Last week I caught the third in the Project Itoh ‘trilogy’ of cinematic efforts – Genocidal. I came away largely pleased with what I saw – feeling it was by far the strongest of the three movies – although I got the distinct impression many others in the audience found it overly cerebral – there were definitely a couple of walkouts halfway through, and the cinema was only half full to begin with.
And as I settled in with the film, soaking up its atmosphere – which if anything, is less anime, and more sleek Hollywood-esque Bourne thriller, I started to ponder why I liked what it was doing so much. And then, roughly halfway through, it struck me – it was so much like Manglobe’s other property (and in my opinion, their best effort) Ergo Proxy.
Now, these days, Ergo Proxy has something of a notorious reputation as being a real ‘marmite’ series amongst those fans that do remember it (it doesn’t get mentioned nearly as much as other Manglobe effort Samurai Champloo). For those that do remember Ergo Proxy though – fans typically fall into two camps – those that despise it as overly pretentious and inconsistent in its animation quality, and those that adore its aesthetic and theoretical approach to hard sci-fi. Suffice to say, I fall into the latter camp.
In summing up what I feel Manglobe’s aestheticism with Genocidal Organ and Ergo Proxy represents to me, I think it comes down to this kind of high-minded Greco-Roman velour – all statuesque and posey; cheaply animated in places, sure – but always *interestingly* animated. Framing and fluidity is prioritised over the kind of KyoAni / Ufotable digital processing visual gloss fans seem to work themselves into a frenzy over these days. In this way, Genocidal Organ very much seems to belong to an older school of anime – the kind of slick techno-thriller you could imagine Manga UK putting out in their mid 90s heyday. All fuzzy VHS grain and yellow subtitles included.
It’s the kind of film where you can call your main character ‘John Paul’ and get away with it – where you can deal with bombings in real world locales, and throw up pseudo-science as if it’s actually real-life lore, selling its principles so strongly, you start to take notes on what to search up on after the film to see if it really is real…
In its laconic swagger and brute-yet-effete masculinity, Genocidal Organ is the man who smokes a cigarette while reading a volume of French philosophy, before downing a whiskey and shooting down a building full of terrorists. It’s mid 90s James Bond – still all relic of Cold War peril. It’s a beating heart of quantum computing, constantly, furtively twisting into something else – demanding you keep pace with both its ideas and its action.
This is my kind of sci-fi. Philip K. Dick lite for the anime generation – a cerebral pill of dissolved braininess. And in this aesthetic and mindset, it just makes me long for more – stuff operating on this cinematic level (or at the very least, doing what the likes of Psycho Pass did in its sheer quality of world-building). Bigger, better visions of dark futures through which we might explore our own present…