Gibiate is one of Crunchyroll’s current darlings since they’ve been pushing for more original material and manhua adaptations. But whereas it’s easy to see why manhua would be good choices for new anime that otherwise might’ve gone unnoticed or un-adapted, an original project like Gibiate requires more than Yoshitaka Amano’s involvement to sell viewers on watching a show about a killer virus.
The biggest elephant in the room comes at you immediately as the narration hits very close to home with our current COVID-19 epidemic. The collective skepticism and apathy towards the rising rates and the push for the general populace to just accept the widespread Gibiate virus as commonplace are on-par with how far too many countries are handling it. I haven’t done the research on how soon the planning stages of the anime Gibiate were between the beginning of the mass quarantine and now, but there is definitely a grey cloud hanging over the series that feels like a friendly reminder of the abject human suffering that we’re currently experiencing.
But the good thing is that this virus is an alien one so the series has more of a zombie flick atmosphere to it so that it isn’t too bogged down with the dire mood that would’ve been present if it was just going to remind us of how many countries have bungled their reaction to COVID-19. It also helps that there is also the added strangeness of a samurai and a ninja running around to act as the remaining line of defense against Gibia as Kathleen embarks on a quest to create a vaccine.
The first episode mainly avoids any sprawling action in favor of going into the biology and mechanics of the Gibia disease. By the tail-end of the episode, Sensui got stung, but because he shows no apparent symptoms it’s up in the air as to whether he has it or not. It might be for the best that there wasn’t much action either because the monster CG is noticeably stiff. There isn’t much intimidation to be had for the monster designs when any kind of tension or fear is taken away when they appear and move like early PS2 monsters.
Gibiate is also difficult to recommend because it’s most high profile contributor is its producer Yoshitaka Amano, the legendary concept artist behind several Final Fantasy games and Vampire Hunter D. But because this is a standard TV anime that was created using his designs as the basis for a potential story, there isn’t as much of a proper framework to bounce off of aside from there being ninjas and samurais in the not-too-distant post-apocalyptic future. What really kills enthusiasm for the show is how Amano’s involvement didn’t mean that the anime would replicate the fluidity or artistry of his picturesque designs nor did it mean that it would embrace the gothic aesthetic that is expressed in much of his work. You can see his influence in Gibiate’s character designs for some of the androgynous male designs, but that’s where his thumbprint begins and ends. Everything else is whatever the director and staff were able to cobble up from the blueprint that Amano’s original artwork gave them.
Gibiate is predictably shallow in its material beyond its all-too-timely premise. Watching a samurai and ninja fighting against the products of a monster virus epidemic doesn’t sound as far fetched as it should be because of how much it sounds like the premise of your ordinary hack-and-slash video game. The time travel element brings up a lot of fun opportunities, but it feels like such a waste when it’ll keep on causing the plot to switch between how time travel works and how to cure Gibiate. Amano’s involvement is somewhat lucrative, but the most impressive quality about the series is how it managed to squeeze out while COVID-19 is still ravaging our planet.