The Filming Models of Koichi Ohata’s Genocyber

The enduring legacy of Koichi Ohata’s Genocyber remains focused almost exclusively on its hyperviolence, particularly the violence contained within the first two episodes. Not that those episodes aren’t well suited for convention clip shows (something I and dozens of others have taken advantage of over the past couple of decades), but there’s plenty of general weirdness throughout the five-part OVA series that should be recognized alongside visceral images of dismemberment and horror.

Its origins as a dark n’ gritty cyberpunk comic by Tony Takezaki of AD Police fame belied an OVA series that went into some properly bizarre territory, although whether or not it successfully navigated that shift over its five-episode arc is a decision I’ll leave up to viewers. Genocyber has been on my mind a bit lately as it’s just one latest examples of classic anime given new life by Discotek with a forthcoming release as an SD-on-BD disc. It’s available now for pre-order. I’m also, admittedly, a little biased about the whole thing because I was given the chance to write about the OVA’s production and creative staff as an extra on the bluray.

One of the more interesting aspects of Genocyber was its use of models for a few shots and at least one background setting, paired up with hand-drawn animation. With cranked-up contrast and plenty of blood and guts to distract viewers, these brief shots are easily missed amidst the cacophony of Ohata’s production, but there are scant few examples of practical models being used in anime productions of the era so it’s worth highlighting. Although you’d be hard-pressed to notice thanks to their limited use, some of these models were downright impressive. Thanks to some novelty DVD-ROM functionality from a late ‘90s DVD, we have access to a handful of photos of them and I’ve attached them below in a gallery.

The wild-and-crazy era of early DVD production meant that people tried to include all sorts of bonuses as special features, and one common tactic was to include additional material that had to be accessed via a PC or Mac with a DVD drive. Typically, this material came in the form of additional videos (trailers or music videos, for example) and image slideshows. Why those weren’t just included as normal DVD bonus features is beyond me, but people in the ‘90s loved their multimedia experiences.

Central Park Media was one of the anime distribution companies that took frequent advantage of that DVD-ROM functionality, perhaps not too surprising considering they acquired Software Sculptors in the mid-’90s. Software Sculptors was, above all else, a company best remembered for its anime screensavers and anime on CD-ROM output, making prodigious use of QuickTime video in an era long before streaming or YouTube. The 1999 Central Park Media release of Genocyber included a number of art galleries in its DVD-ROM features list, including storyboards, key art, and cels — but the models are what we’re interested in here, obviously.

No information is available on the models themselves or who built them, and the low-res images included on the DVD make it difficult to discern much detail. However, the photos still provide a more detailed look at them than screenshots from the actual series, so there’s that. Overall, the use of actual models in an anime production feels a bit like something more out of the late ‘80s rather than the mid ’90s, when garage kit culture was intertwined with anime production thanks to early attempts at otaku media-mix crossovers. But Gencyber’s existence as an unpected ’80s holdover is something I talk about in my essay on the disc so I won’t go into it here.

Attempts at those media mix strategies between anime and garage kits weren’t exactly unfamiliar to the design studio behind Genocyber, ARTMIC1, but by 1994 much of the studio’s well-known staff had moved on. One particular image included in the set below looks to have been taken on the roof of a building, perhaps ARTMIC’s studio in Kichijoji? Difficult to say but it would be fitting considering the deep history of overlap between model and anime culture in that particular west Tokyo neighborhood.

And, as one final aside: On the off chance you stumbled across this post looking for actual models from Genocyber (i.e. ones you can build), well, I don’t have great news. As far as I’ve been able to research, there was a single resin kit released by a company called Impact. Sculpted by Susumu Sugita and licensed by Central Park Media it was released sometime in the ‘90s. It’s a rare kit but has popped up from time to time, no not impossibly rare. Maybe set an eBay alert for it if you’re trying to find it. To my knowledge, there weren’t any garage kits based on Genocyber released in Japan. In fact, the only garage kit released in Japan based on an Ohata-directed OVA was a Cybernetics Guardian soft vinyl kit by Falchion.2

Editor’s Note (Feb. 8, 2021): It seems that at least some of the inspiration for this practical model work came from Genocyber’s origins as a pitch for a live-action project with Bandai in the ’80s. 

Genocyber Model Gallery


  1. They produced Gall Force Star Front , after all, and lots of early ARTMIC OVAs had substantial garage kit merchandising.
  2. This excludes assorted garage kits based on Ohata designs for OVAs like Macross II and Aim for the Top! Gunbuster.