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Genocyber (1994) Blu-ray Review

Genocyber is mostly remembered for its gruesome scenes of extreme violence. Those who wrote it off as a sleazy and low budget anime that was cashing in on the budding popularity in the west, were only half right. This is a low budget OVA, but it does have a stroke of creativity in it and care put into the characters… Well, at least for the first three episodes.

This was based off of the unfinished manga by Tony Takezaki. His style and penchant for otherworldly and nightmarish looking mechanical designs can be seen in the underrated OVAs; A.D. Police and in Bubblegum Crash. He may not be prolific today, but his influence was instrumental in the big anime boom in the west during the 90s.

For a long time, Genocyber has been relegated to haggard VHS and low quality DVDs. Leave it to Discotek to try to save it and put the entire OVA collection on Blu-ray. Sadly, Genocyber may be forever doomed to always looking like a bootleg.

Genocyber (1994) Blu-ray
Studio: Artmik
Publisher: Discotek Media
Director: Koichi Ohata
Release Date: January 26, 2021

Genocyber

Genocyber is about the creation of a terrible weapon that is activated by the fusion of two psychic sisters and how their emotional wrath leads to utter annihilation. This is a very bleak series where people suffer some really gnarly and grisly wipeouts. Everyone has a bad time, and the audience experience is an emotional kick in the junk.

The first episode runs about 45 minutes and is easily the best that Genocyber has to offer in terms of character, pacing and overall direction. Elaine is a borderline mute autistic female who is a gifted telepath. She befriends a scruffy boy who is usually picked on by bullies. She protects him and he treats her like an equal; a sweet yet tragic relationship.

Diane is Elaine’s physically crippled sister; her Yin to her Yang. Diane is aggressive, prone to bloodlust; and with her cybernetic body she is both a physical and psychic threat. The scientists who are also Diane’s handlers really need to reunite her with Elaine before a competing group known as the Kuryu acquire her for their own weapon’s project.

Genocyber

The first episode climaxes with the complete devastation of Hong Kong, and the two sisters becoming Genocyber. Here is where Tony Takezaki’s prowess as a mechanical designer is on full display as some of the enemy cyborg designs are the stuff of nightmares.

The action happens very fast, but the visuals stick with you after it is over. It helps that there is some legitimate emotional weight that has been building up. It can be heartbreaking to watch Elaine’s simplistic mind coping with the death of her friend as she becomes a horrible monster who’s beastial wrath is invoked one everyone else.

Genocyber’s design is striking; resembling a very masculine looking armored demon. It barely looks like a machine, and could be mistaken for an alien thanks to its green coloration and organic looking parts. Even the wings look insect-like and suggest a beezelbub motif.

Genocyber

The director worked around the small budget by coming up with creative solutions to suggest more detail than their restrictions would allow. There is extensive use of photography used for some scenes, detailed pencil renderings, and even some physical models sculpted for shots of the Vajra unit and Genocyber itself.

The effect is used carefully and artistically where it would make sense. The pay off for these cheeky cost-cutting technique is that the animation quality gets a boost in key scenes. The final battles towards the end specifically have very fluid animation and the gore gets extra attention.

This method is exclusively done in the first episode, and the only time it is done again is when later episodes recycle footage of the first. If the later episodes of Genocyber were as economical as the first, then maybe it might have been more fondly remembered. After episode one, it goes downhill.

Genocyber

Episode two and three are a two-parter, and picks up after an indeterminable amount of time after the first. Elaine is the more dominant of the two sisters, and has complete control over Genocyber. With Diane effectively absorbed by Elaine, she is able to transform into the murder machine whenever she wants; and can revert into a human-sized cybernetic form that resembles her old self, barring the robot body.

At some point after blowing up Hong Kong, Elaine goes galavanting in Karain. Not much is shown of this outside of a violent flashback where some kids she is playing with get blown to pieces. Traumatized by this event, she gets rescued by a helicopter and gets taken to a battleship where she happens to make contact with the Kuryu knock-off Genocyber.

On the battleship, the story develops a female officer named Myra who becomes very attached to Elaine, and names her after her dead daughter. This trauma this woman has endured is greatly exaggerated, to the point that she is depicted to be unstable and almost insane.

Their relationship become the emotional core of these two episodes; and while it is something, it just does not feel earned the way Elaine bonded with the boy in one.

Genocyber

Eventually the two-parter climaxes with some disturbing body-horror imagery. There is a lot of flesh and metal fusing together, heads getting crushed, and everyone having a bad time. This off-brand Genocyber assimilates technology, and since it is technically a living thing, it also gains boost when fusing with a piece of the real Genocyber.

The Kuryu Genocyber is a frightful threat to everyone on board. When it’s abilities are expanded, it becomes like alien in John Carpenter’s The Thing; where it mashes up everyone together like one big fleshy ball of clay. The artists do an OK job at rendering as much detail as they can considering the shoe-string budget: expect a lot of cross-fades to suggest the effect of this mush moving.

Naturally, this threat does not stand a chance against Elaine, and she wraps up the third episode with the destruction of Karain behind her. Genocyber has ended more lives and destroyed more cities than the bad guys in only three episodes. Naturally, Elaine has proven to be the strongest female character for little girls to look up to.

Genocyber

Genocyber should have ended its run after episode three. While there was plenty of room to explore the concept- to further flesh out Elaine and have her try to connect with humanity; all she has done is lash out. Who could blame her though? It seems like everywhere she goes, tragedy follows. It does not help that she is so utterly fragile.

Sadly, the final two episodes are also a two-parter and are barely connected to anything. Back when Genocyber released on VHS, episodes four and five did not even get released in the UK. After seeing how it all concludes, maybe they got lucky.

When episode four begins, it seems promising at first. Genocyber is already fighting what seems to be all of humanity in a gigantic war. Huge war machines light the sky a blaze and it is like everyone is trying to throw everything they got to stop Elaine from ever destroying another city again. This is understandable since Genocyber has proven to be an unpredictable and dangerous threat to the world.

Genocyber

The problems with episode four begin after Genocyber is defeated. The setting goes about 400 years into the future where the entire story has to basically restart itself and establish everything. New protagonists are introduced: a blind woman and her knife throwing performer boyfriend.

These characters are boring and everyone in these episodes are extremely poorly acted. Somehow, the last two episodes changed hands and got a different team to manage the production, and the results are embarrassing. Nobody can read a line to save their lives, and all of this is compounded by the story wasting so much time to reintroduce everything due to the new setting.

Eventually Genocyber shows up as a fossil and the blind lady is able to communicate with Diane via telepathy. In this new world, Genocyber’s remains are worshipped by a cult who are rejected from living in the city proper. The cultists see Genocyber as god’s messenger, and predict that it will punish everyone.

Genocyber

The plot for these final two episodes are admittedly hard to follow. The story rushes a lot, and has a lot of characters to flesh out before they get killed. There is also no explanation why Diane’s personality has changed from being a murderous psycho to a reserved and calm woman who suddenly feels bad about all the death.

Eventually Genocyber does awaken, and has a new form which varies in size in some shots. The stupidest part about this is that it has new unexplained abilities that are pulled out from nowhere; specifically the ability to bring back dead people from nothing, and for them to be dressed exactly as they were.

The first three episodes are not exactly high art, but there was an internal logic behind them. Everything was grounded and there were rules. This finale ends in the most absurd and insulting way imaginable and is also the antithesis to what the first episodes were building up to.

Genocyber

Everything in episodes four and five is a mistake. The ending also tries to establish a definitive end to Genocyber’s reign of terror, but after the ridiculous events that transpire, it seems like any moronic idea can be used as an excuse to get Elaine and Diane back inside the Vajra to return to killing everyone. The ending leaves a poor taste in the mouth after such a strong start.

Genocyber‘s reputation as a violent OVA from the 90s is grossly exaggerated. It does have its share of brutality, but it is no where near the spectacle of something like Angel Cop. All the violence depicted serves a purpose for the most part. Usually it is supposed to emphasize on the trauma felt by onlookers, or to illustrate the power of Genocyber.

Genocyber should have been a movie that focused on the plot of the first episode. Instead of spreading the budget thin across five episodes for over two hours, this could have been a very tight and exciting 90 minute anime with a lot of action and cyber-violence.

Genocyber

Genocyber Blu-ray from Discotek can barely be called a Blu-ray. This is one of their “standard def on Blu-ray” releases, which only makes sense for really long running shows that can fit dozens of episodes on a single Blu-ray disc. The problem with this is Genocyber is only 156 minutes.

The resolution is really rough, and looks like its based on an old DVD transfer of 480i. Image quality often looks slightly hazy, and there has been no clean up at all. Some minor distortion appears on the far left side of the picture, and there appears to be some ghosting on some scenes where there is a lot of movement.

The audio quality is basic and works fine for TV speakers. This is LPCM 2.0 for both language audio tracks, so don’t bother with any extravagant sound system. This is as bare bones as it gets.

Genocyber

It is a shame that Genocyber will always look awful. The first episode is incredible, and in a better world, maybe just the first episode would’ve been remastered and cleaned up. Discotek didn’t do any favors for Genocyber by dumping the old DVD version on a Blu-ray disc, since the DVD is still easily acquired cheaply.

Easily the best aspect of this release is the amazing cover art and the reversible cover. Tony Takezaki’s illustration of Genocyber is really imposing and makes an impression. It looks really threatening and promises a violently fun time and it emerges from a hellish fire.

Genocyber has heart where it counts. It is too bad most misremember it as a gratuitous exploitation anime, because the first episode has a very imaginative premise and well-directed character scenes. Episodes two and three have their moments, but don’t take the time to build the characters effectively. Don’t even bother watching past episode three unless you wan’t to shake your head in shame and embarrassment.

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The Verdict: 5

The Good

  • Awesome mechanical designs and nightmarish body horror
  • Elaine is a very unconventional hero that is sympathetic and capable of terrible violence
  • Mixed media approach to animation that mixes models and photography for scene elements
  • Believable depictions of trauma
  • Excellently paced story for the first episode that climaxes in fearsome devastation

The Bad

  • Standard definition Blu-ray is a waste
  • Episodes 4 and 5 are sloppily directed and are an incoherent embarrassment to the first three
  • The English voice acting in episodes 4 and 5 take a drastic drop in quality
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A youth destined for damnation.