We here at Colony Drop Inc. spend a lot of our Internet Time arguing against the grain of anime fandom’s most heinous misconceptions: We’ve shown how anime blogging is a complete shit pile of incompetent dorks, examined how moé is so much formulaic crap, exposed Professional Creepster Danny Choo as the cheddar-stacking creep he is, and we’ve taken a look at how Akihabara might not be the coolest place in the world.
Today we’re going to do something entirely different and talk about how M.D. Geist really isn’t that bad.
But before we get into dispelling the belief that it is anywhere remotely close to being the worst anime ever made, we need to talk about the man who created M.D. Geist: Koichi Ohata.
Ohata got his start as a mechanical designer working on early 80s mecha TV shows like Light-Speed Electro-God Albegus and Super High Speed Galvion, the latter series completely unmemorable but for the fact there was a robot in it called the Breast Chaser. Another title he worked on during this era was Video Warrior Lezarion, a series even Steve Harrison probably doesn’t remember. The point here is that these were some seriously C-level shows. Ohata wasn’t a Shinji Aramaki and he sure as fuck wasn’t no Kunio Okawara.
But at some point shortly after working on these TV series, Ohata was allowed to create an OAV based on a design he had come up with for a mechanical power suit. The 24-year-old artist was given a surprising amount of control over the project, although the slightly more veteran Hayato Ikeda was brought in officially as director for appearances, it was Ohata that did the actual directing. The result was M.D. Geist, a sloppy, amateurish production with little concern for pacing, storyline or logic.
It’s worth noting the lunacy in M.D. Geist’s creation story since it underlines an important difference between the anime production world of the 1980s and of today. With the Bubble Era money flowing and barrier to entry lowered by OAV tapes, unproven nobodies like Ohata were (at times) given free reign to create cartoons about whatever the fuck they wanted. Most of the OAVs of this era were (admittedly) complete crap, made by unknowns who wouldn’t hit their stride until years later, if ever. Many were cartoons made without a committee vetting process, without concern for merchandising possibilities or long-term doujinshi appeal. The result was an incredibly free creative environment lavished upon relative unknowns, even if they typically squandered that freedom on shots of breasts or painstakingly detailed explosions of human heads.
M.D. Geist is, if nothing else, a poster child for an amazing, unique era in Japanese animation that not only provided a starting point for fans-turned-professionals coming off the Mobile Suit Gundam boom but also helped pave the way for the rising popularity of anime in the West. M.D. Geist is not the best OAV of the 1980s, but it may be the perfect encapsulation of the crazy production environment of that era.
Contrast this with modern anime production, where an almost scientific level of precision is used to aim a production at exactly the right niche, or in the case of titles like Macross: Frontier, to include enough characters to service as many niches as possible. The result is a lot of titles that look exactly the same, because they’re all trying to appeal to the same dwindling portion of nerds who are actually willing to purchase overpriced DVDs, Blurays and character/mecha merchandise.
To be clear, there’s no denying that M.D. Geist was aimed at an otaku market. It, and almost every other OAV of the era, had a high enough price point to keep away anybody but the most dedicated fans. But the abuse of cliches likely had more to do with inexperienced storytellers than it did an overt attempt to play to the tastes of a specific niche.
M.D. Geist raised itself from the rubble of mediocre 80s sci-fi OAVs by catching the eye of Central Park Media’s founder John O’Donnell, who brought it over to the U.S. under his U.S. Manga Corps imprint. It was one of the earliest anime releases to break into Billboard’s Top 10 video charts, showing that if nothing else, it had the potential to appeal to the teenage male demographic that dominated the Western anime market of the 1990s, much to the chagrin of the more “upscale” self-proclaimed Western otaku of the time. But mostly they were all too busy thinking Tenchi Muyo was the greatest shit ever to notice.
Taken in that teenage viewer context, there’s little with which to fault M.D. Geist. Basic tenets of storytelling and film theory are thrown out in favor of decapitations, excessive blood spurting, dudes kicking ass in power suits, plenty of explosions and even some boobs. The plot is simple enough to sum up in a single sentence: A bio-engineered super soldier escapes from his orbital prison and subsequently kills a lot of people, then he kills a bunch of robots. If there is one aspect of the OAV we could certifiably deem as “good,” it would be the mechanical designs, which serve as a reminder that Ohata is a far better illustrator than storyteller.
M.D. Geist is the regurgitated grey matter of a 24-year-old man who likely grew up with a steady diet of Japanese animation and American action and horror films, filtered through a lens of amateurish incompetence and naivety. As such, it can potentially appeal to anyone with enough self-esteem to admit that they once too loved this goofy, violent shit when they were young. On the other hand, if your head is far enough up your own anus to proclaim that Cloud is the best segment of Robot Carnival, you might agree with Anime News Network’s Justin Sevakis who wrote that it was “hard for me to fathom how someone can see MD Geist and consider it good, or even watchable.”
The inconvenient truth here is that M.D. Geist is incredibly watchable; provided you go into it with the right mentality, a couple 6-packs and (ideally) a couple of friends. It is, like every Jean-Claude Van Damme or Steven Seagal film ever made, not something you’ll want to watch by yourself unless it happens to be on TV, but can be immensely enjoyable after putting a couple back in the company of good people. It is undeniably a movie to laugh at, but at some point we’re left to wonder that if a film is objectively bad but continues to entertain people 25 years after it was produced, is it actually all that bad? At what point (and I’m paraphrasing a fellow Colony Drop writer here) should basic enjoyment, regardless of context, become the only necessary criteria with which to evaluate a film?
M.D. Geist’s position in Western anime fandom is not proportional to the actual merit of the work, as there are handfuls of similarly mediocre-yet-enjoyable OAVs of the era that could have easily occupied the same much-maligned niche it occupies. Much of this is thanks to O’Donnell, who apparently liked M.D. Geist so much he licensed Geist’s power suit design as the logo for U.S. Manga Corps and helped to finance both a Director’s Cut of the original OAV and a sequel. Once again, the OAV shines as as an example of a different, but equally bizarre era when anime was an up-and-coming commodity and English-speaking people thought it would be a good idea to fund a sequel to a direct-to-video Japanese cartoon that was at the time nearly a decade old.
Thanks to O’Donnell, M.D. Geist became a regular sight for anime fans long after they had moved on to newer titles, as every U.S. Manga Corps video began with the same terrible computer-rendered intro featuring Geist. CPM Manga released an original English-language comic based on the OAV, and O’Donnell continued to lavish attention on the original OAV with multiple DVD releases. Through O’Donnell’s persistent promotion, M.D. Geist became an anomaly: an anime franchise that continued to have a presence in the U.S. due largely to the efforts of a single individual.
Plenty of anime titles are worse, even among 80s OAVs it isn’t hard to find titles that are far, far more wretched than Geist. But aside from beer-fueled entertainment value, Geist’s charm comes from the bizarre story that unfolded both before and after production. Twenty-five years later it has remained a topic of discussion, long after its peers have faded into obscurity. At worst it’s a film you should watch once, at best it’s an interesting footnote in anime history. In any case, it isn’t really that bad.
While animating the dreadful sequel, Ohata went back and added a few new scenes for the Director’s Cut in an attempt to improve the coherency. He was largely unsuccessful, but one of the scenes left unchanged features Geist stabbing a gentleman in the face with a knife that has a grenade attached to it. If that sounds like the kind of shit that might appeal to you, then you’d probably like M.D. Geist.
Overkill always rocks, even in the absence of any other virtue. Hence Rammstein. I rest my case.
I'm going to make a shameful confession right now, and I don't think I've ever actually said this before. If I did admit this, it was years ago. But despite my predilection for classifying items and persons of interest as DANGEROUS and MOST DANGEROUS...I never actually SAW MD Geist or its sequel growing up.
Every single anime fan I'd talked to said it was the pits: Dave Merrill's recurring gag was that while nobody could agree on the worst anime ever, we could agree that MD Geist was the SECOND worst. Nobody ever stuck up for it, or even laughed at its sheer insanity. Maybe the sole holdout might have been Darius Washington, steadfastly adhering to his preference for his non-Director's Cut edition (which I've still never seen) that he owned on VHS. I can only assume that tape is Darius's second most treasured possession. (His first being his Mighty Orbots VHS tape.)
So I never actually sat down and watched even a second of MD Geist until 2006. I have no nostalgia for it, and it's probably for the best. If I had watched it back when I was a teenager in the 90s I would have hated it because that something inside of me hadn't yet died. MD Geist would've been just another name on my list of "crappiest anime ever" right alongside Fist of the North Star, most of Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, Wicked City, and all of that other stuff which is now the anime I realize are the BEST anime ever.
The progression of my thought patterns is disconcerting. If I was still alive 15 years from now, would I have experienced another shift? Would the titles I hate the most today be the things I loved then? If so, then I suppose I would have died again at some point.
(also, the best Robot Carnival segment is Star Light Angel)
"If I had seen that when I was 13, I would have thought it was the greatest movie ever made."
I felt liberated.
I now have some killer urge to wonder what is on this shirt and why I want to get one right now.
>>MD Geist would've been just another name on my list of "crappiest anime ever" right alongside Fist of the North Star, most of Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, Wicked City, and all of that other stuff which is now the anime I realize are the BEST anime ever.
May I ask if Mad Bull 34 on that list, and Angel Cop?
For me, if I had Ohada money and resources in 1986 to make an anime, Ill be honest, I would probably make something like this, if not MUCH worse. I really like the idea of someone giving me money and making something I think is the bee's knees that people are gullible to pick up and like to treasure, only to find that time shows it was garbage all along.
I get this good vibe among the anime community today that MD Geist is just the punching bag of bad anime because it just gives anime fans something to complain about instead of accepting the shows they like suck harder than ol' Geist here. But in my experience in watching anime over the years is I've seen a lot more terrible hellspawn atrocities of anime than MD Geist, so much so that I think Crystal Triangle is my preferred "worst anime ever" as of right now (and granted if I saw it in a VHS anime bin at a flea market for about a dollar or so, Id give it a good home, then puke in the parking lot for buying it a few seconds later). The funny thing is, I do believe there are worse anime out there than Crystal Triangle, that some how I will get my hands on and see it eventually.
In short, MD Geist is probably in my top 15 favorite anime of all time if I had a list that went up that high.
I seriously encourage everyone to imagine the narrator from this trailer's pronunciation every time they read the words "M.D. Geist."
The ultimate irony, however, is that in another 25 years people will still be enjoying - with friends and a couple of beers of course - a number of contemporary anime criticized on this very same website. For any number of different reasons, perhaps, but the results should be similar enough to justify the comparison.
Hopefully some of us will still be around to reflect back on this conversation whenever that time comes.
This is what most piss me off about modern anime, it's so derivative and boring. In many cases you can actually realize how bored the staff is.
I'll never understand how many otakus can call MD Geist "the worst anime ever" when nowadays we have irredemeable crap like Black Rock Shooter. Hell, MD Geist looks like The Seven Samurais compared to the new Evangelion movies.
But yeah like Daryl and Sean said, back then we were all a bunch of know-it-all teenagers who despised these insane cartoons but lauded over garbage like Tenchi Muyo and Ranma 1/2.
I'm pretty sure in 15 years we won't be into this moe garbage.
(Tale of Two Robots. Yeah yeah, I know how unoriginal I am.)
>>can be immensely enjoyable after putting a couple back in the company of good people.
These are both good observations. In fact, I remember when M.D. Geist showed at C/FO Santa Monica, there was a guy who sat up about one foot from the screen, and, completely oblivious to the other people in the room, panted "Ohhh...yeah...oh yeah..." as Vaiya tried to seduce Geist. The DMZ between this guy and the rest of the audience gradually widened during the sequence, and yet, I felt that, in a way, he was the most sincere person there that evening.
P.S. The best part of Robot Carnival were the beginning and ending sequences. It's not so much an OAV as a fan psychology test.
Ha, want the obscure-o-meter to be tripped start talking about Galatt or StarzanS. :)
Or Nora. I'm still surprised CPM never picked up Nora. Must not have had an English dub produced by Island World.
Wish StarzanS was on DVD or even VHS. Daryl would feel Darth Vero was his soul brother.
I think a tad more space should have been given to the bizarre reality that it seems the success of M.D. Geist in the U.S. was shocking enough to convince them to make another one!
In the distant future M.D. Geist will be considered the 'Chronicles of Riddick' of anime.
Ah, if only I could draw. Suddenly a parody of the show 'House' comes to mind- Geist M.D., the story of a rough and abrasive doctor...
And 'Deprive' is the best Robot Carnival segment for being condensed 80's cheese and having the single greatest 80's guitar chords ever performed in it's soundtrack.
Oh, and Star Light Angel is the best RC segment.
Ah, if only I could draw. Suddenly a parody of the show 'House' comes to mind- Geist M.D., the story of a rough and abrasive doctor...
I'm trying to think who would be the Tombs character in MD Geist if you comparing the two. Tombs was probably my favorite in that movie, and my friends and I were convinced it was the best movie ever, at the age of 17.
Since this article, I've had Geist on the brain for the past day, and I have thought up many concepts of what Geist would be as a M.D.. Surgeon is something he could specialize in, but he would have the ongoing conflict of trying to save his patients, and figuring out that using a sledge hammer to the head is not the best way to put someone out for surgery.
He would be THE MOST DANGEROUS surgeon, MOST DANGEROUS!
Was it worthy of the pedestal CPM placed it on? Probably not. John O'Donnell should be questioned at length concerning his MD Geist obsession.
Also, it's hard to watch anime with friends if you don't have any. This is why M.D. Geist has no love.
LOL amazing description
I week ago I got the Mecha Masters box set which brings M.D Geist, Genocyber and Cybernetic Guardian. I love M.D Geist but after I saw Genocyber I was left with the biggest WTF was with anime from the 90's.
Genocyber is a freaking acid trip on wheels, I hope you guys watch it and make a review like you did for M.D Geist
I reviewed Genocyber way back in 2009: http://www.colonydrop.com/index.php/2009/01/03/spring-1994-laserdisc-cartoons-genocyber?blog=1
Dave is quite correct, although in part the urge to watch whatever "anime" came your way derived from the fact it was less easy to lay hands on *any* anime, so you wanted to check out whatever you were lucky enough to find.
The very idea of a mix tape shows the mentality--even if all you had was one episode or OAV, it was still going to have to be copied onto a blank VHS tape that would cost the same to buy, take up the same room on your shelf or would cost the same to mail. So you might as well fill up its 2-hour running time with other anime, to use all its capacity. Many a fan discovered shows tacked on as "extras" that weren't the main thing they got the tape for. It was a different time, you see. Nineteen fifty-seven, fifty-eight...
I used mixed tapes a lot till I got a CD burner, and this was in the aging year of 2003. Things changed when I got an mp3 player and had a decent rig of a PC to download anime and whatever on my old Gateway PC, of like 20 gigs. Screw it, I still use my (2 count'em 2) VCR's holding up my Vizio HD tv to record Durara, Star Blazers (the anime that was the farewell to SyFy "Ani-Monday" block) and for internet streaming purposes.
2003 was the year I think I stopped using mixed cassette tapes too, which had anime themes and whatever I could rig my stereo to the AV jack in the back of my 20" I had at the time to tape audio off games and anime intros.
Now, I just need a laserdisc player to enjoy some of the anime LD I seem to have collected such as "Here is Greenwood" and "Vampire Hunter" (aka the Darkstalkers anime).
Ah, the arcane science of VHS. Knowing good tapes from bad, knowing which brands had just enough extra tape over the listed run time to get that one more episode on...
“He was Commander of Special Maneuvering Force and had the supermundane fighting ability by virtue of the specific biological ‘clonning’ technology.”
When I was in High School, I recommended MD Geist to a film buff friend of mine with whom I used to swap 1970s American Action movies, and also French New Wave films and other art house flicks. It wasn’t until I sought out and met more anime specific fans that I realized MD Geist was generally derided by those fans. It was surprising to me when I saw some anime fans list Geist as a reason why “good” anime weren’t more widely respected.
I think the Dr. Geist pun has already been done. There’s a blond, evil, robot making cyborg that goes by that name in Go Nagai’s Juushin Liger.
(And, Cloud is the best short in Robot Carnival.)
The deaths wouldn't be meaningless if Geist didn't activate the Death Force. Kurtz is there the voice of sanity: Geist in unable to live in a normal society; he only thrives in violent situations. Killing him is the only reasonable action now that he lost his usefulness.
I can see where you’re coming from, Geist is certainly unable to live in a normal society, and Kurtz originally warns his men that Geist is “far too dangerous.” However, Kurtz is talking out of both sides of his mouth. He mentions that the Noah Guards can’t use Geist; but the scenes inside the troop carrier show the audience the Colonel’s plan to use Geist to get into Brain Palace, and then use the Death Force’s Final Striker robot to destroy Geist.
“They’re all dead, again.” Ignoring his own responsibility for the men under his command, Kurtz puts the blame on Geist, saying in the Brain Palace elevator, “No. You killed them.” (In the “Director‘s Cut”, Geist directly points the finger of blame at Kurtz, as the line is given to him instead.) Col. Kurtz states that God led Geist to join up with him, a fitting insanity for a namesake of that memorable character from “Apocalypse Now.” Even though all of his men were killed by the MDS before, back when the Army put Geist in orbit; in his hubris, the Colonel leads Geist right to the Death Force, because he believes this time he’ll be able to use and dispose of Geist. Kurtz is part of the system that laid waste to Jerra, and created both the MDS and the Death Force.
I think the voice of sanity is Vaiya’s weak, ineffectual; “Geist, what are you doing?”, as the MDS activates the Death Force.
Thank you for giving me this opportunity to talk about MD Geist. I haven’t done this since back in the ‘90s, in High School!
It could be true that Krutes is of questionable moral standing (he wasn't the one who recruited Geist, though: the show implies he asked him to partake at his mens' insistence that they need skill for the mission and a morale boost; he was against it); however, this is not the main point. What's under discussion here is who made the death of the NoahGuards meaningless.
To resolve this is to answer the question of whether Geist intended to release the Death Force from the moment he had learned of their existence during the mission briefing, or was it a later decision brought upon by Krutes's intention of murdering him. If the former is true, then Geist, or even the NoahsGuards, are responsible for making their deaths futile. They should have listened to Krutes's warning...
I think the voice of sanity is Vaiya’s weak, ineffectual; “Geist, what are you doing?”, as the MDS activates the Death Force.
She definitely represents the most damaged ones by the war. And remember that boy whom Krauser impaled in the sequel. Perhaps Geist serves as a mirror of those responsible for the entire conflict.
Incidentally, Koichi Ohata is a really cool guy in person. He came over from Japan once and me and the fellas had a real blast bumming around L.A. with him. He even invited me to stay in his home should I ever visit Japan, which is fairly unusual.
As for his level of talent: I found it to be entirely adequate. Don't forget that he designed many of the mecha in Gunbuster, including the Machine Weapon RX-7 -- one of the coolest anime "robots" of all time.
Nice to hear about Ohata. He was one of the big names I can recall hearing about "back in the day" in anime fandom.
R.I.P. Toyoo Ashida.
Thanks for the kind words. Tim, John and I had a great time doing those books. Hard to believe seventeen years have passed since then.
Steve: not only do I remember LASERION and GALATT, I have the OP animation for both right here on the old hard drive, beacuse that's the way we hardcore collectors of Showa Video roll.
In that vein, check out these CM from 1964 for Mitsuwa Company and their "Pure" brand soap. It has active chemicals!
Man, I could watch that stuff all day...
I found the "Koichi Ohada Complete MD Geist" comic about maybe 2 years ago sitting in a discount comic shelf in Anderson SC. I remember looking at it and at first was gonna put it down and walk away, but then my heart (and money) went out to giving it a good home. I haven't had a chance to read all of it (including the Ground Zero part) but I did like the extras in the back regarding illustrations and a MD Geist motorcycle? It was probably the most dangerous motorcycle out there (probably on par with Priss's "Highway Star" from BGC episode 4).
I also did happen to find the individual comics for Ground Zero, only because it had the special sneak peek of the Votoms comic coming out during that time, which what I saw was the first episode of the tv series in comic form.
Well its official, if in japan, throw out Bruce name to Ohada and do a neighborhood block party kegger. I wonder if japan even does block party's, or know what one is?
>Don't forget that he designed many of the mecha in Gunbuster
Fuck yeah he did.
>>It could be true that Krutes is of questionable moral standing (he wasn't the one who recruited Geist, though: the show implies he asked him to partake at his mens' insistence that they need skill for the mission and a morale boost; he was against it); however, this is not the main point. What's under discussion here is who made the death of the NoahGuards meaningless.
>>To resolve this is to answer the question of whether Geist intended to release the Death Force from the moment he had learned of their existence during the mission briefing, or was it a later decision brought upon by Krutes's intention of murdering him. If the former is true, then Geist, or even the NoahsGuards, are responsible for making their deaths futile. They should have listened to Krutes's warning...
I think Geist was always planning to keep the war going, because fighting is what he was created to do. The Army’s Death Force was just a boon, unwisely dropped in his lap. But, as he’s an artificial construct, rather than a person, he can hardly be faulted for fulfilling his design purpose.
Of course the Noah Guards think Geist’s skills would be helpful to them, since those poor cannon-fodder saps don’t know anything at all about the MDS program, and its unfortunate built-in glitch: the need for perpetual carnage. They’re as misguided as Vaiya, in her attempted seduction of Geist. The MDS is a biologically created weapon; it’s like cuddling up to a grenade … with the pin pulled out!
>>Perhaps Geist serves as a mirror of those responsible for the entire conflict.
Others mistakenly see in Geist a reflection of their desires: the Gang Boss’ wish for a stronger follower; Vaiya’s longing for a powerful protector; the Noah Guards’ need for a skilled ally; and Kurtz’s desire for a disposable super-weapon. Though in no way a “message” flick, MD Geist does show how irresponsible it is when you create weapons beyond your ability to control--because they’re liable to come back and bite you in the a$$. It’s supremely satisfying (in an action-movie ironic-pay-back kinda way) when “Satellite Cock-up” Colonel Kurtz, the only high ranking member left of Jerra’s Military (which was responsible for both the MDS and the Death Force), gets his comeuppance; as his own Weapon of Mass Destruction, Geist, grabs the over-confident fool’s face and, in true eye-popping Ohata style, crushes it.
I saw Ohata in Los Angeles in 2005 at PMX. He was there to promote Burst Angel. However, when I brought a Cyguard cel for him to sign, he recognized the ‘89 OAV and not only signed it, but drew a sketch of Saldo on it!
In other anime I had seen before, even when no clear lines could be drawn between "good" and "bad", people would at least form bonds of friendship and abide to some moral system, no matter how twisted those were. In contrast, Geist is an asexual jerk who gets his kicks from dressing in power suit and blowing up stuff, including - but sure as hell not limited to - people. Nearly everyone else we meet is more relatable than him, from the naive whore through the battered jar head all the way to the delusional fellow MD.
(By the way, I think this is one more thing Sevakis got wrong. Geist is in no way portrayed as a role model; he's certainly not any one's idea of what "we all should aspire to". It could be argued whether Geist, as an artificial life form created for the specific purpose of being a vicious psychopath, could be held responsible for his acts, but the fact remains that, person or non-person, he is an horrible individual. But I digress.)
II's finale was particularly horrifying to me. I had grown accustomed to mankind succeeding over - or at least surviving - hardship, even on the face of widespread disaster and death; but MD Geist made no such concessions. Instead, it was implied (at least to my eyes) that with Krauser's death and his fortress' destruction, there was simply nowhere to hide, nor anyone powerful enough and willing to defend what's left of mankind from the machine hunters. Humanity would come to an end, leaving only Geist and the Death Force to fight an endless, pointless war; a real "bad end" for that particular human adventure.
Of course, today EVA is the go-to anime for a band of jerks bringing about the end of humanity, but Geist remains in my memory as the prototypical anti-escapist anime; somewhat like VOTOMS and its "humanity sucks" philosophy - only that for it "humanity sucks, will go down in flames, and whatever legacy it leaves behind will be a reflection of our worst vices".
Just to clarify, Presence is definitely the best segment of Robot Carnival for all kinds of reasons, including its sublimely 80s fashion sense. Although I admit that there isn't a bad segment in there. (Why hasn't anybody mentioned Chicken Man yet?)
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