M.D. Geist

For various reasons, M.D. Geist is consistently the worst reviewed anime ever. It was one of the first releases of US Manga Corps back in the '90s, and it reinforced the ideas that set back anime for nearly 10 years in North America--the thought that the whole of Japanese animation was about graphic violence, heaving bosoms, and heroes you couldn't tell apart from the villains. USMC further stretched the impression by making the main character from the program their "spokesmecha" that shows up before the start of each one of their programs in badly rendered CGI. The company even used its own money to help produce a sequel to the already-reviled program that nevertheless garnered a large following. So the million dollar question: is it that bad or not? Although it is uninspired, it is not nearly as bad as many of my cohorts have said. That doesn't excuse its faults, but it is not the train wreck some have claimed.

Geist is one of the legendary MDS, or Most Dangerous Soldiers. Humans started inhabiting other planets, and many of the colonies wanted their own self-rule (in a nod to Mobile Suit Gundam). The MDS were created by forces loyal to Earth in an attempt to stop the Nexrum, the next generation born on other worlds who wanted to leave the Federation government behind. However, the MDS program proved too dangerous, and the few in existence were either eliminated or exiled. M.D. Geist was placed in stasis and sent around the planet Jerra in an orbiting satellite.

Eventually, though, the craft careens back from the heavens, and Geist survives. After slaughtering a gang leader and taking his post, Geist uses the crew's connections to try and get back to the military. And it's just in time, as the Earth forces are faced with their greatest task: stopping the Death Force program from launching. Death Force was created to be a final retaliation against the Nexrum if they were to win the war, unleashing thousands of killer robots on the globe. But is M.D. Geist glad to be back fighting alongside his comrades, or are there greater motives in mind?

Most of what you've heard about M.D. Geist is true. The animation is ragged in many places, and it's frustrating because it almost looks good in spots. But then again, there are a few shots that look as poor as anything I've ever seen in a professional production. In a couple of places, it's clear that they didn't animate a zoom, instead pulling in closer and closer on one cel, and these get blurry. It's amazingly bad. There's also the fact that the Director's Cut adds some animation that clearly wasn't a part of the original; it looks too good in comparison. Even the character designs, which are uniformly miserable, change within the animation itself.

The other points that make this a title of serious derision lie around its characterizations and its violent tendencies. We do not care about any of the characters, least of all Geist, who makes the famously amoral Golgo 13 look like Robin Williams. The deaths are interchangeable because we have no one to like. Meanwhile, there is some serious gore going on here. Though it's not as bad as some bloody titles, heads explode with regularity and body parts fly much like in a particularly gruesome episode of Fist of the North Star. Combine that with some unnecessary nudity and violence for the sake of violence, and you could have a truly awful film.

However, it is not horrid by any stretch. If you can get past the tattered animation, the story is there, and though it's derivative, it's not boring. The action sequences, which are why this title got any recognition in the first place, aren't bad. You're not really concerned with who wins, but the fights are OK. The surprise ending works. And though many have expressed their dislike for the soundtrack, it's actually quite good for the show's pedigree out of 1986.

The pieces of a better OVA are strewn across the landscape of M.D. Geist, but the one we're given isn't by far the worst anime of all time. I can think of quite a few that have annoyed me far more and have been far less watchable. Is it bad? Yes, but bad in that it's ugly and low-budget, not because there isn't a bit of entertainment value to be had. It's low class B grade material, but I'd watch it again before Odin, Gundress, Guy, or many other bottom feeders.

M.D. Geist -- graphic violence, brief nudity -- C