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Entry updated 15 November 2021. Tagged: TV.

Japanese animated tv series (2008). Madhouse. Directed and written by Masaaki Yuasa. Voice cast includes Houko Kuwashima, Wasabi Mizuta, Mamiko Noto, Romi Park, Chiwa Saito. Twelve 24-minute episodes. Colour.

The Amnesiac Kaiba (Kuwashima) travels to strange worlds hoping to discover his identity; en route his mind is decanted into a large toy hippo, then (for most of the journey) into Chroniko (Saito), a young woman. Eventually returning to Lala, his home planet, Kaiba is revealed to be "Warp, the Prince who rules over this universe": his Memory is awoken and restored to his original body. Lala is threatened by a giant-memory devouring plant (also called Kaiba, the Japanese word for the hippocampus). Once he defeats the Clone enthroned in his absence and Dada-sama (three other, elderly, clones), Kaiba succeeds in destroying the plant: but in the aftermath Lala may no longer be sustainable and its inhabitants are traumatized.

Lala had been covered by memory-erasing clouds, the rich living above and the poor below. The latter are isolated and exploited, many supporting Issoudan, an organization plotting to topple Warp: this was a front for Dada-sama, whose real aim is to gain the throne. Meanwhile, Warp had fallen in love with Neiro (Noto), a terrorist and member of Issoudan. She is executed by Warp's governing Computer, but he clones her and downloads her memories.

Technology invented by Warp allows memories to be stored in chips that can be inserted into other bodies – whether already existing, cloned or manufactured. These chips can be edited (see Memory Edit), allowing bad memories to be removed, good ones added and any of them manipulated. A person's memories may also be literally entered and browsed (see Dream Hacking). The beneficiaries are the wealthy, many of whom (illegally) buy the healthy, attractive bodies of the poor for their own use (donors are told their memory will be stored on a chip until their families can afford a replacement body: but heartbreakingly the original Chroniko is just discarded).

Whilst amnesiac, Warp (as Kaiba) is protected by two versions of Neiro. The first has been memory-edited by Popo (Park), a rising star of Issoudan: his motives are mixed, but his methods are unscrupulous (later we learn that Popo's own memories were repeatedly edited by Dada-sama). The second version is a small flying creature called Hyohyo (Mizuta), who has an unedited copy of Neiro's memories.

The above is a simplified synopsis of a complex tale which, despite the verve of its telling, is full of tragedy: bad things happen to good people. Nevertheless, it ends with the lovers reunited – though it is Neiro with the edited memories who goes to Warp; Hyohyo's interests might now be elsewhere.

Though there is humour and adventure, the theme of Identity dominates, both physical and mental: bodies are replaceable, whilst minds are rewritable and transferable. Distinctive and imaginative, the show's art style is child-like and psychedelic, contrasting with the frequently bleak events it portrays. Kaiba is a rich and impressive Anime. [SP]


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