geno3Image Copyright: ©Project Itoh / GENOCIDAL ORGAN

What happens when you take a spy thriller and cross it with a philosophical exploration of language, consumerist culture, and the nature of genocide? Genocidal Organ.

Genocidal Organ is the final of three films to adapt the works of Japan’s legendary sci-fi author Project Itoh. It is a film that has had more than its fair share of time in development hell, but I was able to see the film’s sneak preview showing in Tokyo earlier today.

geno1Image Copyright: ©Project Itoh / GENOCIDAL ORGAN

The film is set in the early 2020s in a world where terrorists detonated a nuclear device in Sarajevo in 2015. In response to this attack, Western governments rapidly transformed into surveillance states in the name of terrorism prevention. But as this was happening, a phenomenon began occurring time and again in developing countries across the world. One by one, they erupted into violent, genocidal civil wars. And at the center of each genocide was one man: the enigmatic American Jean Paul.

The framework of Genocidal Organ is that of spy thrillers a la the Mission Impossible or Bourne Identity films. It has all the things you’d expect: the proficient (yet ignorant of the bigger picture) hero; the criminal mastermind who is always one step ahead; the femme fatale who could be on either side; and those inside the hero’s own government using the situation for their own advantage.

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Specifically, it follows US special ops soldier Clavis Shepherd. Through a combination of drugs and psychotherapy, he and the members of his unit are able to carry out the blackest of dark ops, never questioning any order–and without feeling any guilt after the fact.

Shepherd and his unit hunt Jean Paul while the man spreads chaos across the globe. Sometimes this means the team dons their high tech battle gear and kills anyone in their way. Other times, it involves going undercover in an attempt to sniff out Jean Paul’s personal connections–namely the beautiful linguist Lucia.

Lucia met a young Jean Paul in college and pursued a romance with him in the years leading up to the Sarajevo terrorist attack. However, in the years since, their connection remains unclear. And while she claims to have no contact with the “King of Genocide,” Shepherd wriggles his way into her life to discover the truth.

Opposing our hero and femme fatale, we have the mysterious Jean Paul, who seems to be able to cause genocides in any country he visits. How and why he does this is the film’s main mystery–as well as the device used to explore the film’s numerous philosophical concepts.

At the center of these, as you may guess from the film’s title, is an exploration of genocide–i.e., why it happens and what purpose it serves for humanity. Mainly, the conversation devolves into evolutionary biology, explaining that certain behaviors evolved in humanity in order for us to survive. One of these behaviors, the film posits, is genocide–exterminating those different from us in order to guarantee the survival of ourselves and those like us in a supply-scarce world. And while we like to believe we are “civilized” and have moved past the ability to commit such acts, the seed of genocide still exists within every human mind.

Language is likewise explored in a similar philosophical light. Through Lucia and Jean Paul we learn about how it came to be, how it affects our way of viewing the world and, of course, its role in genocide.

geno4Image Copyright: ©Project Itoh / GENOCIDAL ORGAN

The final main theme of the film is one centered around consumerist culture and the sad and simple fact that “out of sight” really is “out of mind.” If you are confronted by horrors daily, you are affected by them directly. Thus, they are important to you personally. However, in a world where all the comforts of humanity are but a single click away, it’s hard to care about a genocide on the other side of the world. Actually, it’s worse than that. It’s hard to notice such genocides are even going on. In your day-to-day life, the idea that such a thing even exists is nearly unbelievable.

One member of Shepherd’s squad claims that real hell isn’t the afterlife nor is it the countries in mid-genocide they visit. Rather, it’s the memories of what they’ve done. And make no mistake, the visual presented on the screen definitely falls into the category of ultraviolent. You’ll see more than a few people’s’ heads exploded–including children’s–over the course of the film.

But while you may be shocked by the violence you see, Shepherd and his companions are not. In a world where the soldiers’ minds are altered before and after battle, even seeing the greatest horrors imaginable isn’t enough to make a person care. Even “in sight” becomes “out of mind.” It is a horrible thought, but one that seems just this side of plausible for the future–a common theme of many cautionary tales in great speculative fiction.

geno-hImage Copyright: ©Project Itoh / GENOCIDAL ORGAN

In the end, Genocidal Organ uses its paint-by-numbers spy thriller framework to support a deep philosophical vision of the future. It explores everything from genocide and terrorism to consumerist culture and the nature of guilt. If all you’re looking for is some brutal violence and futuristic action, you’ll find it here. But where Genocidal Organ really shines is in the thoughts it invokes in the viewer through the cautionary tale it presents.

Genocidal Organ will be released in Japanese theaters on February 3, 2017. It has been licensed for North American release by FUNimation.

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