M.D. Geist Anime Review
Soukihei MD Gaisuto
Demon-garbed Soldier MD Geist
US Release By
45 minutes (Director's Cut: 50 minutes)
1986-05-21 (Director's Cut: 1996-03-01)
In the distant future, war between the Earth government and the Nexrom followed humanity to the distant worlds it colonized. On an isolated planet called Jerra, this battle was so brutal the Earth government created the "M.D."--Most Dangerous--soldiers, bio-engineered to be perfect fighting machines. But one of them--Geist--was too dangerous and bloodthirsty even for those who created him. M.D. Geist was imprisoned in stasis on a satellite while the war on Jerra ravaged the surface below.
When the satellite crashes and brings Geist back to the desolate planet, he hooks up with a gang of ruffians headed by Vaiya. Then they run into some remnants of the regular army, and Geist is enlisted into a desperate mission: Stop the Death Force, a final doomsday device, from being activated.
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M.D. Geist (Director's Cut or not) is a cheesy '80s action flick, and not even a very good one. It has an abysmal plot, weak, entirely unsympathetic characters, ugly visuals, and is generally uninteresting to boot. The relative bright points are a moderate amount of decent post-apocalyptic gory action and some relatively cool Mad Max-esque mechanical design. If only it took itself a little less seriously, it might have been fun in a gleefully violent Fist of the North Star sort of way... but no. At least the inconclusive ending isn't, if you include the sequel.
Unless you're very into old-school post-apocalyptic gore, it's not worth the time.
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From its relative popularity when USM first released it you'd think that there was something special about M.D. Geist, but so far as I can tell, it's bad anime, plain and simple. There's nothing more to it than a gory '80s anime action flick with characters that are uninteresting and completely unsympathetic (it usually helps if you at least care who wins), a story next to nonexistent, and it doesn't even look very good.
The Director's cut, produced about a decade later, adds about five minutes at the beginning and end (mostly the end) to help tie the movie in better with the sequel, but it doesn't improve the situation noticeably.
Given the story, about the best you could hope for M.D. Geist to be is an action flick about a super soldier who has known nothing but battle and is desperate for a cause. If only it were even that good. In the whole video, there are all of three lines of dialogue that even resemble character development, one third of which don't make much sense. The rest of the "story" is no better--there are gaping holes everywhere. (Examples: Why'd they stick Geist on a satellite instead of just killing him? What's even up with the Death Force?)
Now, bad anime can be good if you look at it right. In this case, the flimsy story might have worked if M.D. Geist were one of those gleefully violent action flicks that revels in its own gore. Sadly, it takes itself too seriously to succeed even on that level.
To be fair, there are a couple of things that aren't bad. For one, Geist is a little different than the usual cold, grim anti-hero. Instead of just walking around looking too cool for words and never saying much (though he does all that too), he occasionally gets this sort of odd, out-of-place smile or sadistically pleased look that gives him some character. The mechanical design also isn't bad: Cool-looking big, chunky war machines and a few of those Mad Max motorcycles and dune buggies that everyone seems to like. And of course there's Geist's armor, which was cool enough to be adopted as US Manga Corp's "spokesmecha."
There are a few other flashes of visual cool, but, other than the mechanical design, nothing to write home about. The plentiful action looks good by the standards of low-budget older anime, but that's it. The rest of the animation is weak, the character animation is crude, and the art is rough and messy. The end is particularly bad--it's hard to distinguish the robots from the backgrounds. The '80s-style character designs are seriously ugly, which makes the characters that much harder to sympathize with.
Neither the Japanese version nor the English dub has any voices of note, and neither is particularly good. I didn't think much of the English casting for Geist, though--his voice is too deep. Acting aside, the writing in the dub is bad--the dialogue has a high cheese factor, and a lot of it is so poorly written that it doesn't even make sense (note that as an ongoing theme). The music is uninteresting, except for a decent classic J-rock end theme.
In all, M.D. Geist (Director's Cut or not) is a cheesy '80s action flick, and not even a very good one. It has an abysmal plot, weak characters, ugly visuals, and is generally uninteresting to boot. The action, at least, isn't bad, but unless you're very into post-apocalyptic gore, it's not worth the time. If you do watch it, note that the sequel continues (and concludes) the plot.
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The plot is continued in M.D. Geist II, though that's more of a '90s action flick than an '80s one.
Notes and Trivia
The director's cut version (the shorter version isn't even available anymore, in the US or elsewhere) was created about a decade after the original, with funding (and co-production) by Central Park Media itself. It's sold in Japan as the "Perfect Collection."
The full Japanese title, "Soukihei MD Geist" uses the made-up word "Soukihei," which means something roughly along the lines of "Soldier Disguised as a Demon." Not having seen any notes on this, I'm not sure if this is a reference to how frightening the M.D. soldiers are supposed to be, or to their flashy armor.
Geist, as mentioned above, was the late US Manga Corp's "Spokesmecha" since the company's inception. That's a particularly awkward title given that it's just armor, not actually mecha at all.
interestingly, M.D. Geist qualifies as an early example of subtitled anime on US TV; the cable network Bravo showed the subtitled version once in a while around the turn of the millennium, along with Grave of the Fireflies (why is another question).
US DVD Review
The "Collector's Series" DVD includes both the directors cut of M.D. Geist and it's sequel, Death Force, plus a bonus disc of extras. In addition to hybrid stereo audio and of course an English subtitle track, the set claims a heap of special features. Among them: An "alternate angle graphic novel," commentary tracks, interviews, storyboards, galleries, trailers, conceptual art of all sorts, and more.
Violent and gory, definitely qualifies as 16-up.
Violence: 4 - Plenty of gory violence.
Nudity: 2 - One scene.
Sex/Mature Themes: 1 - One failed attempt.
Language: 1 - Not much.
Staff & Cast
English Dub Cast
MD Geist: Jason Beck
Vaiya: Joan Baker
Colonel Krutes: Dave Couch
Marsh: Kip Kaplan
With: Barry Papick, Michael Goldwasser, Gordon Miller, Michael Pascuzzi
Producers: Masato Takami (Nippon Columbia), Masao Nakamura (Zero G-Room)
Director: Koichi Ohata
Original Story/Mechanical Design: Koichi Ohata
Script: Riku Sanjyo
Character Design: Tsuneo Ninomiya
Music: Yohichi Takahashi
Opening Theme: "Hijoh no Soldier" (Soldier of No Mercy)
Ending Theme: "Honoo no Violence" (Violence of the Flame)
Lyrics: Machiko Ryu
Composition: Masayuki Kishi
Arrangement: Seichi Kyoda
Performed by: Hironubo Kageyama
Production: Zero G-Room
Formerly available in North America from US Manga Corps prior to their bankruptcy, combined with the sequel on a hybrid DVD Collector's Edition. The same disc was re-released after a while at a budget price of about $10, and also available in a cheap box set along with Genocyber, Cybernetics Guardian, and soundtracks of both this and Genocyber. Was previously available on subtitled and dubbed VHS, and going even farther back the original pre-director's cut version was also available on subtitled and dubbed VHS, and subtitled LaserDisc.
Though out of print, the DVD is so far still relatively easy to find, for example used from Amazon: M.D. Geist 1 and 2 (Collector's Edition)