In 2131 A.D., Earth has been hit with a war like no other. Out of the ashes rises the city of Olympus, a utopia where half the population consist of Bioroids (artificial humans) and is controlled by the super-computer Gaia. Deunan Knute, a warrior, is brought to Olympus after years of fighting and is re-united with her ex-lover, Briareos. However, after sustaining life-threatening injuries, Briareos is now a cyborg. And to make matters worse, Olympus, the Bioroids and Gaia are not what they appear to be.
summary by Ender
Highs: Gorgeous design and animation; splendid battles; some music
Lows: Heavy-handed plot; cardboard characters; other music
I’ve always found Shirow Masamune’s work pretty interesting. No matter how philosophically deep and techno-centric his writing gets, he always has a time and a place for good-looking women and their equally beautiful guns. This was the case with Ghost in the Shell and Dominion Tank Police, and is no different with Appleseed.
Director Aramaki Shinji’s previous works were Madox-01 and as a writer for Bubblegum Crisis, so he has a familiarity with urban environments, power suits, hi-tech weapons and making everything of all sorts of boom. Then again, this is the guy’s only major directorial work within 20 years, so you can imagine a movie that is very far from perfect on certain levels. A lot of that seems to come from the story; this is supposedly part one of an intended trilogy, so one can look at it as an initial set-up. Problem is, after the movie was done, I was still wondering what it was supposed to set up exactly. This movie has a habit of tossing around phrases and ideas that I would expect from a sci-fi anime from the ’80s that never really stick. Mix this in with a large cast of archetypal characters (the angry cop, the hot cop, the cute side-kick, the robot, etc.) and you have a story that just barely manages to hold someone’s attention.
Normally, a movie like this I would fail for such low character and plot usage. However, this is an action movie down to the core. If anything will attract an audience, it’ll be the explosions… coupled with some very beautiful (though experimental) motion-capture animation and artwork that stays very true to Shirow’s complex mechanizations and breath-taking choreography. It’s both gravity-defying and strangely realistic. This is Die Hard with power-suits and guns bigger than Volvos. The songs add to these techno-battles sometimes, and other times they make the movie look like an overgrown music video. I’m normally not a fan of music that sounds like missing tracks from The Matrix, but somehow it has worked… for a while, at least. When the music takes over the imagery, that is when this anime starts to fall apart. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen too much.
Appleseed can be an enjoyable action piece, and maybe even an enjoyable movie. Just don’t go in expecting the next Princess Mononoke or Steamboy. This is popcorn entertainment… or Jujube entertainment… maybe gummi bears…
Highs: Masterful directing; computer graphics that work; efficient use of story and time
Lows: Unnecessarily cyberpunk at times; several bad songs
Forgive me for approaching this remake with trepidation; the original Appleseed anime was a giant blemish on the face of Shirow Masamune’s glorious manga of the same name. The predecessor lacked Shirow’s vision and was so truncated that it made Akira look unabridged. So, yes, I think any apprehension on my part, fueled with the knowledge that this anime was to be completely computer-generated, was rightfully warranted. At the time.
No, this version of Appleseed still hasn’t matched the feel of Shirow’s manga… but it’s very close. While at times overly stylized as if the Wachowski Brothers performed the choreography, this anime nevertheless captures the essence of a quasi-utopian future that few anime have conveyed so successfully. Credit must go to the amazing visuals; long a detractor of CGI in favor of hand-painted cels, I graciously recant in this case. What is so great about the design in Appleseed is that it retains that signature anime look and feel; layered shading and defined lines are utilized in favor over the photorealism that infests other anime of the ilk.
Appleseed just has a great, overall feel to it, thanks in large part to a tremendous marriage of direction and camera angles. Every scene is shot just right, with characters positioned and motioned in an almost sensuous style. The simple act of loading a gun is romanticized with an incandescent, audible click! of metal on metal. Even those moments between the action scenes where characters engage in lengthy, philosophical monologue don’t seem tedious at all because the pacing is steady throughout.
Few remakes utilizing the same source material have swayed me from one extreme to the next. As much as I loathe the original anime, this one manages to learn from those mistakes and accentuate the aspects that made the manga so popular. The seeds of an apple may be toxic, but Appleseed is sweet and succulent.
Appleseed can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.