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I recently donated to Kick-Heart, and it was my very first Kickstarter donation.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, it’s an animation project by Japanese animator/director Yuasa Masaaki, a man whose style can best be described as “experimental and unorthodox.” As someone who not only enjoys variety in animation but also appreciates Yuasa’s work (particularly the brilliant Kaiba), I ended up pledging, but I want everyone to understand that this was my own conclusion, and not one I necessarily expect from others. 

As people have rallied for Kick-Heart there’s been good, but there’s also been this problematic message attached to it wherein Kick-Heart is seen as a potential savior of not just the anime industry but of creativity and imagination in anime itself. To some extent, they have a point: there are certain anime that are more commercially viable than others, and this is usually based on what’s trending at the time combined with the economic realities of the time. In that sense, funding this Kickstarter is useful for figuring out if there really is an audience for Yuasa’s brand of works, enough to justify at least a 10-minute animation piece. But then if you’re not part of the audience in the sense that you have little interest in Yuasa’s work, then you shouldn’t feel obligated to maintain a lie just because people are making you feel like you’re industry poison.

I said why I decided to join in, and if my or anyone else’s reasons for donating to Kick-Heart convinced you to donate, feel free to do so. What you shouldn’t feel, however, is pressured to donate out of the “greater good.” Kick-Heart isn’t an intimidation tactic, and it shouldn’t be talked about as such.

A very good show yes, but a difficult one nonetheless.

Kaiba is a very intelligent show, but so are a lot of other shows. The difference, however, is that while something like Crest of the Stars appeals to the viewer’s intelligence, it does not actively try to challenge that intelligence as Kaiba does.

Crest of the Stars will say, “I assume you to be an intelligent person, and therefore I will provide you with tons of information so you can get a clear idea of what’s going on and better appreciate this fiction.”

Kaiba, on the other hand, will say, “I assume you to be an intelligent person, therefore it’s only right of me to push that intelligence further, to not only grease those wheels but to then burn them out as well.”

The result is that Kaiba can be rather exhausting, and it’s not the kind of show I would recommend for a marathon. This is exactly the reason why I haven’t finished it yet. Each episode presents so much, and asks so much of the viewer that it makes me wish I was some kind of brain cow with four organs to process it all.

Kaiba is an unusual show amongst unusual shows. Its visual style is not like any anime airing on tv, it visuals existing somewhere between Tezuka and 60s manga, and the high art of Japanese artists such as Aoshima Chiho. Kaiba is different, and people will inform you of this fact.

I’ve heard numerous polarizing comments in regards to Kaiba, among them being that it’s (one of) the best of the season, that it’s so much better than all that crap out there, that it looks terrible, and that it’s nothing special and catering only to those who want high art in their anime. Either Kaiba is the savior of anime as an artform, or it is damning evidence of an incestuous circlejerk for highfalutin posers.

Kaiba animates well, but anime has never been known for spending elaborate time and money on movement, especially not for a tv series. Its characters are cute, but in a very illustrative, non-tactile manner. Characters have sex but are not sexualized. It uses characters as icons, but then subverts this by having the physical look of characters be interchangeable.

I think the divided opinion on Kaiba comes from the varying and often times contradictory roles that anime plays or is supposed to play. It is both an elevation of animation as something to be taken seriously as well as entertainment that anyone can enjoy. It is so much more realistic than other cartoons, but look at how weird and stylized these characters are!

There’s nothing wrong with seeing or wanting to see physical, human-like beauty in anime characters (see name of blog), even if it’s on a purely visual level. At the same time, this idolization of characters may be the root cause of the divisive opinions in regards to Kaiba. In fact, in the eyes of some, anime is currently the incestuous circlejerk and to others those same wide-appeal shows are what make anime great.

Official sources for Genshiken Second Season

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