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.