In the 23rd century, humans are at their evolutionary pinnacle, having survived a near total annihilation in their 21st century. However, our existence is being threatened again by the appearance of ring-like structure called (surprise, surprise) Ring that appeared in space, that has strange and powerful technology. A crew is assembled aboard a new and powerful warship, Bilkis, equipped with an equally strange mecha called Shaft. The objective of Bilkis and Shaft: destruction of the Rings.
This anime is not for the faint-hearted. If any of you ever experience cardiac arrest when your computer crashes, stay away from Geneshaft. That said, welcome to the Brave New World, where the government and DNA control everything. The government dictates how many babies are to be born and what types of babies are needed. You 'apply' to have a baby and babies are custom-made. DNA will determine their future and their status.
The Shaft is like a huge hunk of sinister metal that hides a dangerous destructive capability. However, any attempt to make the Shaft strike a beautiful victorious pose a la Gundam is hindered by the computer system that chooses to hang up at the most crucial moment. Such a situation can only be remedied by reinstallation of the software and rebooting the system. Sounds familiar?
And this is the message that Geneshaft brings across. The human race may have intelligent and inverted supercomputers, but computers are still vulnerable to crashes and virus attacks and we have become too dependent on them.
Those looking for Gundam-like action will be sorely disappointed. Yes, Geneshaft has mecha, but this anime is about humanity. We see the all-too-real possibility of living in the Brave New World: to be governed by DNA, to be custom made to fit the future allocated jobs. Where the human lifespan is about forty years (shocking, compared to our current seventy years) because the body is no longer useful after forty. Where the government keeps a set of the individual's DNA is case the person needs to be replaced. Where everyone wears a collar that stores his or her data. I'm not kidding!
A rich cast further complements Gene Shaft. The main character is Seido Mika who has a 'white' genotype that never manifests its specialty. In the world of Gene Shaft, everybody starts out as 'white' but later will show a color that demonstrates an enhancement in certain skills and capabilities, and ultimately determines the 'quality' of the individual. Mika has never shown any color, and remains 'white', so she's considered to be somewhat of a freak. But we all know she's the one with the most hidden potential simply because she's unpredictable. And that is the very essence of what it means to be human. We survive because of our versatility, our ability to quickly adapt to a fast pace environment through behavioral change. Specialized humans would be our doom.
Captain Asagiri Hiroto is the leader of Bilkis whose gene gives him excellent judging capability. But we are to learn that with such good genes comes the price of heavy responsibilities. Like the Alphas in Brave New World, they are born and bred solely to lead.
But the most interesting twist in the setting of Geneshaft is the female and male proportion. Females outnumber males by 9:1 and all males are assigned a female Register, whose job is to monitor them since males are considered violent and dangerous. What I wouldn't give to be a male in such a society, especially if all Registers have blue hair and sound like Sakamoto Maaya! >_~
Which brings me to the next character, Beatrice Ratio, Asagiri's Register. The Registers are emotionless and tireless since emotion is considered to be bad influence on their ability to make judgments. The Registers demonstrate the grimness that is Geneshaft, since they die when they have outlived their purpose.
There are also assorted characters like Sergei Sneak who, as the main antagonist, have a deeper motive (don't they all?) and Mir Lotus, the female with the best DNA. Special mention must be given to the three unnamed ladies working under a crazed computer genius. They are stuck to their monitors 24-7 working to free the system from viruses without a single break.
The usual mode of conversation goes like this:
"We are very tired. Please give us a break!"
"WHAT YOU GUYS DOING?! DON'T SLACK! KEEP WORKING! MUAHAHAHAHA!!!"
As for the technical details, what can you expect but the best from the team that gave Cowboy Bebop and the studio that animated Earth Girl Arjuna? Frame rates are decent and animation is fluid with a lot of details given to characters and machines alike. CG is blended in very nicely. People looking for eye candy can be assured that there is a lot of it. Spacecraft have a highly sophisticated and futuristic look and deep space really looks vast and endless. The Rings and the Shaft are especially impressive.
Overall, a very good watch. Just don't do a marathon and don't go in expecting lots of mecha fighting. Gene Shaft takes patience to appreciate, in both the storyline and the beautiful visuals. It is an intelligent anime that examines humanity.
Drop one if you hate mecha. Males might want to add one star. — Diane Tiu
Recommended Audience: Teens and up. You'd need to understand concepts like test-tube babies and genetic manipulation. Realistic violence. People who are shot bleed to death.
Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub; R2 DVD
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Geneshaft © 2001 Satelight / Bandai Visual / Dentsu
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