Geneshaft, Volume 1: Ring

Mike Ferreira (Editor) — August 21st, 2003
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With a title like "Geneshaft," one can only think that the stock boy at the local anime store has placed this disc in the wrong section. However, this is far from the case. Geneshaft is an interstellar action series that mixes a gritty story with heavy metal music and a beautiful mix of CG and cel animation. Although I also described the Playstation 2 title Guilty Gear XX in that same sentence, I assure you that I am talking about Geneshaft. Unfortunately, while Guilty Gear XX is pure fighting goodness, Geneshaft has quite a few problems that need to be ironed out before it can become a decent title.

In the latter half of the 21st century, mankind has come to near-extinction in a civil war based on greed. In order to avoid extinction, humans forced themselves to evolve by introducing their systems to pre-programmed DNA. By doing this, mankind could control everything from personality, to natural ability. This movement steadily gained speed, and eventually created a "perfect" society in which females outnumbered males in a 9:1 ratio. Because of the genetic engineering, humanity lost its desire to love, as well its desire to dominate all. Society as a whole became more stable due to these reactions. By the 23rd century, an entirely genetically engineered populous has been created...

Enter Mika Seido: a new recruit to the army that has been assigned to serve on the Moon, who is currently in transit to her new base of action. Shortly after entering the transport, she meets up with a bearish woman named Sofia. The two exchange blows, much to the stern warnings of the ship's monitor systems. However, the two unexpectedly pull into a hug and start talking like old friends. Apparently, both are heading to the same destination. The two ponder their recent transfers and eventually come to the conclusion that it is because of the Ring: a giant ring that has been floating in the orbit of the Earth for the past five years. Some time later, the two friends arrive in the transport's bar, where they meet an odd man and a hyperactive girl. Sofia recognizes the girl as Tiki Musicanova, aka "Tinkerbell": a battlefield prodigy that took out an entire company on her own. Tiki proudly states that she is on the same mission as Mika and Sofia, which has now been dubbed "S-Mission", and that another two will be joining the mission: Everyone's favorite denim sponsor: Remy Levi-Strauss and Mir Lotus. A veil is lifted as she introduces her brother, Mr. "It's-a-me" himself, Mario. Mario is revealed to be the backup captain of the S-Mission craft. Before things can get too cozy, though, the ring fires a high-powered beam at the Earth, taking out a part of the transport in the process. The members of the S-Mission crew as well as a few others make it to the Bilkis, a special craft made just for the S-mission. At this point, Mika gets her first chance to drive the Shaft, a capture and attack craft that is attached to the the Bilkis. However, the program for it is still very buggy, and crashes quite often. Even so, Mika continues on, but will her headstrong attitude and inferior gene type be a blessing or a curse for the Bilkis crew?

Mika Seido: Army recruit and junior aspiring Dead or Alive Girl extraodinaire. The Shaft: no relation to everybody's favorite bad mutha.

If I could sum up my thoughts on the series thus far in one word, it would have to be "formulaic." The series itself follows the same basic setup that consists of story, story, a problem occurs, Mika and crew try to use the Shaft, shaft crashes (or "shafts" them), and the crew gets it up and running just in time to accomplish the mission. Furthermore, if the characters were genetically engineered to the point of even personality, I can't help but wonder why so many of the females have a bitchy streak the size of the Grand Canyon. Many of the characters are either devoid of emotion, or are cocky to the point of being intolerable. Maybe this "perfect" civilization's ego is so inflated that people don't even doubt themselves anymore. Or maybe, just maybe, the local convenience store ran out of tampons. Whatever the case is, Mika and Sofia seem to be the only likeable characters, as they aren't totally self-absorbed, nor are they completely deadpan. I sincerely hope that what I am seeing now is just a few "kinks" in the series that will iron themselves out, but cannot help but fear that this is going to keep up for quite a while.

Moving onto the technical side of things, Geneshaft is simply beautiful. using a recent master, Geneshaft truly shines with vibrant colors and no cases of cross-coloration or bleeding. Aliasing and jaggies are also totally nonexistant. If there are any video issues, they would have to be the meshing of cel animation to CG. Sadly, like many older shows, the CG animation sticks out like a giant beacon with the words "I AM A TRANSITION" written on it. While both the CG and animation segments are done very well, they sadly never fit together as well as a series like Alien Nine.

On the audio end of the spectrum, things couldn't be of better quality. The sound is very clear, with no dropouts or distortion. The soundtrack to the series carries the mood well, with an interesting, yet gritty industrial/hard rock that fits the overall feeling of the show like a glove. The Japanese acting is done quite well, with each of the characters fitting into their roles well. Unfortunately, the English track suffers quite a bit, despite valiant efforts. While most of the English voices fit into their roles well, the voice of Mika seems very out of place, and wrong for the character. Mika's voice suffers from what is known as bad dub syndrome: she quickly becomes grating, annoying, and even goes as far as to draw the atmosphere away from the rest of the show. Although this is a detractor, the rest of Geneshaft's audio is of high quality, with no major complaints.

In terms of presentation, Geneshaft has been treated well. The packaging features a picture of Mika and Sofia on the front, with the title above them and the volume titie "Ring" in the corner. The back of the case consists of a few screens from the show, a description of the series itself, an episode list, and a list of features. However, those who want something different are in for a treat, since this volume features a reversible cover. The insert contains an expanded version of the cover artwork, as well as a more detailed descrition of the series and an introduction to the drivers of the Shaft. For extras, Bandai gathered a fine collection for fans to ogle. The first item given is a short pilot film that was used to pitch the show when it was released Japan. Along with the pilot film, the disc offers a small character gallery, a glossary of terms used in the show, and a detailed database on the programs that the Bilkis uses.

Unfortunately, Geneshaft seems to have shafted anyone that paid retail for this release. While the show is nowhere near horrid, it seems to be lukewarm at best. Hopefully the next volume will resolve many of the problems that made this show fall just short of rising above mediocrity.

Distributor: Bandai Entertainment
Creator: Kazuki Akane / Satelight
Released: 2003

Video Quality: B
Audio Quality: A-
Presentation: B+
Content: C+
Overall: B-