While Zed had to cope with a new world in the first half, this one reveals that there are a lot of people who want to see it all burn.
What They Say
Straight from Toonami Jetstream comes the high-octane action-packed anime series KIBA. Two friends are swept from their futuristic world straight into a magical world where each must face his destiny.
Kiba has a pair of decent audio mixes to it with both the original Japanese language and the new English language tracks being done in stereo encoded at 224kbps. The show has some rather good moments when it comes to the action across the forward soundstage with some decent directionality and a fair bit of impact as the spirits fight. Kiba has a fair mix of action and dialogue and the dialogue pieces are well served as well as there's some noticeable placement and directionality at times as well as a few moments of noticeable depth as well. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally beginning its broadcast run in 2006, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. This set contains twenty-six episodes on four discs in a 6/6/7/7 release format. The show does have a fair amount of material encoded below 5mbps and this mostly comes across alright, but never truly shines. Some of the scenes have more noise than they should, but it never really dominates either. Colors generally look solid and pleasing, though it depends on the setting as the series covers a number of different areas and each one has a distinct look, though most tend to be somewhat drab and dull. The more vibrant areas come across better as the variety of colors really works in its favor. The episode to disc layout isn't bad, though I would have preferred a little more space overall, even a five disc format just to give it a little more breathing room.
My feelings on the first collections packaging are pretty much the same here in terms of the actual physical piece. I’m simply not a fan of spindle-based cases in the slightest, both for actual use and for the way they feel cheap and deceptive. The thick keepcase has a good piece of artwork on the cover of looking serious as a rather good shot of Amir Gaul is behind him with the swirling colors set against the black background. The logo uses the Japanese logo effectively and it’s all fairly eye-catching with the colors and such. The back cover is prominent in mentioning how much is on here and it has a set of six shots from the show ringing around the summary of the premise. The discs extras are clearly listed and the remainder is given over to the production credits and solid technical grid. All of this is normal, but the inside of the case is the kind that has the single hub piece where all four discs sit on top of each other. Considering we just had a Bandai release with six discs that came in a standard sized keepcase, having four in this feels like an overuse of packaging to get the job done. No inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for Kiba is the same across all four discs as it has a black background with a light character piece of Amir Gaul with his eyes closed as he looks down. The left side features the episode selections going down in an almost rib-like way while the right side has a few selections such as language, credits and extras if available. The layout is quick and easy to navigate and it brings in an interesting piece of artwork from the ending sequence to frame it all, but it doesn't really do much to set the mood for the show itself, which is pretty much all over the map at times. The submenus load quickly when needed and the discs all correctly read our players' language presets which continues to be a huge plus in ADV's favor.
The only extras included are clean versions of the opening and closing sequences, which are spread across the discs as opposed to being included on each volume like they do their normal single disc TV releases.
The second half of Kiba, which runs from episodes twenty-seven through fifty-one, continues to work in the same manner as the first half which certainly works in its favor. Having seen quite a few shows from this genre over the years, many of which are dub only, Kiba does a good job of being a bit more oriented towards the older crowd. There are certainly the usual flaws of a series of this nature, but the added violence, destruction and actual death and progression of events certainly sets it apart from the Pokemon type shows that dominate the genre.
While I wasn't a big fan of Kiba, I certainly appreciated the angle it took. The introduction of Zed, moving him from a claustrophobic world to one of open air was something that was appealing. As he found his place in the nation of Templar, he started unravel some other interesting mysteries related to the shards and the spirits. When it brought in his friend Noah from the world of Calm and he discovered the more structured nation of Neotopia, it started to set up the predictable battle that would eventually happen. Unfortunately, Kiba decided that it wanted to play in the realm of tournament material for awhile as Neotopia hosts a big alliance building event of sorts with all nations. The first set introduced the start of the tournament at the end and this one gives us the full deal.
Thankfully, it doesn't really run all that many episodes. Tournament material can really go in a bad direction depending on how its done. Here, it starts to really set up the rivalry between Zed and Noah and the different belief systems that they have. But it also starts to push some of the jealousy issues that Noah has had all these years with Zed and the issues he had. The matches go rather quickly and I was surprised to see Robes pretty much pushed out of the picture during this event. Of course, he does it with wine and women. If there's an area that bothered me here, it was the revelation that the Holy Father Hyrum founded Neotopia ten years prior. That's a whole lot of changes for a nation, especially when you consider how devoted many of the citizens are in regards to the Absolute Law.
What the tournament sets up is the imminent invasion of the nation by Hugh as he uses the nation of Tusk in his plans. The Tusks simply want to bring about the return of the Great Tusker so they have little issue in having Hugh becoming involved. With the Great Tusker, the belief is that once brought back into the world, their patron deity will turn their nation into a wonderful place and everything will be better. With the mythology behind the Great Tusker somewhat vague, it also has strong ties to the origins of the shards. Kiba does a decent job in adding more to its back story overall here but it gets caught up in the big event of having nations going against nations and a lot of little elements coming into play about how each nation operates. Neotopia is put under a microscope here in a lot of ways, from Roya getting arrested for doing good to the reasons behind Ulvarx wanting to take down Neotopia.
Kiba spends a good part of its final run of episodes upping the stakes nicely as another group that's been in the shadows appears with their own agenda for destroying the world. The Seekers do feel like they come out of nowhere but they bring in some interesting angles to it, from Sagiri being sought out after she becomes a Savior and the changes that Noah goes through during his time off screen for awhile. The big element that comes into play during the end run, besides the obvious eventual final battle with the fate of the world in the balance, is that we get the back story for who Sarah is and how Zed became to be considered the savior worthy of Amir Gaul. It's a little convoluted, and I would have preferred a bit more time given to his father, but there's a lot to like with how this aspect of the series fits into everything.
One of the things that did keep me guessing with the show was the way it had no problem in killing off characters. Even in most series like this, the secondary characters and the “red shirts” often don't really get hurt, but here they do suffer, sometimes very much so. Whether in the tournament fights or in the full on war sequences, there's a certain element of uncertainty for most of the cast as to whether they'll survive it. Death isn't a great thing, but having it so that each character isn't really safe from this particular change and how it could alter the story gives it a bit more edge. The downside that I had for this half of the series is that the final run of episodes, once the Seekers are introduced, feels a bit too forced. Perhaps I missed some of the mention of them earlier in the show but it was something that felt like it was out of place on the dynamic changed after Hugh's war on Neotopia.
There's a lot to like about Kiba considering the genre it's playing in. Very few shows in this area really manage to stand out as little more than cloying kiddie fare. Madhouse did a good job keeping it vibrant and and fluid through it with the animation and with plenty of variety for all the designs. It didn't feel like a cheap budget production, but it didn't feel like a top of the line one either. With the story, it's got a lot going on here and there are same big problems here and there with the design of it – and the passage of time as well – but the overall series was a lot of fun. I had low expectations to begin with but it kept me entertained throughout and it did avoid a lot of the pitfalls of the genre as well. For the price and amount of episodes you get, it's certainly an easy show to give a spin and check out.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closings
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.