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Original Title:

Japan 2004

Anime, Action, Sci-Fi

Shinji Aramaki

Ai Kobayashi
Jurota Kosugi
Yuki Matsuoka
Mami Koyama
Yuzuru Fujimoto

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Story: Deunan (Ai Kobayashi) is an elite soldier. She is one of the last to fight in the "Big War" without knowing that the outcome has actually already been decided. Neither of the two parties has won but the entire world is razed to the ground. A special unit extracts Deunan from the battleground and finally brings her to the world's last city: Utopia. When she sees the city, where there's obviously only peace, Deunan thinks that she might be dreaming and the city's splendor leaves her breathless. The girl Hitomi (Yuki Matsuoka) explains her that now mankind lives side by side with the so-called Bioroids. They are clone-like human beings, who only have a restricted range of emotions and can't reproduce. These Bioroids are supposed to strengthen mankind, which is well known for destroying itself, and to hold the balance between humans and Bioroids.
Deunan's doubts about Utopia are obviously not unjustified. The community is controlled by the Seven Ancients and by a network called "Gaia". It is not perfectly clear yet what the Bioroids are up to, but it doesn't take very long and humans, who want to take actions against the new "race", form an underground organisation. Nothing seems to be as it appeared at first, and it takes Deunan very long to find out who's behind all of this. Is mankind going to survive this critical point in history, or is it time for a new race to come into the world?

Review: "Appleseed" is a feast for the eyes. Even if it was a bit risky to put Masamune Shirow's Manga on screen as a computer animated 3-D movie. But fans won't have a reason to complain, because the creators used an exceptional technique for this movie. The characters are actually all painted by hand, what makes them keep their typical Manga-flair. In addition, they are animated three-dimensionally and the faces, created with a lot of attention to detail get something vital, especially due to massive use of shadow and light effects. This style is possibly best compared with Cell-Shading, though, as already mentioned, everything appears more spacial in this movie. For its style, the movie gets quite a few originality-points, because something like this has never been done before.

At the very beginning, we're thrown in a battle between Deunan and a group of cyborgs. Needless to say, that there're several gunfights and at the same time the creators show off what they are capable of doing thanks to the new animation style. There are camera movements, which understandably enough were never seen before in an Anime, and which make the action even more rapid and the surroundings and characters more plastic. Anybody who doesn't just gape at Deunan's fantastic acrobatic show, in slow motion of course, is a philistine.
Unfortunately, the movie can't deliver what the opening promises. In terms of coolness, the rest of the movie can't keep up with the beginning, but this could be caused by the fact that the following battles are mostly fought in mechs or robot-like vehicles. The filmmaker's attention is focused on the gunfights, which are unfortunately spread quite unevenly over the movie and the final battle also can't really knock your socks off. But maybe that's only because I've never really been too keen on mindless shoot-outs and mechs, to begin with. However, you shouldn't get the wrong idea. Mechs do not play a superior role at all and if you're not entertained by the gunfights, the movie's breath-taking images will do the trick, anyway.

Anyone who knows a thing or two about Anime, or has at least read "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley, might be familiar with the plot. Needless to say that "Utopia" can't be perfect and accompanying the main heroine we find out about it soon enough. Whoever is supposed to be the bad guy, stays a mystery for a very long time and the movie may as well lead us on the wrong track. The numerous twists all turn out quite well and hold up the viewer's interest. Basically, the movie offers an astonishingly good story.
But now to the negative side. For starters, there is the ethics and moral-orientated undertone, which sometimes seems a bit artificial. Maybe that's because we've already seen those things, in one way or the other. But the characters are the biggest flaw. Deunan seems to be an interesting character but we only get to know very little about her. In some flashbacks we're shown how she fights in the war, side by side with her friend Briareos, but that doesn't make her role any more multifaceted. The "love relationship" between her and Briareos is portrayed a bit too subtle to touch us. Unfortunately, the other characters like Hitomi and Athena also remain way too shallow.

As I don't know the original Anime I don't dare to advance too much in terms of criticism, but nevertheless it is pretty annoying that we never find out against whom Deunan was actually fighting in the "Big War". What was the war's background?
Also annoying is the strange "divine" interference at the end. What this is actually about we never get to know and in addition there isn't really left a lot of scope for interpretation.
But apart from these weaknesses, the movie presents a world created with a lot of attention to detail. A world, which seems very realistic due to the computer animation effects used. A lot may remind us of "The Matrix" but actually it were Animes like "Appleseed" that were the brains behind those ideas, in the first place. So don't be too startled, if you're having a feeling of déjà-vu about some settings or robots.
The characters' realistic movements are not without good reason, either. They were lavishly created with Motion Capturing. You can also see how much effort they put into the movie, if you take a closer look at the picture-like backgrounds. Every computer geek knows that the real quality of a game or a computer-animated film can be identified by the water-effects. And the water, so much as everything else in "Appleseed", just looks fantastic.

An excellent narration and loaded with lots of action-sequences, the movie's 105 minutes fly by just like that. You can't get enough of the animations and you can notice that the creators tried hard to make the best of it by adding exceptional camera movements. The soundtrack may take getting used to at the beginning, but especially the techno-parts get the adrenalin pumping through your veins.
Although the viewer may not feel too close to the protagonists, what makes some of the well-known moral statements appear a bit meaningless, "Appleseed", with its well-wrought story and its action, is worth a recommendation. The screen shots can't really do justice to the movie, because the pictures can only reveal its true magic when in motion. A visual masterpiece!

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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