Posted by psgels on 21 July 2009 with categories: Anime Reviews



I’ll just say this right from the start: yes, this is a biased review. Geneshaft is directed by Kazuki Akane, who is my single most favourite director in like, ever. His works aren’t just awesome; they’re incredible. Noein, Escaflowne and Birdy the Mighty Decode are among my absolute favourites, so I had to watch Geneshaft at one point. And after watching, I have to say that this is science fiction at its finest. Yeah: science fiction; not storytelling.

Despite being an utter Kazuki Akane fanboy, I do have to admit: Geneshaft is miles away from his other works. Geneshaft has quite a few flaws that will turn off a lot of people. The most noticeable is that it’s a series that’s meant for 26 episodes, stuffed into only 13 of them. Call it a production error, a lack of budget to adequately fund 13 more episodes. The thing that remains is a collection plot-holes, questions that are never answered, characters that could have used more background, and a bit of rushed character-development here and there. But heck, despite these flaws I liked this series a lot. Here’s why:

Because what this series lacks in storytelling, it definitely makes up with its setting. Which is truly fascinating and full of creativity, and it toys with a premise that’s surprisingly rare in anime: genetic manipulation. While at first sight it might seem like your average tightly controlled setting, in which humanity has achieved a perfect state without wars and the like, but is very strictly controlled by its government, but very quickly the opposite turns out to be true.

I guess that the central message of this series is that perfection is overrated and not even possible, but that’s just the conclusion that I came to. What I liked about this series is how thought-provoking it is: it never claims to be right, but instead provides a number of different viewpoints and just lets the viewer make his own conclusions on what’s right and wrong. Every single major character has his or her own view on what’s right and wrong, and this series never presents its messages on a silver platter, ready for consumption. This series is definitely enjoyed best when you use your head. And I must say this is something that I don’t see in a lot of other anime, and something I appreciate a lot.

Then there is the issue with the music, which I am sure has received a lot of mixed reactions. A lot of the background tracks consist out of heavy metal, which is a bold choice but if you’re not familiar with that kind of music it’s going to sound like trying to run a cat through a blender. I personally loved the music in this series though: it’s unlike any other soundtrack I have heard, but it works really well, and gives this series a very stylish and unique atmosphere. Especially the tracks that aren’t heavy metal are really well composed and very nice to listen to.

As for the characters, you’re not going to find well developed or fleshed out characters in this series, but yet they work because of the excellent chemistry they have together. The characterization is well done to prevent them from being average stereotypes and every character has his or her purpose and knows his or her role in the overall story. Even the comic relief characters: I kept cracking up whenever the debugging team popped up. Their scenes often last no longer than a minute, and yet they’re fun to watch because they don’t feel like complete comedic fodder, just thrown in for cheap laughs. It’s these small details that Kazuki Akane would later perfect in Birdy the Mighty Decode 2 that makes the setting feel more alive than usual.

Overall, I really wish that I could rate this show higher, but at the same time I have to acknowledge that it’s a bloody shame that this series had to deal with pacing issues. If it were allotted a proper time-frame of 26 episodes, I’m sure that it would have become an awesome series, especially with Kazuki Akane’s talents. However, in its compressed forms, it also has its charms. It’s an easy to watch series for anyone who doesn’t mind the soundtrack, and yet it’s deep and thought-provoking. Geneshaft has style. Plus, it features a dog who can send e-mails. How can that not be good?

Storytelling: 7/10
Characters: 8/10
Production-Values: 8/10
Setting: 9/10

8 Responses

  1. Avatar Sapphire says:

    Have you ever written an Escaflowne review? It’s one of my favorite series of all time, I’d like to read what you have to say about it.

  2. Avatar specracer says:

    I think it’s 3rd on his/her top ten list

  3. psgels psgels says:

    Sapphire: yeah, it’s indeed one of my favourite shows as well. The problem is that I watched it more than four years ago, so my memory is a bit too fuzzy on the details, and that’s the reason why I haven’t written a review about it.

  4. Avatar Camario says:

    Interesting. I believe this series was on TV a few years back, but the dub wasn’t too impressive according to my vague memories.

    Not that it’s a big deal, at least not these days, although I don’t really remember anything about the story either. I suppose it simply came and went too quickly.

    I probably missed some episodes while it was airing too, which is certainly not going to help something so short.

    In the end, this sounds like it could be worth watching under better circumstances. Still, I would like to read some more opinions.

  5. Avatar evenstar99 says:

    I completely agree with your review. It really is a shame that the story had to be stuffed into 13 episodes, especially since the premise was mature and interesting enough to be developed for a lot longer. I’m no judge of technical quality when it comes to animation, but in terms of the narrative, I think Gene Shaft really presented something special, different. I love the big, open questions on the definition of humanity, and the blurred lines of morality in an age where objectivity and reason always prevail.Here’s hoping for a sequel–hopefully with more backstory and a decent resolution.

  6. Avatar Alex says:

    Just watched the series (yeah, I’m a bit slow). I must say that it’s one of the best in my memorie, even despite all the numerous flaws. The reason is it’s definitely hardcore SF, without any chikara waving or magik girls or giant robots fist-fighting in deep space (ehrrr… well, ALMOST without the last one).

  7. Avatar Galap says:

    Have you seen Heat Guy J? Yet another Kazuki Akane series. It was from 02-03 I think. If you’re as much of an Akane fan as I am, you should definitely see it. While it wasn’t his best work, it’s still very very good and very interesting to see his progression. I think the whole thing is on youtube. You should definitely see it if you haven’t.

  8. Avatar Commenter says:

    This show was a little gem that was very unpolished. I liked the whole dystopia where people are predetermined to be good at their job, the whole 40 years age cap and the idea that everyone was very replaceable.

    This show didn’t push in your face the sappy romance that could have been, but focused more on the actual story with the (very strange) aliens. It had great background moments like the short scene with the earth government. However for every little good thing there was also something very bad in the show. The abundance of pointless characters(though given the setting, it’s totally reasonable) that were never given the attention they needed. The hammy scenes that would pop up, the unrealistic military repercussions of pulling a gun on your commander…

    All in all I like this show and its host of characters, especially the real standouts like the adjudant and (proto-kamina) Mario. It was worth watching even with all its faults.

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