Film review: Genocidal Organ – dark, futuristic sci-fi thriller reconsiders the legitimacy of war and the pain of others
Shuko Murase’s gory animated adaptation of highly respected 2006 novel features a long and winding plot full of surprises that often leaves the viewers as morally conflicted as the protagonist
Adapted from a 2006 novel by Japanese author Project Itoh (real name Satoshi Ito) and directed by veteran animator Shuko Murase, Genocidal Organ is a dystopian sci-fi animation that will leave its audience stunned, not least with its number of spot-on predictions about the future.
The original novel by Itoh, who died of cancer aged 34 in 2009, is celebrated in Japan as the best work of sci-fi fiction to come out of that decade.
The story is set in 2022, six years after a nuclear bomb wipes out the city of Sarajevo. In the aftermath, citizens in developed countries, spooked by the terrorist attack, decided to trade their privacy and freedom for security and peace. They now live under constant surveillance: people have microchip implants inserted in their bodies and even buying a pizza requires a fingerprint scan.
While these citizens continue to live in luxury, less wealthy nations such as Somalia and Georgia have become living hells embroiled in civil wars. The US, however, has identified the person responsible for instigating these wars – an American named John Paul (voiced by Takahiro Sakurai), who on the surface acted as the cultural information minister for these countries and helped with their public relations.
Captain Clavis Shepherd (Yuichi Nakamura), who leads a team of assassins in the US military specialising in killing military or political leaders responsible for conducting genocides, is given a special task: going undercover to get close to John Paul’s former mistress, Lucia (Sanae Kobayashi).
The team has been “emotionally optimised”, calibrated by the military so they do not feel anything, not even pain. This makes them the perfect weapon – or is it as simple as that?
Though the film could be better animated – the movements of the characters sometimes look a bit unnatural – its thought-provoking story more than makes up for it. The long and winding plot is full of surprises and often leaves the viewers as morally conflicted as the protagonist.
Genocidal Organ raises a multitude of questions about war and humanity, from the problematic practice of privatising warfare and hiring military contractors to the legitimacy of the war on terror and, most of all, how our hearts have grown cold and hard towards the suffering of others. It paints a dark and bleak future, and features more than a few gory scenes, but the film also serves as a cogent reminder that it is perhaps all our own doing.
Genocidal Organ opens on May 4
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