GeneShaft Series Review
by Polly


Those bastards in the 21st century done went and fucked everything up for the poor saps living in the future... Again. Yep, this is another one of those stories where humanity has gone and fucked itself all to hell (read: probably the aftermath of the Bush administration) and the only way to correct it is a re-imagining of how the world should work. We've done gone and broken the world, and it's up to a totalitarian governing-type system to tell us how we should be born, live, poop, and fart.

"So, HOW are we gonna fix humanity this time," you ask? Well, if the title of the show is any indication (and it should be) we're turning to the old tried and true method of genetic engineering to right the wrongs of the past.

Do you like genetic engineering? The people of the 23rd century do. Or at least, the requisite group of all-knowing old farts that run the world while undergoing life-extending treatments seem to really enjoy it. In this brave new world, sex and love are a thing of the past. All human beings begin their life cycles as test tube babies and are engineered with Skills to make them useful to society. These sets of skills are what make up an individual's "gene type" or "gene color" - two terms that this series is more than happy to beat you over the fucking head with throughout its 13 episode run.

It's simple: Everyone is born as a White gene type and by age fifteen should have developed into a different color, which will represent their Skills and role in society. While all this gene type gobbledygook gets thrown around a lot, it's never really used in a shounen-esque bullshitty fashion like say, Claymore's offensive/defensive-type nonsense. In a way, it's a tad confusing and feels almost tacked on since we're constantly hearing about gene colors and types, but we never really know what any of the shit means or what any of the colors/types do other than WHITE = INFERIOR. We'll hear that one a lot.

Another aspect of our future world is that the male to female ratio is 1:9. This is done to suppress the dominant and aggressive behaviours exhibited by men that probably led us to this shit in the first place. Awesome right? Well why? This is a world where nobody's lovin', and nobody's fuckin', so what do big titties and great asses mean in the end? All the women in the show are nicely endowed and wear almost embarrassingly tight body suits that hug each and every curve, pretty much revealing all the naughty bits without being naked, but since nobody in the 23rd century can seem to pop a woody or need a change of panties, it all seems rather pointless. So, while our future got about 400% more sexy, it got about 800% more boring in the process.

I know the point has been brought up in other reviews of the show as well, (come on, who the fuck out there is looking up reviews of GeneShaft anyway, right?) but the whole concept of male and female is also pointless, because one would think a perfect society wouldn't need a gender, anyway. So, before I steal from another review without realizing it (this paragraph was three sentences longer...BLEH!), let's move on...

The world of GeneShaft is actually kinda odd. It gets points because the writers have gone entirely out of their way to detail every little nuance of it. A good amount of time can be wasted reading up on various aspects of the world in the GeneShaft Glossary and Bilkis Program files in the DVDs' Extras menus. It's actually pretty familiar if you've played Xenosaga Episode I or III and toiled away in the Database section for hours like I have. The problem with all the world detail is that it all kinda falls on its ass after a while, because you begin to see how hackneyed almost everything about the show is when compared to other Sci-Fi works.

So, I guess since humanity has been at peace for 200 years, it's probably about time for someone to come and fuck our shit up royal, right? I mean, 200 is a nice round number, and other beings/aliens/whatever seem to just love fucking with us after a nice round number of years of peace.

The enemy in question is one that we let just hang out for five years before we decided to do anything about it. A giant golden halo that sits between the Earth and the Moon unleashes holy hell after we send a team of astronauts to check it out, putting a significant dent in Earth's surface and taking many lives with it. After the attack, Earth retaliates by dispatching the Bilkis, a supery-dooper space ship equipped with a specialized crew and a new experimental mecha known as "Shaft," to determine the origins of the ring that attacked the planet.

The Bilkis crew consists of all the types of characters you'd expect to find in a space adventure anime. You've got your spunky but flawed main character, the cold and robotic captain, the perfectly engineered blonde titty queen, bratty mcbratbrat, etc. You know them all, you've seen them all before. That's not to say that none of them are interesting or fun, but there's very little development aside from introductions in terms of how all of their roles play out.

Mika Seido is the show's lead. She's loud, loyal, and very passionate about everything she involves herself with. Unfortunately for her, even though she's sixteen, her gene type never changed from White. She bears constant mocking and down-talking because of this. I mean a LOOOOOT. In the first four episodes, it's hard to find a scene that she's in where she isn't being berated and made fun of because of her genes. This leads to a bit of an inferiority complex, but in time everyone realizes that being a White may actually represent her unlimited potential as she ends up being the Shaft's most capable driver. I guess we could say Mika's a White Supremacist... Actually, ya know what? Let's not call her that...

Along with dealing with her inferiority complex, Mika also has a big fat fuckin' bone to pick with the assigned Captain of the Bilkis, Hiroto Amagiwa. Prior to the events of the main story, a friend of Mika's named Ryoko lost her life in a stranded space vessel that was rapidly running out of oxygen with Hiroto. Believing that Hiroto killed Ryoko in order to save his own life, Mika spends most of the show vowing to take revenge on him. We're given details on exactly what happened thanks to a recording of what transpired inside of the vessel, however Mika is unable to come to terms with the truth until later in the series.

For some reason, I kept thinking that if Mika had popped her tits out just once, I may have given the show an extra half-sock. I really don't know why.

Sofia, Mika's best friend and mother-type figure, is always there with her, yammering on and on about this and that. She's the tough but caring type, but like a majority of the supporing cast, she has almost no story to tell. Her primary function is to act solely as a can of words that's opened anytime Mika's around and has nobody else in the scene to talk to. They tried to give her some meaning later in the show by revealing that she wanted to be a mother (you can have the government grow a kid for you, apparently) and in a way she likely considered Mika her daughter. A touching sentiment, perhaps, but it's so hard to care about her until that moment comes and then it just happens too fast and too late.

Mir Lotus is believed to be humanity's perfect creation. She's the blonde titty queen I mentioned earlier and is SUPPOSEDLY capable of excelling at anything she takes part in. She takes great pride in rubbing it in everyone's, ESPECIALLY Mika's, face. Though she's CONSTANTLY bragging about her superior skills, she RARELY ever does fuck anything of note to prove these skills in the show. 3/4 of the time, she can be found running off at the mouth about others' lack of skill and in the latter half of the series whining and fawning incessantly over her beloved Sergei. More on him in a sec. She even gets one of those OH SO DRAMATIC "I CUT MY HAIR SHORT SO I SHOULD BE TAKEN TOTALLY SERIOUSLY NOW GUYS!" scenes, but even in her biggest moment of ACTUALLY FIGHTING IN THE SHAFT (a Gold one!), she fails to demonstrate any kind of exceptional skill whatsoever and gets trounced by Mika and the power of friendship. Whoopie.

Lord Sergei the 4th Sneak is... the most obviously named villain EVER. It might actually be the dumbest name ever too. You'll realize about 7 seconds into his initial time on screen that he's probably the one pulling all the strings and deceiving everybody and he really doesn't do much to hide it. He apparently has perfect DNA, but as a result of being the fourth in a series of clones with the other 3 (believed to be his brothers) disposed of, he's gone a tad loopy and has decided to provoke a fatal attack from an omniscient alien weapon to wipe out humanity so that it can start over and evolve normally as nature intended.

Mario and Tiki Musicanova are a rare breed in this new day and age of genetic manipulation and engineering. They're actually classified as brother and sister due to a bug in the system involving some genetic mumbo jumbo I don't remember. Mario serves as the Bilkis' backup Captain, a role which he'll get to adopt halfway into the series once Amagiwa's brain begins literally melting. He's a warm and caring individual and is always talking about "love," which is very foreign to everyone in this day and age. He even manages to land a special place in the heart of the ship's Register, Beatrice, who begins the series as a cold and almost robotic girl focused only on her job. Touching? Hardly. You see it coming from 18,000,000 miles away and it's so incredibly forced and unbelievable that you can't do anything but facepalm when you see Beatrice begin to show emotion.

Why does Mario care so much about love, anyway? Nice way to write yourselves into a corner, guys. Using genetic engineering and a world without love as your base, but letting this guy parttle on and on about love until the end? Did you just kinda forget one of the main details of your own damn story?

Tiki is the opposite of Mario. She's loud, obnoxious, and gets bored really easy. Exactly what the hell she's even doing on this mission is completely up in the air. She plays backup Shaft driver a couple of times, but other than that she's just there to bouce off Mika's firey personality. The show also needed a dark-skinned, flat-chested loli.

Dolce, the ship's resident programming genius (and second requisite loli, this one of the "cute" variety), is one of the more standout supporting cast members. Despite a shortage of screentime and no character development whatsoever, she provides a good bit of entertainment. She rarely speaks, however she has a puppet that's her polar opposite. She's loud, never shuts up, is VERY conceited and crude, and won't let anyone stop programming until the Shaft's program is perfected. Her poor assistants in the lab aren't even allowed to sleep, leading to many humorous interludes in which they actually welcome death in order to get some shut-eye.

Everybody else? Well, they're just kinda there to fulfill their roles.

One really nice touch is that all of the Bilkis' navigation and programming crew actually have unique designs, and personalities. They're mostly outlined in the DVD Extras, but they're still commonly referred to on a first name basis by the Captain and other Bilkis crew, and it's just kinda rare you get even that much detail on what can essentially be viewed as throwaway characters.

Visually, GeneShaft is one hell of a mixed bag. The show uses a good bit of CGI and in 2001, CGI wasn't quite as heavily used as it is today. When you get a look at some of what's used in this show, you'll see why. It ranges from hardly noticeable (good), to HOLY FUCK THAT IS SOME AWFUL CGI (bad). All of the space ship and mecha work is done with CGI and they all look quite awful, especially the show's namesake, the Shaft. This may very well be the ugliest mecha design ever. I understand the technology at the time and budget may not have allowed for a lot, or that the designers wanted to try something different, but the fact of the matter is the thing is just fuckugly. It has a very... vague humanoid form to it and at times it's really hard to tell what the hell you're even looking at. It's really not even easy to tell how the hell the thing works.

Actual animation is pretty all over the place. There's not a lot of fluidity to be seen here, but the show's actually a lot more talky talky than boom boom blow shit up, so you don't have to expect a lot of the budget to be blown here. The inside of the Bilkis, where most of the show takes place, is pretty dark, so colors are fairly muted a lot of the time. There's also some kind of weird fog that creeps up a lot of the time over characters blending them into the background in an odd way. Artistic direction? I dunno, it just looks weird to me. The character designs are also kinda weird. For some reason, I have no problem seeing any of the characters in the opposite gender... hmmm... hey, maybe that's intentional! Everyone seems masculine enough to be a dude or little boy, but feminine enough to be a chick, though somewhat manly. It's a really weird balance.

Since this is sort of a giant robot show, you can expect a good bit of re-used animation for pilot entry and communication from the cockpit. If only it didn't so heavily feature that awful CGI, I may not have minded much.

GeneShaft's score is actually quite a surprise. All the tunes are metal and techno pieces composed by Akira Takasaki of the famous Japanese metal band, Loudness. The crazy guitar riffs and solos work strangely well for the show and seem to always set the mood. It's a great soundtrack to check out sometime if you like a little rockin' in your Japanese Cartoons.

So, what's the good and bad of this show then? Well, other than the rockin' soundtrack and occasionally likeable characters, it's mostly bad.

A big problem with GeneShaft is it wants you to think it's way deeper than it actually is. There's a lot of talk about genetics and DNA, but it all ultimately ends up in preaching to the audience that CLONING = BAD and GUYS STOP FUCKING UP THE EARTH! Though we get this lesson early on (maybe 10 minutes into the first episode), they just can't quit hammering it over our heads.

Another big problem with the show is that it simply throws way too damn much technical jargon at the viewer. I mean, I don't think I've heard as many blocks of character dialogue I didn't understand even in a Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex episode. Characters are constantly spouting off so many technical terms that each DVD contains an extra menu with an in-depth glossary of terms used in each episode and what it all means. It's almost like trying to piece together Rapture's history in Bioshock using the audio logs. Sure, that works well for a videogame, but I really shouldn't have to go and read THAT many damn notes after I've finished watching a DVD in order to "get it."

GeneShaft also suffers from quite a few pacing problems and, to put it bluntly, a whole fuck load of wasted time. One can't help but feel this may have made a better 4-6 episode OVA than a whole 13 episode series. It just doesn't seem to have any direction most of the time, like they were just making shit up as they were going. In episode 12, when the weapon that threatens to destroy humanity is revealed to have been sitting right there in front of the Bilkis crew the whole fucking time, everything that happened in the show, and characters that lost their lives along the way, happened for absolutely no fucking reason other than to extend the episode count of the show. The impact you may have felt for anything these characters have undergone is cheapened in only a moment... like another show I'll be reviewing soon...

The ending? A rushed, poorly executed, and almost incomprehensible mess that sprays like diarrhea through your television screen, hitting you smack in the face. You may have to smack yourself in the face as you see the credits begin to roll at the 3 minutes remaining mark while the whole mess unfolds.

GeneShaft is far from the worst that the Sci-Fi/Mecha type genre has to offer. It CAN be entertaining for a bit, but outstays its welcome by about 8 episodes. I won't say, "Don't watch it," because it's not a complete waste of time, it's just that there's better mediocre Sci-Fi/Mecha shows out there that end up making more sense.

And can you believe I made it through this whole review without so much as one mention of girls piloting a "shaft"? I'm amazed myself.

Buy GeneShaft on DVD*
*GeneShaft is currently out of print, and can only be aquired from sites like amazon and ebay.

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