Appleseed (2004)
Science Fiction

While Ghost in the Shell has really given Masamune Shirow a much wider audience among modern anime/manga fans, features on his other works have been lacking. Considering how rare his printed work has been in recent years, anime based on his work has been the only way to get his properties to fans. With Geneon producing the second animation featured based on Shirow's longest running series, Appleseed, it appears that something besides GitS gets some attention.

Appleseed stars Deunan Knute, a professional soldier who is brought to the city of Olympus, a utopian "paradise" that is far more splintered and filled with strife than what is promoted. With the human race waning, a civilization of artificial beings called bioroids coexist in the same society as a means to aid humankind. The bioroids, though limited in lifespan and the ability to reproduce, create a divided society filed with bigotry and backbiting. Deunan is reunited with her lover, Briaros, who is now only a cyborg with a human brain. Her relationship with Briaros, the bioroid Hitomi and the machinations of the military and the ruling council play out in the potential destruction of the human race.

The Appleseed movie encompasses events from the first two books without staying completely true to the story. In fact, there are noticeable differences between the two stories, so much so that you might say that the movie is more of a streamline re-imagining of the books. While I can understand making some necessary edits, like removing more of the terrorism aspect at the end of book one, completely redoing the endgame and adding a whole section on Deunan's mother seems to deviate way too far from the source. Having said that, though, this version of Appleseed is told quite well. Of course, there is a few clichéd, sappy moments, but those are balanced with a smart script and plot that pits everyone against each other quite well.

Even though the story is obviously the strength of the film, the visuals are absolutely gorgeous. The animated world is heavy in high-detail CG, so much so that it exudes a reality that feels almost unreal. Even with the massive amounts of detail, there is a certain surreal ambiance to the world. The character animation is excellent and is obviously taken from motion capture. Also, the frame rates feel a lot more fluid, as if its running at more frames per second than most animated films. This lends itself to a more real-feeling movie, that while still Japanese in character style, feels quite human. Also, there is a great attention to detail in both the way locations are animated and in the characters themselves. The fact that Athena is a red head with gray eyes shows that someone did their homework when creating the characters.

The audio portion does a good job at augmenting the ambiance that the visual establish. Sound effects and the soundtrack make a good effort to establish a great theme. The voice cast for this version is a noticeable improvement over the original, especially when it comes to Briaros who actually sounds like he looks - gruff and mechanical while retaining a bit of humanity.

For fans of Masamune Shirow's work, this take on Appleseed is a nice improvement over the original. If you can take the noticeable changes in story, you'll find a movie that's pretty solid. Yes there's a few moments that fall into anime stereotypes, but the overall story is entertaining.

- - Vane

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