Geneshaft Vol. #1 - Mania.com



Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Entertainment
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Geneshaft

Geneshaft Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     April 11, 2003
Release Date: May 20, 2003


Geneshaft Vol. #1
© Bandai Entertainment


What They Say
In a final attempt to save the human race, a genetic engineering program was initiated in hopes of creating a new breed of human beings with special skills and abilities to benefit all of society. However, this newfound peace is interrupted as an artifact of unknown origin hangs between the Earth and the moon. A group of these new breed of humans have been selected to investigate, however Mika, one of the members of the team, is confused as to why she’s been included since she doesn’t seem to have any super abilities. Armed with a prototype ship and mecha known only as 'Shaft', this strike team may be the only thing standing between peace and the total destruction of the Earth!

The Review!
Bandai goes back to the science fiction well and pulls up a series that has managed to capture my imagination quite well.

Audio:
We listened to both audio tracks for this show but we settled on the Japanese track for the majority of the episodes. The dialogue for both tracks is solid with no noticeable dropouts or distortions. With it being a pro-logic mix, there’s some occasional pieces thrown to the rear speakers, primarily in music from what I could tell, but it’s fairly weak and doesn’t add terribly much to the overall presentation.

Video:
Originally airing in 2001, it’s little surprise that this transfer looks just about perfect. The materials for this are very slick looking with a almost a gloss feel to it. Colors are rich and vibrant and aliasing is very minimal. There’s a bit of cross coloration showing up in some of the CG scenes with the Shaft drive, mostly due to the amount of detail in some of the line work. The only other noticeable issue, and it’s more inherent in the source than anything else, is that some of the characters have a bit of an edge to them when set against some of the CG backgrounds.

Packaging:
Going with the tried and true formula, the cover here goes with showcasing two of the women who are very much different from each other. The cover is also the same as the Japanese cover for the first volume, though it looks like they’ve darkened up the backgrounds to give it more of an “Alien” feel than the more silvery metallic of the original. The series logo is also the same with the exception of it being silver instead of green. The back cover provides a collage strip of imges from the show and a couple of short paragraphs of summary. The episode numbers and titles are listed, which is a plus since there’s no volume numbering, as well as a clear list of the discs extras and production list. Strangely, there’s no indication of what languages or subtitles are available on the disc. The insert has another shot of the front cover, though zoomed in a bit, and opens to provide a page of background on Earth in this timeline and another page for the pilots of these episodes. The back of the insert has the production credits and a great full list of bilingual voice actors for the entire series.

Menu:
The menus are designed in the same style as the menus the characters use on board their ships, so it has a fun little feel to it, though there’s a slight load-up time when they first come up. The menus are laid out nicely and with a balanced audio with the show, so we weren’t going deaf on one but not the other. Access times are nice and fast and moving around was easy to figure out.

Extras:
There’s a good selection of extras for the opening volume here. The pilot film runs about three minutes and is made up of footage from the series itself, likely as an early selling point to promote the show. The character gallery is about what you expect, but the glossary is a real treat. This is more like liner notes than anything else and provides some good insights into the show that don’t quite get verbalized yet. The Bilkis Programs section also provides a bit more info and clarity on the routines that are being run during the show.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
For some reason, I almost get the feeling that I shouldn’t like Geneshaft. I remember seeing the first half of the first episode raw back when it came out, and it left an odd taste to me with its CG mix of animation. But that was about two years ago, so who knows what it would be like with, you know, a translation.

Right from the opening of the first episode, where all that text gets translated, I got hooked. The premise of the series is a rather interesting one, as it starts off with humanity on the brink. While that’s standard, they opt instead of space colonization to work with their genes to cut the population down immensely and then to rebuild with people who are specifically skilled. And in order to cut out the violent nature of mankind, they reduce the male to female ratio to something like 1:9. While they’re unable to remove all the violence inherent in man, they do remove a lot of it. And to watch against them, each male is assigned a register that keeps an eye on them and their movements, at least those that seem to be in some position of power.

So it’s some two hundred years after all of this is done and there’s been nothing but peace. Everything has gone peachy up until five years ago when a mysterious ring appeared out of nowhere in orbit. Throughout its five years there, it’s been quiet and hasn’t done a thing but mess up the orbits and general traffic that goes near there. But the time has come for it to be challenged to see what it really is, as the first subspace ship has finally been completed and is being staffed.

This is where things really start to form up in the show. We’re introduced to the series lead, Mika Seido. Mika’s the sixteen year old whose being brought aboard the space station to participate in the S-mission that’s being set up. She’s unaware of the new subspace ship and is just going to her next assignment in the military. Her arrival also ends up coinciding with her friend Sofia. Sofia and Mika are quite different in many ways, most notable is physical. Sofia’s a bit of a rarity in anime to begin with in being a very tall and almost amazon like woman but also quite skilled in fighting techniques. The combination of the two is very interesting and they play off of each other well.

The opening episodes of the series is mostly about bringing the various cast members together who will be on this subspace ship. The cast is admittedly fairly standardin what you’d expect, you essentially get the spunky something to prove Mika, the friendly Sofia, the ice queen in Mir, the wild child in Tiki and the brains in Remmy. All are of course women since they make up the bulk of humanity at this point. But the crew also has several men, all of them in positions of power.

The most powerful of them is Lord Sergei Sneak, the man in charge of the space station where this all begins. He has some large plot in mind and is using the opportunity of the ring being there to set things into motion. He’s brought Hiroto Amigawa in as the Captain as well as Mario Musicanova as the Backup Captain. All three of these men are very handsome, very dark and controlled. With them having lived with Registers monitoring their moves for so long, they don’t look to be the types to open up much either.

Their exploration of the ring and what it’s purpose is spurs on a number of surprising changes and revelations about the solar system. A lot of this brings about the big megayears concepts of time and ancient races that once roamed the galaxy. So much of this is pure set up and initial revelations that it’s hard to say too much without spoiling the wonders of it. And often, that’s what I felt as it progressed along.

There is a definite hard science fiction edge to things here, and it becomes more and more noticeable once you realize the sources that were drawn upon for this. The council that seems to be in control of humanity lies in five old men who use extension techniques to survive, but they meet in a circle in the forest. Each of them is named after a classic 40’s – 50’s science fiction writer. We have a segment where the crew visits Ganymede and the Niven base, which tied with the rings that show up give a nod toward Larry Niven’s Ringworld material. There’s a lot of little homages here and there in this series.

And I have to admit to a fondness to Kazuki Akane and the way he tells a story. His style from Escaflowne definitely carries through here in a number of scenes, though he’s definitely evolved some of it in this series. The use of the Shaft drive robot here is much like it was early on in Escaflowne, where it was more a tool than a character of its own. Akane also manages to make sure some real nods to science fiction realities make it in here, such as a sequence where a few characters are racing down the hallways as the gravity starts to weaken, and they’re using all the walls/ceilings as the floor to get where they need to go, rather than the usual conformity.

Geneshaft, after re-reading all of this, is a show I’m having a hell of a time explaining why I like it. There’s just some edge to this that’s a bit harder and more serious than what we typically see, even with the “wild child” character. It’s not a Crest of the Stars serious level with a large helping of Gattaca, but I can see including the two of them in the same kind of recommendation from me. There’s just something to this show that really appeals to my SF nature.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Pilot film,Character Gallery,Glossary,Programs

Review Equipment

Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

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