The Vault of Error: Geobreeders
Attack of the shape-shifting phantom cats!
By Paul Thomas Chapman
Be the first of your friends to like this.
Like an abandoned kitten in a cardboard box, the DVD sat unopened for thirteen years on various retail shelves until it was finally relegated to the five-dollar rack in a little booth at the Oldsmar Flea Market. And then I saw it standing there, neglected and forgotten, I snapped it up, knowing that it was my duty to rescue this lost kitten known as Geobreeders, that I must watch it and shout its merits to the indifferent Internet, if any merits were to be found…
Does Geobreeders have merits? Is this unsung OVA series, based on a manga by Akihiro Itou and directed by Yuji Moriyama (Project A-ko, Agent Aika) and watched by precisely no one, worthy of a spot in the Vault of Error?
Well, it does have a scene where a swarm of naughty kitties hijack a tank.
This is an odd little anime, and not just because it assumes you have knowledge of the manga; that was standard practice during the Golden Age of the OVA, when one-shot anime projects like Geobreeders were a dime a dozen. No, what sets this project apart from the numerous animated offerings that somehow made it to the American DVD market is the bizarreness of its premise: in the fictional Japanese city of Ayagane, a strange breed of electromagnetic life-forms are running amok. The bakeneko (translated as “phantom cats” in English) are shape-shifting beings of pure energy capable of telepathically manipulating electronic systems; in their normal shape, they looks like ordinary house-cats, although they can also assume a human disguise or a cat/human hybrid form. Tasked with quelling the phantom cat incursions is an arm of the Japanese Ministry of Health and Public Safety known as “Hound”.
But when the government’s efforts prove inadequate, private enterprise in the shape of the Kagura Total Security corporation—a company composed of five destructive young ladies and one beleaguered salaryman—crashes onto the scene. This small group of specialists brings their elite skills into play, using a combination of mystic talismans and laptop computers to trap phantom cats inside CD-ROM discs. When mysterious forces kidnap Maya, Kagura’s bakeneko mascot, the Kagura crew becomes embroiled in a conflict involving phantom cats, Hound, the US Military, and a purloined Russian nuclear weapon. What results is akin to a cross-pollination of Ghostbusters with The Dirty Pair as the reckless women of Kagura Total Security and their long-suffering errand boy attempt to “get back the kitty”.
I have to hand it to Yuji Moriyama; the guy knows what he likes, and he knows how to direct it. And what Moriyama likes are guns, girls, fan service, and gratuitous mayhem. Casual nudity, nods to other anime shows such as Neon Genesis Evangelion and All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku, and wanton collateral damage abound in Geobreeders. There’s chaos with cargo containers, buildings blowing up, and painstakingly detailed military hardware smashing through the streets of Ayagane city. The majority of the havoc is the result of either the phantom cats—villains too adorable in their true form to be threatening—or by the ladies of Kagura Total Security, who are defined by their skill set. One is an elite hacker, one is a martial artist, one calls all the shots, one drives all the vehicles, and one is a self-styled gun expert who dresses and talks like a 1920s gangster. It’s straightforward and colorful and surprisingly fun. The silly ending theme alone, “Dynamite Mambo”, was worth the five-dollar entry fee. Still, Geobreeders is the anime equivalent of cotton candy: sweet, but insubstantial.
It boggles my mind that not only was this show released in America on VHS and DVD by Central Park Media (which gave up its ninth life in 2009), but that CPM also licensed a set of sequel OVAs called Geobreeders Breakthrough. I didn’t even know the sequel series existed, and considering the usurious prices that even used copies of these DVDs are commanding on the Amazon marketplace, I doubt I will have the opportunity to see Breakthrough any time soon. And in a way, that’s unfortunate: Geobreeders is light entertainment, full of action set pieces and one-note characters, but watching it left me genuinely amused and entertained. There are far worse ways to spend ninety minutes, and although that may sound like damning with faint praise, it’s impossible for me to hate a show in which the “enhanced interrogation techniques” applied to a captive cat-girl in kitten form involve threatening to give her a bath.
Distributor: Central Park Media
Originally released: 1998
Running Time: 90 minutes