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MD Geist Anime DVD Review

8 min read
No matter how many times I try to get this to work for me, it fails.

No matter how many times I try to get this to work for me, it fails.

What They Say
Classified as too unstable, the genetically engineered soldier, Geist-02, was imprisoned aboard an orbital satellite. When the men that created him unleash a doomsday device that will destroy all life, Geist-02 must return to save the world that tried to destroy him!

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with the original dub, both of which are encoded at 192kbps. The show is certainly showing its age with the audio as it’s a very basic stereo mix with little in terms of real directionality or placement during it, but it conveys the full feeling well and the design works with what the original intent was. It’s not a strong show when it comes to the audio but it’s serviceable enough and it plays out with what’s happening on screen without any issue. It doesn’t suffer from any bad highs or lows and is essentially problem free during regular playback.

Video:
Originally released in 1996, the transfer for these two OVAs are presented in their original full frame aspect ratio. The first OVA is a fair bit older but had the new pieces mixed in so they could give it a directors cut but most of it doesn’t look all that different. Both features have a rough film like feeling that we had from OVAs of this time period and that leaves the show looking fairly grainy at times, but never distractingly so. In fact, it’s one of those shows that benefits from it as it gives it a dirty feeling that fits with the nature of the story. Colors are intentionally muted throughout with very strong earth tones, but when there is the occasional bit of vibrancy, it comes across pretty well. This is one of those shows that just will never look great but the presentation here is solid overall as it uses the same materials that CPM had for its 2002 release.

Packaging:
There are no surprises when it comes to the cover art here as it uses what we’ve seen countless times before. The main image is a really good illustration of Geist up close in the armor suit so all you see is one eye and what comes across as a very mean expression from it. With the flaming skull in the background and a lot of dark areas to the whole thing, it’s a very solid piece that lets you know exactly what kind of show you’re getting into. It may not be my cup of tea, but it’s an almost iconic cover at this point. The back cover is pretty good as well as the central section of it is given over to some stylish pieces of violent imagery that are even clearer about what you can expect. They have a good nod towards the two features idea and the summary is surprisingly lengthy in going over the plot. The bottom is filled out with the usual material with the production credits, both for CPM and ADV Films, and a simple but very clean technical grid that’s easy to read. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:

The menus for MD Geist are very simple but they’re so perfect for the show. The background image is very dark with lots of blacks and grays as it has the ruins of a city crumbling away with all the buildings. On top of that, you have Geist to the right which adds a bit more color that heightens the death behind him. The navigation is along the left which allows for top level feature selection and submenus for the extras/credits and language selection. There’s not much on this disc so navigation is a breeze and there’s never any chapter selection menus from ADV Films. Language selection was spot on as it read our players’ language presets as well.

Extras:
None, which is a real travesty for fans considering how expansive the previous CPM edition was with extras.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
It’s been ten years since I last saw this show and much like back then I wasn’t looking forward to seeing it again. As I work through cleaning out my library a bit there are a lot of older titles I’m pulling and taking a look at, somewhat out of nostalgia. For one reason or another, I’ve never had any affection for this property, even if it was one of the early ones that had a sequel made because it did so well over here. ADV Films had rescued the title back in 2009 for obvious reasons after Central Park Media had essentially dissolved, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. In fact, it’s one of those shows that upon viewing it again, I realize that age hasn’t softened my opinion on it at all. If anything, I dislike it even more now. But I’ll admit I wouldn’t mind seeing a modern day remake 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 all these 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. In his commentary in the previous edition 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 shown 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.

In Summary:
It’s no surprise that ADV Films grabbed this title for release since it has such a history to it and is an evergreen title, albeit one that’s not quite as green producing as it used to be. It’s a title old time fans remember for better or worse and one that defined what Central Park Media was for years. This edition brings us the show in a decent enough format for a good price, but the lack of all the extras that made the special collector’s edition so fantastic is a severe loss. And honestly, I’d hunt up the CPM CE edition first for the commentary tracks alone. I still despise this show, even though I understand it more now, and I doubt those feelings will ever change. Watching it once every seven or eight years is the best I can tolerate I think. That said, I’d still love to see it get a Blu-ray release so that those that are fans can get it in the best possible way. Here’s hoping.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles

Content Grade: D-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A

Released By: ADV Films
Release Date: July 28th, 2009
MSRP: $14.98
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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