Anime Film Review: Appleseed

Appleseed is an anime film directed by Shinji Aramaki, and was released to Japanese theaters on May 17, 2004. The film was released in the United States on January 14, 2005. Appleseed incorporates some characters from Masamune Shirow’s Appleseed manga series from 1985. Even though the two share some of the same characters, the storyline in the film is not connected to the manga. This film, which utilizes a combination of 2D and computer animation, as well as a soundtrack of electronic, techno, and trance music, should not be confused with the Appleseed OVA that was released in 1988.

Directed by: Shinji Aramaki
Written by: Haruka Handa and Tsutomu Kamishiro
Starring: Ai Kobayashi, Jūrōta Kosugi, Mami Koyama, Yuki Matsuoka, and Toshiyuki Morikawa
Run Time: 102 minutes
Rated: R

Appleseed is set in 2131 A.D., and the protagonist is a young, legendary female soldier of the Third World War named Deunan Knute. At the beginning of the film, Deunan is fighting some unknown figures, when a platoon of white-armored soldiers suddenly appears on the scene and shoot at the unknown figures. As Deunan attempts to escape, the white-armored soldiers tranquilize her. When Deunan awakes, she finds that she is attached to a scanning device in what appears to be a medical facility. She is alarmed and breaks free, grabbing a nearby woman as a hostage and attempts to escape. She is stopped when she hears the sound of the voice of Briareos, her former lover and comrade; however, Briareos is now a cyborg.

Deunan learns that the fighting ended months earlier, and that she is now in a Utopian city called Olympus. The city’s population is made up of humans and clones (a genetically-engineered species called Bioroids). Olympus is governed by three factions: Prime Minister Athena, General Edward Uranus III (the head of the Olympus Regular Army), and the Council of Elders. The council is made up of seven old men hooked up to life support and anti-gravity chairs. Everything in the city is observed by an artificial intelligence named Gaia, which is housed in a building called Tartarus. While Olympus is touted as a utopia, under the surface, there are conflicting factions. Some in the city believe the Bioroids are a threat to the future advancement of the human race, while others believe that humans themselves are the threat to mankind.

Deunan integrates herself into the prestigious ESWAT organization, and serves as the city’s guardian. She also befriends a Second Generation Bioroid named Hitomi, and through Hitomi, she learns that the Original Bioroids were created from the DNA of Deunan’s father, Carl. However, the Bioroids have a shorter lifespan than humans because their reproductive capabilities have been suppressed. When the facilities used to extend the Bioroids’ life processes are attacked by a secret faction of the Olympus Regular Army in a demonstration of their fear and hatred of the Bioroids, it is revealed that the Appleseed data (which would allow the Bioroids to have their reproductive capabilities restored) still exists.

Athena sends Deunan and Briareos, along with a top secret strike force, to the building where the Bioroids were originally created. Athena gives Deunan a disc that, when activated in the building, shows a holographic recording. Through this recording, Deunan learns the location of the Appleseed data, as well as some other shocking details. Can Deunan get the Appleseed data into the proper hands and avert a catastrophe from occurring?

Overall, Appleseed was an interesting film. It’s also a well-written story, which combines plenty of action and fighting with character development. By the end of the film, you feel for these characters and root for Deunan to succeed. When I first saw Appleseed, I had not read any of the manga and I hadn’t seen the OVA that was made in 1988; the way the film was written, the viewer doesn’t need to have previous knowledge of the franchise before watching it.

When you first watch it, the combination of animation styles throws you off; however, by the end of the film, you become accustomed to it.  And since the computer animation is done so well, there are times when you think you’re actually watching a live-action film.

A little while after watching this film, I saw the Appleseed OVA from 1988. I have to say that between these two presentations of Appleseed, I preferred this film over the OVA.

When it comes to the DVD itself, there are a total of six extras. The first is a “Director & Producer Commentary” version of the film; this is basically a version of the film that includes an audio track of commentary.

Next is “Music Cues with Scenes,” where you can choose one of the songs that appear in the film, and see the scene that it was used in; you can also see a biography of the artist behind the music. The artists included are Boom Boom Satellites, Paul Oakenfold, Ryuichi Sakamoto, T. Raumschmiere, Carl Craig vs. Adult, Basement Jaxx, Akufen, and Atom.

There are “Staff Profiles,” which are text writeups for the major staff (producer, director, etc.) There is a commercial for the Appleseed soundtrack, previews of some of Geneon Entertainment’s other DVD releases, and the DVD credits.

If you purchase the limited edition pressing of Appleseed, it comes with a bonus DVD. There is a 36 minute documentary called “Birth of 3D Live Anime,” which talks about how the Appleseed manga was brought to life with a 3D film.

The “Design Archives” credits each person who worked on the various designs; you can see brief credits for each person, as well as their conceptual images for the film, CG images, and the final product.

There is an image gallery of characters and mecha. “Appleseed info” includes Appleseed keywords (which is basically a glossary), character profiles, and mecha info. You can also see the music video for Boom Boom Satellites’ “Dive for You,” two Japanese theatrical trailers and one U.S. theatrical trailer for the film, and a DVD-ROM link for an Appleseed game sneak preview.

Appleseed should really be in the anime home video collection of anime fans who are also fans of the manga, as well as fans who enjoy science fiction anime.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of the limited edition DVD pressing of Appleseed that my husband and I purchased.

Additional posts about Appleseed:

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