Genesis Surviver Gaiarth Setting Materials

I’ve always had a soft spot for Genesis Surviver Gaiarth and it’s not just because of the incorrect spelling of “survivor” in the English title. It’s also not because it was one of the last original OVAs that ARTMIC developed before dissolving in the late ‘90s, (only Scramble Wars and Genocyber came after it). It is, however, an admittedly uneven three-episode series that had charm and creative designs, but probably wouldn’t go down on anyone’s list of their favorite OVAs. It does have its fans, though.

Part of that is probably thanks to AnimEigo releasing the show on VHS and LaserDisc in the ‘90s and the associated video rental nostalgia that comes along with much of the anime released in English from that era. AnimEigo didn’t keep the license long enough to release it on DVD (though, interestingly, their LD release was dual-sided, giving viewers the choice between watching it dubbed into English or subtitled with Japanese audio), although a DVD version came out in Japan. Gaiarth, like so many other OVAs of the ‘80s and ’90s, has never made the jump to high-def blu-ray.

The ARTMIC approach to OVAs was unique, if not always successful. In the wake of the collapse of TV funding for mecha shows in the mid-’80s, ARTMIC began developing original sci-fi projects as the direct-to-video anime market took off. Occasionally, like with the original Megazone 23 and Bubblegum Crisis, these hit. Just as often, they didn’t. That didn’t keep them from being interesting, though. In large part that’s because of the talented artists ARTMIC kept on staff, with names like Kenichi Sonoda, Shinji Aramaki, Rey Yumeno, Tony Takezaki, and Hideki Kakinuma regularly tapped for the studio’s work. ARTMIC also partnered with other talented artists like Makoto Kobayashi on Dragon’s Heaven, Masami Obari on Detonator Orgun, and Toshihiro Hirano on Dangaioh.

In an era of anime best remembered for creative people being given free rein to make anime in their own image, ARTMIC embraced the idea that the fingerprints of those who created it should be readily apparent. It was rare to look at an ARTMIC project and not be able to tell who had designed the characters or who had sketched out the mechanical designs. They were artist-first, often at the expense of storytelling, pacing, or animation quality. While Gaiarth may not be a better series than Megazone 23, Bubblegum Crisis, or even Gall Force, it remains a prime example of this approach.

Gaiarth does exhibit some impressive pedigree, with both Shinji Aramaki and Hiroyuki Kitazume attached as directors for the first episode. The caveat is that neither Aramaki nor Kitazume seemed to stick around for the last two episodes and the series admittedly drops off pretty fast. But the fingerprints of Kitazume on character designs and Aramaki on mechanical designs are readily apparent and, I suspect, the two defining aspects of the series that earned it its fans.

Production wise it probably didn’t help things that the early ‘90s was a rough time for original animation, a broader issue that was likely compounded at ARTMIC thanks to Toshimichi Suzuki’s questionable investments in real estate and (according to Kenichi Sonoda) his subsequent disappearance as a result of some deals gone wrong. The Japanese Asset Bubble was caused in part by the over-valuation of Japanese real estate and its collapse in 1991 had far-reaching effects on the Japanese economy, anime included. That’s all to say that Sonoda’s claim explains some of the turmoil at ARTMIC in the early ’90s and certainly provides an explanation for why the design studio collapsed a few years later.

Sonoda and Aramaki were arguably ARTMIC’s strongest creative assets. At the time of Gaiarth’s production, Sonoda was already out the door on his way to a successful solo manga career and we can surmise that Aramaki didn’t stay around very long either given his lack of involvement in episodes two and three. In that way, the series represents the studio’s brain drain, although it doesn’t paint a complete picture, because Scramble Wars came out about six months after Gaiarth’s first episode and people love that thing. Clearly, ARTMIC still had something left in the tank.

While earlier ARTMIC OVAs benefitted from agreements with companies like Bandai for coverage in magazines and book publishing, Gaiarth had no such push behind it. Before the release of the first episode Shinji Aramaki wrote and illustrated a two-page advertisement for the series that appeared in Comic Nova, a sort of ARTMIC equivalent to General Product’s Cyber Comics1. To my knowledge, no art books or supplementary material were published for Gaiarth, which brings us to the point of all of this…

With its design work being the most stand-out aspect of the series, it’s a shame that Gaiarth never got the kind of artbook you’d expect to show off that work. A while ago I acquired a stack of Genesis Surviver Gaiarth settei2 and below is a link to to view and download a PDF of them. They’re a poor substitute for an actual book of Gaiarth material, but at least it’s something.

You can find the complete scanned document of Gaiarth setting material on the Internet Archive.

At 84 pages of material, I don’t think this is a complete collection of setting material for the series, but it does seem to be the settei that circulates via online sellers in Japan. This particular set was purchased via Yahoo Auctions.

Quality is admittedly, not great. The line fidelity on the original sheets scanned in was pretty weak, likely from repeated copying.



  1. Interestingly, the publish date for the first (and perhaps only?) issue of Comic Nova was December 1991, roughly four months before the first episode of Gaiarth would be released. Comic Nova seems to have been an ill-fated attempt by ARTMIC to generate a bit of its own cross-promotional buzz, with comics that would later be adapted to anime, like Tony Takezaki’s Genocyber, published alongside comics based on then-current ARTMIC anime, including Detonator Orgun, Bubblegum Crash!, and Gall Force. It seems to have only lasted for one or two issues.
  2. Character or model sheets, photocopied pages that animators would use to make sure what they were drawing looked “right.”