Genocidal Organ (2017) poster

Genocidal Organ (2017)


(Gyakusatsu Kikan)

Japan. 2017.


Director/Screenplay – Shuko Murase, Based on the Novel by Project Itoh, Producer – Koji Yamamoto, Photography – Kosunuke Nakanishi & Kazuhiro Yamada, Music – Yoshihiro Ike & Ryo, Production Design – Shinji Aramaki, Noriyuki Jinguji, Masaki Yamada & Kimitoshi Yamane. Production Company – Geno Studio/Project Itoh.


In the not too distant future, Sarajevo has been struck by a nuclear weapon. Following this, genocides and territorial wars have sprouted up around the world. The Western world has responded by instituting a much greater surveillance society. Captain Clavis Shepherd is an enhanced soldier with the US Special Forces. Clavis is told about John Paul, an American who visits all of the countries just before the genocides erupt. Clavis and his colleague William are assigned to capture John Paul. Clavis goes to Prague posing as a student to learn Czech from Lucie Skroupova, who John Paul was last seen with. From her, Clavis learns about John Paul’s theory of language being a genocidal organ where the arrangement of words can be used to trigger genocidal impulses in a people.

This is an Anime film based on a 2007 novel by the Japanese science-fiction writer known as Project Itoh. This was the pseudonym of Satoshi Ito who died in 2009 at the age of 34. At the time, Itoh had only released two novels but left behind two others that were posthumously published, as well three collections of short stories and two of movie reviews collected from his website. His work received a number of awards, including the prestigious Philip K. Dick Award upon being published in English. Itoh has also proven popular in terms of film adaptations. Prior to this, there were two other adaptations of Itoh’s work with The Empire of Corpses (2015) and Harmony (2015), both also anime.

The film version is directed and adapted by Shuko Murase, who started out working on the various Gundam anime series in different capacities, graduating to director on series such as Witch Hunter Robin (2002), Ergo Proxy (2006) and Gangsta (2014-6). The film experienced problems. It was originally to be released in 2015 but ended up being shut down due to the bankruptcy of the studio. This was later bailed out and the film completed two years later.

Initially, I found Genocidal Organ a difficult watch. It has a complex plot – far more complex than the average anime. This is not helped during the first several minutes that jump between characters, time periods and international locales without giving us a clear idea of what the set-up is. Certainly, the journey through the hellish landscape of a Sarajevo in the aftermath of a nuclear detonation has a grimness that most other anime never approach.

Prague in Genocidal Organ (2017)
A beautifully recreated Prague

However, as the film progresses, it becomes more and more fascinating. It takes an unusually big grasp of international Politics, albeit placing contemporary politics into a Near Future setting. It is also questioning of the growth of the post-9/11 surveillance society and asks just how much of this we should be prepared to trade away for our freedoms. You know you are in for a whole other next level anime when it drops reference to the Whorf-Sapir Hypothesis – a theory put forward in the early 20th Century that language forms the worldview that a person holds – and delves into Noam Chomsky’s theories of the genetic nature of linguistics. In other scenes, the film makes allusions to Waiting for Godot (1953) and to Franz Kafka, moreover sidetracks off to go into some detail about Kafka’s biography.

The film has a villain with possibly the most unique motivation for world domination ever – he wants to get trouble spots of the world to kill themselves off to protect the ones he loves. To this extent, he activates the ‘genocidal organ’ – the use of language to drive people to mass murder– and allows factitious and poor countries to eliminate themselves. He has a frightening speech about how all of this exists beneath the surface of awareness of most people in the Western world and how he wants to preserve that bubble of illusion and keep his world safe from threat. At one point, he is accused of justifying murder and unleashing the darkest of human desires to assuage his own guilt over having been away having an affair as his wife and child were killed in the Sarajevo nuclear blast.

That said, one also does have some issues with Project Itoh’s definition of what genocide is – a population turning on others amongst itself because of food scarcity. In modern genocides such as Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, Rwanda, Darfur, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, East Timor and Bosnia, the causes have exclusively been religious and ethnic tensions, of the deliberate targeting of a minority group by another. You search anywhere for food scarcity to come into it.

(Winner for Best Adapted Screenplay at this site’s Best of 2017 Awards).

Trailer here

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