M.D. Geist I/II Collector's Series (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Saturday, September 14, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, September 10, 2002

What They Say
Includes: M.D. Geist Director's Cut / M.D. Geist: Death Force plus a great Bonus Disc packed with extras!

Classified as too unstable, the genetically engineered soldier, Geist-02, was permanently imprisoned aboard an orbital satellite. But when humanity unleashes a doomsday device that will annihilate all life, Geist-02 must return to save the world that tried to destroy him!

The Review!
In the Project A-Ko Collectors Series review, I mention how that show gets re-released every couple of years in different formats, but it’s like an old friend that I get to revisit every now and then. On the other side of that coin is MD Geist, another show that gets revisited every few years, but is more like a bad penny that I just can’t get rid of.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc with the Japanese language audio commentary track. We did skim both the English and Japanese tracks for the show, and both sounded decent and without any noticeable problems. Dialogue for those were nice and clear but lack and real directionality, which is expected considering the age of the materials.

The transfer for these two programs came out really good, with a solid looking presentation overall. With the age of the first show, even with the addition of newer scenes in 1996, manages to look nice and consistent. Colors are solid though the palette is pretty bland, there’s no noticeable saturation. Cross coloration and aliasing are almost non-existent, so two of the main offenses with older shows are thankfully absent. This looks noticeably better than the original 1999 release, but it’s probably only something that those really looking for things will notice.

Using the same kind of image from previous releases, with a close-up of Geist in his Fightertech combat gear with the burning skull in the background. The back cover provides another shot of the full suit against some of the shows backgrounds as well as a brief summary. The majority of the back cover is taken up with all the features and extras on the disc. The interior provides a nice couple of pieces of black and white animation shots from the show and the chapter selections for both episodes. This single keepcase has a hanging insert to hold the extra disc.

With some animation from the show playing in the center, the menus here are nice looking with the surrounding border. Selections are lined along the right and are quick and easy to access. The layout is pretty standard so getting about is easy.

This release is packed, with extras on the program disc and a whole disc of supplemental extras. The main attraction to me on the first disc is the audio commentary with Ohata and Sanjo. The feature is also presented with an alternate angle of the graphic novel for the show, which provides an interesting look at how the two really compare. There’s a good supplement of storyboards and an art gallery. A brief minute long music video is done to the music from the show and there’s another small video gallery of images of the Geist Rider motorcycle.

The second disc of extras is pretty well packed. There’s a brief look at the statue that’s being made for Geist in his full combat gear from the start to finish. There’s a slew of conceptual artwork pieces for all different things, such as backgrounds, characters and equipment. A brief piece of music done up as a music video from the second installment of Geist is here as well as the entire Death Force sequel done with storyboards along the right. Ohata himself does a brief text interview and there’s a retrospective that runs about five minutes on his work. Extras from both the Genocyber and Cybernetics Guardian releases show up here as well.

There’s also a number of DVD-ROM extras (PC and Mac) but we didn’t get a chance to check those out, though the downloadable MP3’s sound interesting.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Having now seen Geist on a couple of different formats, and different versions as in 1996 Ohata was able to go back and create a directors cut of the first OVA by inserting new footage and cleaning up the narrative a bit, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to this collectors series release of it. I’ve never really been a fan of Ohata’s personal works, such as Geist, Genocyber or Cybernetics Guardian, though I’ve found when he does collaborations such as Blue Gender, his personal taste does help enhance a project.

Knowing this, I wasn’t really wanting to watch the show again. On the plus side, there was a way to sort of do it but without clawing my eyes out. And that was to listen to the commentary while watching the show. But, for consistencies sake, let’s talk about the show, or how I felt (and still feel) about it from my 1998 review of it:

I'd originally seen the non-directors cut of the first episode of MD Geist when it was first released way back in the early 90's. Actually, it was one of my earliest purchases, and almost pushed me out of anime (Kimagure Orange Road kept me into it). I found nothing appealing about that episode, from the animation to the story itself. It just bored me. I don't think I even watched all of the tape after I bought it.

So, after eight years, has my opinion changed much? A bit. I didn't find it nearly as boring as before, but it's nothing to marvel over. The story feels pretty dated, as does the animation. But it's a cult favorite (for a reason that still escapes me), so it's earned some place in domestic anime history.

The second episode was a little more interesting, as it expanded upon the world that the characters live in. The video quality is also better on this episode, as it was made later and better original elements were available for Image to create DVD with.

Add another four years to the above and yes, I’m still not a fan. What I do find different now is that I don’t completely want to pretend Ohata never existed. Listening to his commentary along with screenwriter Riku Sanjo I’ve now got the proper context to which Geist was originally created. And it’s surprising at just how much sense it makes with that context, learning that Geist was among the wave of the early OVA releases in the 80’s that went to try and break the typical mold of what was on TV with angsty characters who wouldn’t kill. With Geist pretty much living to kill, adding in all the violence and sex that could not otherwise be show on TV, and it’s fairly easy to see why this went over well.

But still, like Ohata says, it’s hard to go back and watch this, particularly the first OVA. He originally did this when he was twenty three and Sanjo was twenty and completely unknown (and cheap as they joke between each other). The lack of a real narrative brings the show down, and the way he wasn’t able to really make the final fight sequence with the “god” robot more concise are areas where he admits he’s managed to learn a lot since then. The fact that when they did Geist II ten years later they did add a good narrative and streamlined a lot of things showed that he did learn. I still just think the material itself is flawed.

A lot of that comes from its origins, which you can tell are definitely Hollywood. Ohata talks during numerous areas how things were influenced by some of the strongest SF movies of the 80’s such as Terminator and Aliens and the obvious Mad Max movies. This is an area where I think the show has both lots of appeal and lots to keep people away. It’ll certainly appeal to those looking for a straight out action show but probably not as much for those looking to get away from those. His ideas about trying to get Japanese animation to be able to produce something that would equal that is something he knew he couldn’t quite do, but wanted to try to attempt. He may have made out better if he simply took the script and tried to get a live action movie made instead.

For people who love this show, and want to know more about Ohata and what went into it, this re-release is a no brainer. Those who aren’t fans… well, you learned long ago to stay away.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Alternate Angle Graphic Novel (Koichi Ohata’s Complete M.D. Geist),Commentary by Koichi Ohata & Riku Sanjo,Storyboards,Music Video,Art Gallery,Geist Rider Scrapbook,M.D. Geist Trailer,Koichi Ohata Retrospective,Interview with Koichi Ohata,Art Gallery,Storyboards,Color Storyboards,Mechanical Designs,Concept Art (70 drawings),Character Designs,Concept Designs,Production Cels

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

Mania Grade: D
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Central Park Media
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 95
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: M.D. Geist