(screw the rules I’m misunderstood!)
This post is aimed at both the portrayal of Seto Kaiba – the rule-screwing, filthy rich, coat-tails owning arsehole – in both the YuGiOh anime (the dubbed one) and LittleKuriboh’s YuGiOh Abridged, as Kaiba’s brandishing as a villain or anti-hero is wrong in both cases; I’d argue that he’s actually a good person, even if he stands on the side of the Battle City blimp with the little red triangle as opposed to the little blue one.
Work ethic: I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure converting a weapons development company into a gaming one is hard work; he was able to use his father’s company as a resource to build his own, essentially from scratch, as opposed to continue his father’s work, or try to compromise his father’s machinery with his own vision. Furthermore, he dismantled the world’s largest producer of military weapons, meaning he made a more meaningful contribution to world peace than every WaterAid and Christian Aid advert put together.
Professionalism: For all his personal dislike of his brother Mokuba – ‘shut up Mokuba!’ anyone? – he still places him in positions of power, such as his job in KaibaCorp and his role as referee of Battle City, showing an ability to put aside personal grievances and a prioritisation of people’s skills as individuals – Mokuba is almost too good an enforcer of the Battle City rules, as Kaiba has to interrupt his strict enforcement of them.
Economic recovery: Despite his vast wealth, which suggests a tight-fisted approach to money, he has regularly helped the local economy and population of Domino City: his KaibaLand theme park is egotistical, but seeks profit through the enjoyment of people, and his control of the city during the Battle City tournament generated jobs as his vast surveillance network needed staffing – that ‘harem’ of female workers didn’t pop up in the previous season.
Female empowerment: And speaking of the harem, LittleKuriboh’s jokes aside, he seems to provide a minimum quota for women in his company at a time where the only female characters of note are Tea, a walking stereotype for generic values of togetherness and teamwork, and Mai, a walking pair of breasts, meaning that Kaiba is perhaps the only non-misogynist in this series, including the writing staff.
Social provider: Unlike most selfish, rich bastard-type characters, Kaiba also provides for the local people of Domino City. For instance, he opens the Battle City tournament to all inhabitants of Domino City, realistically the largest group of contestants he could have given the logistics of organising such an event, whereas Pegasus’ Duelist Kingdom in season one was invite-only, creating an elitist culture and cult of personality around Pegasus himself – Kaiba is established as ‘the reigning champion’ in episode one, but isn’t invited to Pegasus’ island. Therefore, Kaiba’s tournament attracted more duelists in general, and removed the ‘you need to be friends with the organisers’ criterium of Pegasus’ one. Kaiba even gives out the Duel Disks for free, and gives free blimp rides to the finalists, giving anyone access to the kind of technology Pegasus literally hid away on a distant island, and ensuring the Battle City tournament was a meritocratic one.
No world domination: This is my biggest problem with him being called a ‘villain’ – he doesn’t seek to destroy the world, only to beat Yugi in a duel; his desire for personal gain is selfish, but it is not at the intended destruction of others, apart from a children’s card game. Indeed, his suicidal threat in season one to beat Yugi outside Pegasus’ Castle was an action of success through self-harm, not the harm of others, and included no attempts to ‘destroy the world’ like Zorc does. Furthermore, he is only a ‘bad guy’ because he tries to play a game with his rival, Yugi; if he were truly an evil character, surely he would use his vast wealth to hire hitmen to assault or even kill Yugi, considering he’s a defenceless schoolkid most of the time, and Yami Yugi was only sadistic in season zero, which wasn’t even dubbed by 4Kids.
So Kaiba may be a prick, but considering Tristan’s uselessness, Yami Yugi’s sadism in season zero, Tea’s offensiveness towards women and the fact that Joey, Mai and Duke are all crappy caricatures, he’s not a bad guy after all.