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Baneful's Column
Seto Kaiba
By Baneful
December 16, 2015

Seto Kaiba is one of anime's famous anti-heroes, alongside Dragonball Z's Vegeta.  Vegeta's character had more development but he also started out with a significant amount of character flaws.  After Yami Yugi's mind-crush on Kaiba, the character generally had a much more mild development.  Kaiba never changed who he was, although he did adapt himself to changing circumstances and improved himself in some ways.
 
Seto's personality was deep rooted in his status as a child orphan.  Gozaboru Kaiba, the CEO of a military contractor, was looking for an intelligent heir to replace his dead biological son Noah.  Young Kaiba challenged Gozaboru, who was visiting the orphange to donate gifts, to a chess game and won.  Gozaboru took him in as an adoptive son on the condition that his little brother Mokuba was rescued from the orphanage as well.
 
Gozaboru was much of a tyrant, forcing Seto to spend all of his childhood studying rather than having fun.  While Seto was designing game products, Gozaboru was using them for military weapons.  Seto saw less merit in the military because it was a team effort and preferred games which were one versus one.  Seto multiplied a small share of the company he was given by smart investments, combined with the Big Five (who felt under appreciated by Gozaboru) and Mokuba, Seto took over the company and turned it into a gaming company.
 
When Gozaboru was ousted from his own company, he committed suicide (joining Noah in the virtual world).  From then on, Seto equated losing to death and the primary goal of his life was to be a winner.  His rivalry with Yugi is of utmost importance to his character.  Kazuki Takahasi (creator of Yugioh) said that without an opponent stronger than him to strive to beat, Kaiba's life would be without purpose.
 
Kaiba does meet some of the criteria of a sociopath (he's intelligent, lacks empathy, he has a constant need to be a winner, he never apologized or feels shame or guilt), he does not meet enough criteria to officially qualify.  He doesn't break the law, he isn't irresponsible, he isn't lacking in planning skills, he isn't reckless and isn't much of a charmer.  A case could be made that he may have been a sociopath before Yami Yugi separated the evil spirit from him in the first episode.
 
However, Seto Kaiba does have a lot in common with Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy.  He is a wealthy industrial, makes decisions based on logic rather than emotions, values science over nature, is against altruism, helps people only when it's in his self interest, strives not to depend on others, is heavily prided on his accomplishments, rejects belief in the supernatural (destiny, millennium items, etc.), and is firmly against cheating and stealing.  
 
In his ancient Egyptian parallel, while Yugi was Pharaoh Atem in the past life, Kaiba was Priest Seto, part of his council.  Seto, is appointed to Atem's council based on his intelligence alone - rather than his bloodline.  In his position, he heavily punishes and tortures criminals.  He does rescue a woman named Kisara, who is being assailed because of her uniquely blue-eyes and pale-skin.  In the fight against Yami Bakura and Zorc, she releases her spirit forming the Blue-Eyes White Dragon (to protect Kaiba).  Kaiba is briefly brainwashed by his father Akhenadan into battling against Yugi, but Kisara's spirit frees him and they all work together to stop Zorc.
 
In Kaiba's modern incarnation, his affinity for the Blue-Eyes White Dragon is due to his ancient past.  Initially, his rivalry with Yugi reflects the battle they had in the past.  While Yugi's character development leans toward Yami/Atem giving him the confidence he needs, Kaiba's development depends on him becoming less hostile and more friendly to the Pharaoh.  At the end of the ancient battle, Atem retired as king and gave Priest Seto the throne, as he earned it.  Likewise, the end of the anime with Atem/Yami leaving, suggests that Kaiba succeeds the throne as King of Games.

 

 

 


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