Okay, you’re probably not gonna believe me when I say this, but there’s this anime out recently, which is only available in Australia (the country that usually gets things only after the rest of the world already had them, but THINGS CHANGED OOOOH) - which is weird enough as it is, but weird doesn’t even begin to describe the weirdness I’m feeling about KAIBA, the anime that actually explained transhumanism to me in a fashion where I am no longer afraid of it as a concept.
See, what KAIBA does is strip away all that angsty crap about “more human than human” better explored by something like Blade Runner, and gives you this original premise about memory swapping (NO, IT CAME OUT BEFORE Inception, I PROMISE!) and the ability for said memory swapping to allow humans to swap bodies to the point where the memories are the core element of being human, not the whole body issue, and completely getting rid of the whole “Oh, improving on the human body is wrong/God says not to” debate is probably the best directorial decision they could have gone to.
Because when it comes down to it, all that debate over nature versus technology while worth exploring, is better explored in textbooks rather than in anime shows where we want to see things fucking happen. And happen they do indeed.
See, when you remove the whole religion versus science debate out of this transhumanism philosophy discussion, what you get is core elements of being able to tell a good story unencumbered by what morality or ethics says reality should be.
It is as if the director thumbed his nose at conventional morality and thought, said “Fuck it, I’mma make this in a way that shows if this thing we’re debating just HAPPENED” - and the results are pure gold.
It’s beautiful to behold. Because KAIBA reminds us, as a human species, that even if we remove the human body, the fear of death, we cannot remove the one element that may prove the downfall of our evolved race:
CASHED. UP. DOUCHE-BAGS.
Yep, even in the transhumanist future, we may have wiped out death, but that turns out to be even worse than death itself, because you’ve just allowed douchey frat boys and cashed up old money to possess immortality it didn’t earn or deserve. Here you are trying to survive in this future where your good memories of life have to be sold off to pay rent, and here’s some d-bag stealing your entire body while you’re on the operating table, releasing your memories into the void of space where you will never have a chance in hell of being respawned in the Call Of Duty-est sense of the word in order to live again so you can at least REPLACE your memories you had to part with, your precious memories of playing with GI Joe, just so your landlord wouldn’t hassle you. In a society with no death, who is the judge and executioner for d-bags?
Nobody, that’s who. Terry Pratchett once wrote in a Discworld book about Death:
"There is no justice. Only me."
Good freaking Lord, I thought Discworld was kidding about that, and Terry Pratchett was just making a witty aside, but NO, this is the series that truly proves him right, since it addresses the core problem of eliminating death through transhumanism - the douchebags live on forever while the poor and downtrodden have their bodies stolen and their memories either staunched at knifepoint or left in the gutter like Woody from Toy Story's worst nightmare.
KAIBA, in this regard, makes bold creative decisions. It dispenses with the often pretentious manifestoes of transhumanism and explains the pros and cons of this shit in twelve half hour episodes better than I’ve ever seen a God-damn forum post on the subject can, hell, Wikipedia couldn’t have explained this concept to me in a language that made me not-pants-wetting-afraid-of-it so much anymore.
This is a rare show that instead of having heavy handed philosophical dialogue all the time, we just see what’s going on for once, having us able to judge for ourselves whether this transhumanism stuff rules or sucks objectively. IT GIVES US A CHANCE TO SEE A FUTURE WHERE SUCH SOCIOLOGICAL TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE ACTUALLY HAPPENED. WE GET TO BLOODY SEE WHAT WOULD GO ON IF THIS SHIT WAS REAL.
KAIBA is the anime that made me bloody care about watching newer anime for the first time in half my life… it’s so jam packed with fascinating ideas that are explored brilliantly - unpretentiously too - that were this not an Australia exclusive title I’d recommend you all go out and buy it NOW.
Everybody remotely interested in transhumanism, for or against, should see this because it really points out in an entertaining way the pros and cons of this controversial scientific concept without sacrificing narrative to do so.