Thrust into a different world, Zed finds himself full of power but also full of teenage emotions and actions as he tries to find his place there.
What They Say
In a dystopian future, two friends dream of freedom... and gain more than they bargain for! Hothead Zed is on the run from the authorities, while his brainy pal Noah struggles with his own battered body. Both find a magical world that seems to offer escape and power undreamed of. But at what price?
Join Zed and his powerful, rebellious spirit Amir Gaul on their search for the ultimate power. It's a force that can save the world – or destroy life as we know it.
Contains episodes 1-26.
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.
ADV Films really dropped the ball on this release in terms of making it a decent package as it feels more like the cheap Korean TV box sets you get. The thick keepcase has a nice piece of artwork on the cover of Zed in an action pose while Amir Gaul is behind him in the shadows. 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.
Kiba, a fifty-one episode series, is not the kind of series that you'd normally expect considering its origins. Produced based on a trading card game which has seen release in the US by Upper Deck, it doesn't follow the traditional shows of this kind of genre that was blazed by Pokemon. The fighting aspect is there, but it doesn't dominate each episode and it's not a tournament based show. And it's not centered around too-young kids who can live through unbelievable events. Instead, characters do die and there's a fair bit of brutality brought into it as well. Across these first twenty-six episodes, it doesn't shy away from some tough things as it presents a rather cruel world.
Kiba takes place mostly on one world, but it starts in another in a place called Calm where we're introduced to fifteen year old Zed and his friend Noah. Zed's a spunky troublemaker who is being roughed up by just about everyone because of the way he is with his attitude. His school is suffering to say the least and the administration is ready to expel him. If not for his friend Noah advocating for him, and the explanation of his mother being in the hospital and seemingly suffering from mental issues, he'd have been booted awhile ago. But the things he gets into just makes it worse and worse and it's all coming to a head. Things get so bad in fact that the police are after him now with guidance from the school. The reasons are somewhat hazy at first, but it turns out that Zed is actually someone that is being sought after as one of the teachers is actual a creature called a Tusker that's intent on killing him. Interestingly enough, the Tusker reference isn't touched upon again until nearly twenty-episodes later in any serious form.
When Noah works to free him from the police, it causes a chain of events where Zed suddenly finds himself facing a mysterious gateway in front of him. With nothing but trouble behind him, it doesn't take much for him to take the leap of faith into what's beyond. And what's beyond is radically different from where he came from. Calm was an urban city where the wind didn't blow and it felt completely oppressive. Where he lands is in the midst of a forest where there's a wonderful breeze and lots of green land and blue skies. He stumbles across a couple of people, people that will be part of his life from here on out, and learns that he's in a country called Templar. And that he's something called a shardcaster, a person who is able to manipulate shards that call forth spirits that do battle with other spirits. Zed is uninterested in much of anything when it comes to the country itself, but he finds himself getting caught up in events as he hangs out with the old master named Zico and his pupil, a girl named Roya.
Zed's story is admittedly somewhat predictable here as he goes through getting a decent understanding of the world and how the shardcasters fit into it. Templar is a rather straightforward fantasy country where people are generally good but there's an undercurrent of danger to things as they're the kind of country that seeks some general balance among all the nations. Some of those that he meets are good, like Roya and her friend Mickey, others are arrogant and snobbish like Robes, a shardcaster who feels he's above all others because of his titles and status. But he also finds some less than savory elements, such as a man named Dumas who is from the country of Zymot where might makes right and almost anything goes in the quest to be the best. The introduction of Dumas as this kind of character brings in something a bit darker as he's intent on having revenge for his status in Zymot and he'll do whatever he has to in order to achieve it.
The one character that he meets early on that goes through the most changes though is a young woman named Princess Rebecca. Part of the royal family of Zymot, she's in hiding as her father was killed and his subordinate named Hugh has been manipulating things in order to take power. He requires Rebecca however in order to gain one of the most powerful of spirits so he's working various plans to bring her in to him. With her as the figurehead leader of the resistance, she's key to events that are going on in Zymot and she ends up stumbling into Zed's hands at one point. Rebecca goes through the most changes as she's fairly meek and mailable when we first meet her, but events force her to grow up and make hard choices. Enough so that she starts to swing heavily towards the other end of the spectrum as she intends to take back her fathers kingdom.
For the first ten or so episodes, the focus is on Zed and his adventures once he gets to Templar and involved with all of those there as he figures out how the world works. What was appealing was the change around this time where we find out that Zed wasn't the only one that crossed over. Noah has found himself dropped into this world as well and he's in for a more disturbing adventure. Noah's the calm and quiet type, but one with a real problem as his body is close to ceasing to function because of an illness. With help from what's basically a body brace that accelerates his death but allows him to live normally until then, he ends up in the land of Neotopia. An awful name, but a fascinating land where the Absolute Law is in effect. The country has very strict rules and laws and the penalty for many things is instant death. The flip side is that because of this, the majority of people are very well off and happy and willing to give their lives should they break the law because they know how good they have it.
This is very disturbing for Noah, especially as the people who took him in get in trouble because they didn't file notice that he had arrived from another world. The life that Noah leads on this world is complicated as he ends up thrust around into different areas and with different groups before finally landing at the seat of government in Neotopia where he becomes someone who fully believes in the Absolute Law that rules the land. With the special skills that he brings to the picture, similar to the kind of above the norm things that Zed does, Noah becomes a key player in this country and he takes on the role with relish. But he's not lost who he is in a way as he doesn't view Zed as the enemy when they meet. In fact, he views what he's doing as a way to live out his life the best he can and repay people for what they've done for him, and that includes Zed.
Kiba contains a whole lot of material in these first twenty-six episodes. Zed's exploration of the world and the spirits leads him to a lot of places and brings in a lot of variety when it comes to the spirits and the battles between them. While it does tackle tournament material at times, it's brief and nowhere near as interesting as the fights that come up between the countries as they're pushing up against each other regularly. Tensions are high and it's looking like there's going to be a sizable war among many nations if it keeps going on. A lot of this is being fostered by Hugh in Zymot and his reasons haven't been fully explored yet outside of how those in Zymot simply want to achieve and rule over everything.
Visually, Kiba is a pretty standard show considering the length of the series and how they have to budget it. There's only one recap episode, almost at the end of this run, and it's one that fits well since it fully establishes the changes that Noah goes through. The character designs for the series are varied enough, and simply enough at the same time to fit in with the overall genre it belongs to. The spirits have some interesting designs at times but they're not used that often and a lot of them seem to be done more lighthearted than you'd expect. Kiba keeps a mostly serious tone about it throughout, but it has some light edges as well. It's the kind of show that doesn't straddle the line of things but it does occasionally dip its toe over into the other side, such as an episode that's all about good fortune spirits. Kiba won't win any awards for how it looks, but it's got a good consistent design to it that fits with the story they're trying to tell.
After twenty-six episodes, I'm not too sure what to make of Kiba yet. It's fairly predictable show in a lot of ways, since it is playing to a particular genre and the whole basis in a card game. But it also doesn't come across like other card game shows because it is violent at times, it does radically change the characters and there's a good bit of death along the way. It's not aimed at children which is a real plus but it's got that problem of straddling that particular line and doing it with rather average animation and design work. There are things to like about it, and getting this big of a chunk of a series in one whack helps, but at the same time it can be a bit much to take in at once since we did this over two days. Kiba doesn't play to a traditional card game to anime translation and there are things to like about it, but it's that kind of “tween” show where it doesn't fit firmly in the kids realm or the older set.
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.