To boldly go where no anime has gone before!
For a basic understanding of the series, please see Judge Pinsky's review of volume one.
This isn't the first time I've jumped into the middle of an anime series to attempt a cogent critique. In most cases, first impressions are remarkably accurate; they reasonably conform to a more enlightened view (after seeing more of the anime in question). But it is always true that missing the foundation of a series leaves gaps in understanding. Thus, I did not fully understand Geneshaft: Orbit, which is volume two of a four volume series. The characters had already been established, as well as the conflicts and premise of the show. I jumped right into an escalation of conflict, action, and tension. I did, however, discern these facts, from which I draw my conclusion:
1) The animation is pretty good. The closest relative in terms of style is Full Metal Panic, a series that I consider one of the premiere current efforts. The animation here is not as good, but it is good enough to dazzle on occasion. Like most recent anime efforts, this one has crisp blacks, evenly saturated color, and few artifacts. The trickiest modern challenge is integrating 3D objects and special CGI effects with 2D renderings, and Geneshaft: Orbit does both effectively. The characters were stylistically similar yet distinctive.
2) Geneshaft heavily references Star Trek: The Next Generation. The uniforms, computer panels, ship design, bridge, conversational style, paramilitary exploration vibe, and plot points were all blatantly evocative of The Next Generation. This was good in a way because I immediately absorbed who fit into what role. It was bad in a way because…well, it was Star Trek. Don't get me wrong, I love Star Trek, but I expect strange new frontiers when I watch anime. Give me doe-eyed maidens with spiky blue hair and death rays emanating from their fingertips, not the bridge of the starship Enterprise.
3) The plot is relatively complex. There were several threads occurring simultaneously. It was a good sign that I couldn't grasp what was going on. In my review of Virus: Virus Buster Serge, Volume 3, for example, I stepped in during the final act and immediately grasped who was going to betray whom and which supposedly dead character would emerge to seal the victory. Geneshaft: Orbit afforded no such leisure. Thus, I deduce that the plot is convoluted enough to be interesting.
Taking the evidence into consideration, I'm willing to call Geneshaft a worthwhile, if slightly derivative, series that is a step above less-sophisticated efforts. That doesn't necessarily mean I recommend this DVD. The sound is an average 2.0 mix, solid but not spectacular. The best thing going for the soundtrack is the heavy metal theme, which gives the series a kick in the pants and pumps up the energy level. I was definitely jamming, but if you don't like heavy metal you're not going to be compensated with sonic surround mayhem. The extras are slight as well. The only one of note was the Geneshaft Glossary, which explained some of the more subtle references in the dialogue.
My real issue is value. This 13 episode series is being released in four volumes at a price of roughly $27 apiece. If you do the math, that's basically three episodes per volume. BZZZTTT!!! Sorry, folks, that is not good value in my book. If they had distributed Geneshaft in a three volume set with five, four, and four episodes I'd be much more forthcoming with a recommendation, because the series itself is solid.
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