Tuesday, 7 June 2011

M.D. Geist II

The M.D. Geist Overview article, which launched this site, was effectively a work-in-progress as it was one of the first things written here, I didn’t really entirely imagine how things for this would run. While I think it’s still a valid article, I felt some things in it could have been evaluated upon, such as the actual core OVAs; I have already written about the 1986 original, so I think it’s time go in depth about the sequel that technically shouldn’t exist, Death Force. As we all know, the original title was achingly characteristic of the 80s OVA scene, from Geist’s mullet to the amazing soundtrack, it was cheesy, a bit poorly made but fun with a few genuine hints of awesomeness, and was well-liked when shown to the right people. As a massive M.D. Geist fan though, I will say the title’s status as a genuinely good classic was forcibly raised and held high for many years, which is what earned it so much animosity from others. CPM head John O’Donnel’s love for the title got him a Redux of the anime, in which it went from being laughable and awesome due to age, to being halfway between something you could take seriously and something you could laugh at (if you were watching the dubbed version, then all chance you had of taking it seriously was gone from the outset). This director’s cut did away with the gloriously exaggerated 80s sound effects that were like an additional layer of the OVA’s incredible soundtrack and replaced them with more hard-hitting realistic ones, beneficial no doubt, and made the story just a bit more cohesive. Personally, all I would have wanted was the 1986 version without the animation errors.

If a sequel for M.D. Geist did not come out in the 80s, what chance did it have of coming out in the 90s? A sequel to an OVA that ends with a man effectively dooming all living things on the planet he’s on sounds haphazard at best, it’s something you can’t really do. Regardless, ten years on, a sequel was produced to John O’Donnel’s undoubted happiness with a perfectly concocted plot that could be tied easily to the original; the only thing was the massive gap between both OVAs, in which many things had changed since then. M.D. Geist’s strength was in the fact it was a ludicrous 80s title, and none of those elements really carry over; there’s no mullets, no Mad Max-inspired biker gangs, and no lambently good guitar work. What is in Death Force, is an attempt to create something serious, that is restricted by budgetary constraints, a limited runtime woefully typical of OVAs, as well as perhaps even a shaky history, and to lengthen this list out, one of the worst dubbing jobs ever.

Death Force is not so much about Geist this time, who is living in his own world wiping up the same Death Force robots he released on the soil of Jerra, as it is about Krauser, another super soldier of the same category as Geist. Instead of being a mindless killer, he has a god complex, and is shown ferrying survivors to his mobile fortress while giving faux-religious speeches of the “steel demons” outside. Like any religious fanatic, he’s a bit ignorant about certain things, for him it’s Geist, who he refuses to believe is out of his satellite prison, and trouble stirs when Geist gets involved. Krauser and Geist’s creator, Dr. Breston, is essentially Dr. Frankenstein, with his two creations being the polar opposites of each other and their existence ultimately lead to his and their own destructions. Other characters include Eagle, a cyborg created by Breston who functions as his Igor, Vaiya is also around, but doesn’t do much of anything, other than suffer from a repressed fear of Geist and share a small romance with Krauser (in one scene she’s naked while he’s shown buttoning up his uniform).

There is a scope to this sequel that is never touched upon, so the plot never really makes any advances, even the original at least went forward and onward, this one just seems to sit around until something happens. There is a great chance for Krauser to give his people the god delusion, but it only really happens in the background, we never see into his regime or the propaganda he could feed the people of a world that is ready to give up. Such a decision would have given Geist more purpose in this, rather than have him be an aimless villain, as if he takes on someone who is controlling his subjects and dividing them between believers and non-believers, then he would have technically been something of a hero come the end of the feature (after all the blood spatter). At worst, expository dialogue appears at every turn and Geist’s signature armour (the one thing that really connects this to the original) seemingly comes out of nowhere at the end, but I guess Eagle built it in preparation for him. The ending is also a confusing mess, in which I can only guess it’s meant to be Krauser faltering between reality and his own delusions about whether he’s winning or not.    

Adding to this OVA’s serious approach is its soundtrack, which is a major departure from the outrageously cheesy (yet fantastic) soundtrack of the original, and has gone for something a bit less contemporary and a bit more evocative. It’s an excellent soundtrack and fits the OVA well, but falls on its face just a bit because of the title’s sloppy execution. Animation often takes a backseat to money-saving still shots and pans that really hurt the overall production, it doesn’t entirely make the thing feel static, but it does make it feel very slow and stiff. It’s far from being the worst animated product to come out of Japan (especially for standard domestic anime) and it’s saved just about by the pleasing artwork; commendable background details abound, along with decent character designs and excellent mechanical designs (as to be expected of Ohata). Visually, it’s a hell of a lot better than the first Power DoLLS OVA, but could really do with looking like the sequel. Besides, it could be a lot worse...

For all its faults, the OVA is watchable when watched in Japanese, solely because the English dub is painfully unbearable; terrible voice actors read from a disjointedly translated script that makes for an awkward listening experience, it’s not even funny to hear as well, everything about the dub brings the title’s average state down to an even bigger level of mediocrity. At best, there’s a decent amount of creative gore to be had, with squishy parts getting chopped up beneath machinery, but that’s all really. Death Force tends to have even less fans than the original M.D. Geist and is a good reason why the character as a whole is so loathed, but if you’re like me, you just have to enjoy the fact the naysayers of Geist got a second helping upon the world. For something that was never really supposed to get a sequel, the concept is good enough to work; it’s just that it’s held down by other problems. There’s plenty of other average-ranking anime I’d watch this over, people who will enjoy this know who they are.

Just make sure to watch it subtitled.
  • Animation: 2.5/5
  • Music: 4/5
  • Infamy: 5/5  
-James, 19 March 2010 (original date)

Review source: US DVD
Screenshot source: US DVD

Title information
  • Production company: Zero-G Room
  • Year of release: 1996
Alternative titles:
  • 装鬼兵MDガイスト2 デスフォース, "Sokihei M.D. Gaisuto 2 desufousu" <Soldier-garbed demon/Demon in soldier's skin: M.D. Geist 2 Death Force> (Japan)

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