Reviewby Carlo Santos, Dec 15th 2004
Geisters - Fractions of The Earth
At the end of the 21st century, a meteorite collision plunged Earth into apocalypse, and the remnants of humanity went in two different directions to survive. The aristocratic Dobias headed into space, while the earthy Shioru went underground. Centuries later, they returned to Earth's surface and are now fighting for control of the planet—that is, when they're not busy fending off a new species of predators known simply as Creatures. Amidst this conflict, an elite team of five soldiers known as Geisters protects humanity from the Creatures and from each other. Although part of the Dobias, the Geisters have recently accepted a soldier of Shioru descent onto the team, and her take-charge personality leaves the other members unsure about her loyalty and usefulness to the group. With Dobias and Shioru tensions heating up on the political floor, Creatures running rampant, and a dangerous new weapon being developed in secret, the Geisters must maintain peace among themselves and the rest of society.
Geisters is a show of inexplicable contrasts. The 2-D animation work is respectable, but the CGI looks terribly out of place; the characters elicit our sympathies but are mired in a flat political and military drama; the subtitle script says one thing while the dubbed dialogue takes all the liberties it can. Overshadowing these concerns is the big question: does anime really need another sci-fi action series?
If DVD sales and Adult Swim ratings are anything to go by, then yes; sci-fi action is still a lucrative part of the anime market. But whether Geisters contributes anything to that already saturated field is questionable. The team of five heroes is a concept that just keeps coming back, and you don't even need to keep track of their names—the Geisters consist of the Leader, the Hothead, the Girl, the Comic Relief, and the Rebel. Added to the cliché mix are the usual political machinations—scientifically advanced nobles at odds with primitive but proud natives, while someone in the government plots a conspiracy. Believe it or not, the political parties and factions in the world of Geisters are even more simple-minded than the cartoon characters that populate contemporary American politics. Meanwhile, in each episode, the Geisters are obliged to go into action at least once, but these fights are always prefaced or followed by arguments that keep viewers up-to-date with the latest political and character drama (the early episodes also contain plenty of flashbacks about the team).
So is there anything redeeming about this generic post-apocalyptic shootout? Surprisingly, you might find yourself rooting for the main characters, cookie cutter as they are. With five episodes on the disc, there's enough room to develop a story that brings out their motivations. For example, we learn that Dean Honos (the Leader) is an upstanding young man coping with overwhelming responsibility. The Hothead, Alcion Fama, gets his fighting spirit from his childhood on the streets after his parents died. But what really makes the characters appealing is their familiarity. The classic five-team formula may be a shortcut for feeble minds, but it makes the heroes of Geisters feel like old friends from similar shows. Given the paint-by-numbers plotline and the overused setting, the characters certainly are the "last, best hope" for the story elements of this series.
The artwork is maddeningly inconsistent in Geisters: for every scene that's vibrantly colored and neatly drawn, there's one that looks like it was copied from Christopher Hart's amateurish "Manga Mania" books. The CGI is even more unspeakable. Frame Entertainment, the Korean studio that created the 3-D monsters and vehicles, makes no effort to blend them in with the Japanese animators' 2-D work. The result is that the Geisters always look like they're shooting at something that walked in from another series rather than a Creature from their own world. "Oh no! We must fire at that terrible piece of computer animation!" you can almost hear them say. Overall, however, the visuals in Geisters aren't awful: the character designs—despite being generic and dry—fit the tone of an action series, and the animation lies on the favorable side of the line between choppy and smooth. But every time the Creatures show up in their cheaply-CGIed glory... it's definitely safer to avert one's eyes.
This being Anime Crash's debut release, the distributor had to settle for acquiring a third-rate series, but their handling of the product could have been a lot better. Sure, the DVD didn't work the first time I tried to play it, and the ending of Episode 5 uses the opening music by mistake, but that's nothing compared to the wildly deviant dub script. Faithfulness to the Japanese translation is low on Anime Crash's list of priorities, as running the English audio with the subtitles reveals. The intent of the dialogue is still there, but many of the lines in the English dub are misplaced, poorly timed, or just plain wrong. The only real effort to match the subtitles comes when mouth-flapping is clearly visible; even then, the spoken lines tend to miss the syllable count or end up being the dialogue from one line ago or one line later. The dub script must have irritated the voice actors too, as they end up doing quite a few adlibs and lame attempts at gags.
Composer Kenji Kawai of Ghost in the Shell movie fame provides the music for Geisters, and while he does his best to score the scenes effectively, it's a half-hearted effort. Given limited musical resources, the best that Kawai can do is produce 90's-style video game music for the action scenes and pseudo-pop tracks for incidental music during conversations. Although not ear-splitting, the music only lends to the faux-futuristic cheese that already permeates so much of this show.
So, does anime really need another sci-fi action series? If it's going to be something like Geisters, then probably not. The characters may have interesting lives and back-stories, but it's not worth the clichéd plot and technical mediocrity that one has to endure in this show. Perhaps the most important thing we learn from Geisters is that in the future, only teenagers will be able to save the world, and the deadliest thing they'll have to save us from is really bad CGI.
Overall (dub) : D
Overall (sub) : C-
Story : D
Animation : C-
Art : C
Music : C
+ A familiar (if formulaic) team of heroes, each with their own individual struggles.
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