of this now. I’m going to be giving some spoilers in this review and I think this is one of those shows best watched without knowing too much. A word of warning though, Kaiba is not a children’s show, despite the cute and cartoony character designs.

After seeing how much acclaim Kaiba had been getting, I took a look at the opening episodes and was completely sold. The story drops us in the middle of a surreal, colourful dystopia, juxtaposing character designs that look half Osamu Tezuka, half extra-vintage kids cartoon with some really quite bleak and twisted writing. It works fantastically, the highly stylised art style letting the show do things that would be incredibly harsh if done realistically. People die brutally, characters have their minds torn apart, and there’s even been what could be classed as rape during the second episode. Despite that, it’s only when you stop to think about it what you’ve just seen that the horribleness of what has been happening really sinks in, letting it all pass by like some kind of dream or nightmare while you watch it. The mash of tones can be unsettling, but the lightness the animation style brings also helps break up the more serious, cerebral elements of the story while giving the added bonus of making the show completely stand out from everything else released in the last couple of years.

Our story opens as a young man wakes up with no name or memories, his only clues to his identity being an odd symbol on his stomach, a locket with the blurred photo of a girl inside, and a perfectly round hole in the middle of his chest. And things get stranger from there on out. Our hero, soon dubbed ‘Warp’, is thrown into a world where strange flying machines can suck out people’s minds on small cone shaped chips—reminiscent of Altered Carbon‘s ‘cortical stacks’—or steal their bodies to be used by the rich and privileged. With the help of some of the strange people he meets along the way, the protagonist stows away on a space ship and begins his journey through the stars to try and track down his identity. The world caught my imagination quickly, and in the three episodes I’ve seen the central idea of separating minds and bodies has been used fantastically. Warp has had 3 different bodies by the end of the third episode, one of which was a completely silent, toy hippo who’s form he had been put in so he could pretend to be luggage. Meanwhile, his benefactor had taken a shine to his first body, but realising she wouldn’t get anywhere with him, uploaded a copy of herself into it so she could have some ‘fun’. It does not end well. There’s some other very interesting ideas at play in it already, like what really counts as death if your mind and soul is always backed up, and what happens to people in a world where you can sell your own memories or body for money.

If this sounds like a lot of weird issues for a series to have raised so early on, that’s because it is… but it’s also a large part of why this show has made such a big impression on me. The art style is odd and taking a lot of getting used to, but it’s really growing on me, and works with the story far better than it looks like it should. To be honest, the sex scene in episode 2 really threw me and I almost stopped watching, as it cranked the weirdometer up a bit high even for me… but I’m very glad I continued watching. Episode 3 is a little more sane, but beautifully, brutally tragic and with a fantastic use of the soundtrack to boot. If these episodes are anything to go by, Kaiba is looking to be a really stand out show with some stunning ideas and fantastic visuals, on top of an emotional core that grabs you and doesn’t let go. The plot that is starting to develop is intriguing, but even the little stories of Warp’s travels have been more than interesting to keep me watching the rest of the series.

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Bye bye, 2008.

December 31, 2008

Okay then, everyone is gearing up for NYE parties (myself included) so I guess that means it’s time to do that whole ‘year in review’ thing.

So, here we go. 2008 in not-especially-ordered list form.

THE NOT SO AWESOME (To get it out of the way)
-Almost getting killed by a falling sheet of metal.
-Having a bit of weird time at my graduation that made it less than happy.
-Spending the entire year firmly and frighteningly in my overdraft.
-Having months and months of being almost unemployable.
-Not being able to spend as much time as I’d like with my family.
-Not taking very well to office dronery.
-In the latter half of the year, not doing anywhere near as much art/writing/bloggery as I’d like.
-The economy eating itself.
-Not dealing with any of this particularly well.

THE CONSIDERABLY MORE AWESOME.
-NOT getting killed by a falling sheet of metal.
-Graduating with a Masters Degree.
-Finally making it to Celtic Connections and having a great time.
-Having a couple of the most taxing but most productive couple of months ever. Involving rewriting, re-penciling, inking and colouring 50 pages of full-colour artwork under deadline insanity and actually getting it done.
-Finishing my new book, and it being published.
-Getting my first part time job before the owner had even finished reading my CV. Learning lots about coffee doing it.
-Spending half a year living with my good friend Mike, and then moving into a new place in an area I really love.
-Parents really helping me out to keep me in Manchester, a city I find myself loving more the longer I live there.
-Spending more time with some genuinely awesome, inspirational and fantastic people. Meeting new awesome, inspirational and fantastic people.
-Seeing some of the above do some genuinely fantastic things. I’m so proud of you guys.
-Running my first workshop, at musicport festival. Getting another for Scarborough Literature Festival next year.
-Getting a little bit of work with Nicalis, the guys doing the Cave Story Wii port. Seeing my work up on IGN, and possibly in Play Magazine, linked to one of my favourite games.
-Started to give myself a little more attention in how I look, and work at making myself look and feel better.
-Parents offering to help me print an issue of something when I get it done. My xmas/birthday present being a big help to that as well (a3 scanner printer).
-Having some really good job interviews, where the feedback has been really positive and it’s only been lack of experience letting me down. One of those interviews also giving me the gift of seeing the very centre of Manchester from like 40+ floors up. It was stunning.
-Finally managing to get another job, even if it’s not the best, and starting to work on fixing my overdraft. And not having student loans or credit cards, so when I’m back to zero, I’ll REALLY be back to zero.
-Via the above, answering some of the questions I’d put to myself about my future and where I should (or shouldn’t) be, and even though those answers were not entirely happy ones, gaining a great deal of conviction on what I need to be doing to make things right.

So, what about 2009?

Well, I don’t know. I’m not going to make promises about posting more or anything (though I am going to try), but what I will say is I’ve very much decided that 2009 is the year of ‘KT gets it together’. Exactly what form that takes, I don’t know yet. But I’m working on it. It’s been a really rough year emotionally, and there’s a lot of things beyond my control that are going to make things tough next year… But I’m going to grab thing one and make it work anyway. Despite the BBC’s insistence that 2009 is already broken, screw them, I wasn’t the one that broke it. This year has taken a lot of my naivety about how the real world works, but it’s also strengthened a lot of of what I feel about how it should be, and what I need to be doing in it.

If I have one resolution I should be making, it is to stop flailing and worrying and just get on with things. (I know the people who know me may respond with ‘well, DUH’ about that, but I stick my tongue out at you.) There has been a lot of success in this year for me, more than I realized until I started writing this post, but some of the less successful times really hit hard and have left me feeling a lot more powerless and useless than I actually am. But it’s time to leave that behind and start working on the things I actually DO have control over. That is so much more easily said than done, but I I don’t intend to let that stop me trying.

So yes. 2008 has been an odd one. Highs and lows all over the place. But I’m going to make 2009 better.

Have a good one, people. I’ll see you in the new year.

Sketchdump 26/11/08

November 26, 2008

Okay, so not actually done today but due to my ISP being muppets I was lacking in internet for a while. Anyway, I thought I should start throwing up sketches again, so here’s some materials testing and playing with hands in prep for a comic thing I’m working on. Verdict: need to be better at hands.

Frequencies Sketches

New digs

April 26, 2008

Well, kind of.

As you might have heard from my other blog, I’ve just up and moved everything from the old Reymurai blog to here.

The new image header is to match a new blog I’m playing with over here.

And yeah, I know things have been quiet on here. I’m going to be working on that though. I’ve just had the most mental couple of months. But as one big project nears finishing, I’m gradually working at beating my on-line presence into shape. What shape that is exactly I’m still working out.

The future should be very interesting.

Yaaaaaaay! I love you games industry!

March 20, 2008

Okay okay, so let’s let this one introduce itself.

Thoughts then-

First: HELL YES, I will so play that. I don’t actually have the PS2 version so I’m very up for this and I love DS music games.
Second: Oh dear god do people looks stupid playing it. Wonderfully so. I love it.
Third: THIS GAME IS DRAMATIC AND EXCITING CLUNK WHOOSH ROAAR YEEEAAAAAAH. Apparently.

An interesting thing happened to me tonight.

February 22, 2008

So, I will tell you about it in a badly drawn autobiographical comic.

FUN WITH FALLING THINGS

The metal was still there when I got back later in the night, so I took a photo of it for posterity’s sake. Looking at the building, I think it was one of the dark side panels that run up some of the buildings on the estate I live on. That particular block of flats has a 2 tiered roof, the lower part nearest where I was, so I guess the first clang was it falling and hitting the roof, then it bounced and fell 4 stories down to me. I could be over-reacting but I’m pretty sure it could have killed me, or at the least caused some serious damage. Thankfully I’m easily spooked enough I didn’t just carry on walking.

So, right now I’m feeling pretty lucky.

I know I’ve plugged this before, but…

February 11, 2008

The ever-awesome Caddy has provided some lovely flyer and banner designs.

Manchester Comix Collective!

Come check it out!

Overexcited KT time

February 3, 2008

GUESS WHAT STARTS ON THURSDAY.

YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!

Okay, so I’ll miss Sam Tyler but I can’t wait for this. 🙂

Tea! Twinings’ Cherry and Cinnamon

January 30, 2008

Tea!

Okay, so it occurred to me that for a blog called ‘Tea and White Noise’ there’s a concerning lack of actual TEA going on here. I’m drinking plenty of it but I have not been sharing it with you.

Well, I guess I ought to do something about that.

Starting with… uh, well if you’re going to be a purist about these things, actually not really tea, it’s an ‘infusion’. But shhhh.

This one comes in bags rather than loose leaf, and is a limited edition in their ‘fruit bliss’ range. I am already hoping it’s not too limited because I can see myself drinking a lot of this when I don’t want to fill myself with caffeine, and don’t feel like knocking up a whole pot of loose leaf goodness.

I’ll admit I was already biased with this because I love cherry teas and I also love cinnamon teas. I wasn’t convinced the two should together though, and it was actually my house-mate that picked it up for me when we were stocking back up on another twinings tea. I’m glad he did though, because this stuff is great. The main thing for me on this one is the scent. This stuff smells amazing as it brews, a really strong, deep cherry smell.

I do have to say, like a lot of fruit teas, in order for it to live up to how nice it smells, the 2-3 minutes Twinings suggest you brew it might not be enough. It’s still good when it’s delicate, but give it a bit longer and you get a lovely intense fruity brew. The cinnamon takes a back seat really, but adds an extra warmth while the the cherry keeps it light and bright tasting.

So yes, I recommend this one. Go grab a box before it vanishes.

Celtic Connections

January 22, 2008

I have been to Accordion Hell. It was marvellous.

So, I’m up in Glasgow for a couple of days, to see some gigs at Celtic Connections, what is possibly the biggest celebration of traditional music still going in the UK. It’s around 3 weeks long with hundreds of acts all over the city. Sadly, due to workload and things like inconveniently having to graduate, I’m going to miss seeing my favourite acts playing here (Shooglenifty, Peatbog Faeries, Colin McIntire (or Mull Historical Society to you) and the secret GOD of Scottish song writing Michael Mara) but next year I intend to remedy this. OH do I intend to remedy this.

Anyway, enough about me, back to what I was watching last night. Keeping with the sense of humour all the best trad musicians have about the scene, as an antidote to Sunday’s ‘Harp Heaven’, last night there was a show called ‘Accordion Hell’, celebrating… well, the infamous accordion. The musicians were full into the theme and were all bedecked with little devil horns and plenty of damnation jokes. We were treated to 8 mind-blowingly talented accordion players, accompanied by a rather good drummer and an excellent guitarist (who also was an honorary accordion demon for one tune that he had written.) The range of tunes spanned from the bright and high-energy to the beautiful, delicate and moody, to the downright funky. All of it played with style, humour and skill. I think one reason most people hate the instrument is they’ve never heard it in the hands of someone who really knows how to work it, and haven’t seen what an amazing, rich sound one person with a squeezebox can make happen. When the cords and complex melodies get layered up it’s hard to accept it’s just one instrument doing it, and some of the intricate and blisteringly fast finger work that was going on in the concert was just staggering. (Though that’s something else people who have never much been in the folk scene get to see. Sure, some of it can be lacklustre, but we’ve also got some of the most technically brilliant musicians playing in this scene and the level of skill it takes to pull off some of the things they can do is hugely under-estimated.)

So yes, Accordion Hell was fantastic and renewed my appreciation for those can take an instrument used for so much evil and mediocrity and use it for the forces and good and awesome. Brilliant.