Nearly ten years ago, I received a screener copy of the first episode of Genocyber when a small underground music fanzine asked me to do a review for them. Happy to get the chance to watch something for free, seeing as I don't get screeners even now, I jumped at the opportunity. Said underground fanzine died perhaps an issue or so after I wrote my review. The same cannot quite be said of Genocyber, which lasted another four episodes before closing down shop. To give it credit, the first episode is a beautifully tantalizing mess of bizarre post-Akira psionic powers and ultraviolence. The show appears to be heading in the right direction when it comes to an abrupt halt.
Genocyber is a project developed by a mad genius (is there any other kind?) whose hopes to create an ultimate power source go wildly astray. His scheme involves two girls--Elaine, a feral child with enormous physical prowess but virtually no cognizant thought, and Diana, a weak but brilliant girl with humongous psychic talent. When brought together, the two can form Genocyber, a weapon of gargantuan proportion. Problem is, the two hate each other.
As the show begins, Elaine has escaped into the world and finds a child who befriends her. Though she can't even speak, she is able to relate to him and forms a bond. However, the kid is bullied by a few street freaks upset that he won't run drugs for them, and they wind up trying to assault them both in a troubling sequence. But Elaine won't stand for it, and limbs start flying as her psychic powers are unleashed. But that's not even the start of all the carnage to come. As psychotic bionic bounty hunters are sent to track down Elaine, Diana attempts to gain access into Elaine's thoughts. The two of them will wind up taking on their first mission as Genocyber when the hunters come calling.
Genocyber is easily an attempt to cash in on the enormous success of Akira back in 1988. The plotline is very different, but the concepts are exactly the same. Genocyber was also directed by Koichi Ohta, a man reviled as a hack after helming the universally despised MD Geist. So why is the show not an immense flop? At least within the first episode, we are given an interesting groundwork both in terms of story and animation.
Many art fans will rile at me for giving the artwork in Genocyber any credit at all. Granted, the cel work in Genocyber is inconsistent and occasionally just plain bad, but it tries a variety of different techniques to pull in the audience. Little bits of live-action and early computer animation are thrown in to give the viewer the sense of dread and disorientation felt by the characters in the show. It's not groundbreaking, but it is effective. Meanwhile, the plot is labyrinthine, but it still compels the viewer at a primal level. We want to know more about the characters and this wacked world they inhabit. One hopes for a good sequel to sort things out.
Genocyber still has plenty of faults that mire it in mediocrity. As I mentioned, sometimes the artwork is just awful. There's also the level of violence within this piece that has to be addressed. Simply put, this is one of the goriest, most disquieting films I've seen. When people wind up ripping out their own organs due to psychic attacks, it's just too much. Many reviewers have viciously attacked the thing for its violence, which I don't believe is completely appropriate, but it most definitely is an issue. Finally, there's the problem of character development and interaction. There're no real characters here to like. We get backgrounds on the history, but not motivations. We get images, but not emotion. And the show ends at a frustrating place; though that's no longer a concern when all five parts are available on DVD, it was when I saw it.
What's sad about the Genocyber legacy is that the first episode, seen alone, shows some real promise. However, as reviewers across the web can attest, the show goes further downhill, reveling not in revealing character-driven stories, but in more disgusting gross-outs and young children in peril. When I read the pointedly negative reviews of this show, I quickly learned it was due to the material becoming more and more unbearable as it went. It's sad that it became a wasteland of a show.
If I were Ebert or Roeper, my thumb would be firmly pointing sideways on this one. I think the first episode of Genocyber is still worth watching to see what might have been, as long as you can leave the rest of the show on the shelf.
Genocyber: Birth of Genocyber (part 1) -- GRAPHIC and disturbing violence, brief nudity, strong language -- B-