Anime Film Review: Appleseed Ex Machina

Appleseed Ex Machina is the sequel to the 2004 Appleseed film that was directed by Shinji Aramaki. Appleseed Ex Machina, which is also directed by Shinji Aramaki, was released to Japanese theaters on October 20, 2007. The film was released on DVD in the United States on March 11, 2008, and Warner Home Video holds the U.S. distribution rights to the film.

Appleseed Ex Machina
Directed by: Shinji Aramaki
Written by: Kiyoto Takeuchi and Todd W. Russell
Starring: Ai Kobayashi, Kōichi Yamadera, Gara Takashima, Yūji Kishi, and Miyuki Sawashiro
Run Time: 101 minutes
Rated: PG-13

Appleseed Ex Machina is set in the year 2133. The film opens with Deunan and Briareos being deployed with E.S.W.A.T. to save E.U. officials who were taken hostage by cyborgs. Deunan subdues the cyborgs and secures the hostages as other members of E.S.W.A.T. arrive. She follows some cyborgs into another room when Briareos arrives as backup; the two of them kill or mortally injure the cyborgs. When Briareos tries to interrogate one of the mortally wounded cyborgs, it becomes a countdown to detonation. Briareos grabs Deunan and jumps out of the building right before the explosion. Unfortunately, Briareos is injured and is taken to the hospital.

On her day off, Deunan intercepts a report about a construction Landmate that is on a rampage. She goes to help take care of the problem, and she is able to disable the Landmate with the killswitch. She is joined by other members of E.S.W.A.T. as she finishes, and she sees a new member who looks eerily like Briareos before he became a cyborg. The new arrival is introduced to Deunan as Tereus, a bioroid to be Deunan’s new partner. Deunan goes to complain to Nike, Athena’s advisor, and finds out that Tereus is a new generation of combat bioroid based on Briareos’ DNA. E.S.W.A.T. wants Deunan to evaluate him. After leaving her meeting with Nike, Deunan runs into Hitomi. As the two go to visit Briareos in the hospital, Hitomi tells Deunan about a new popular device called a Connexus. After Briareos is discharged from the hospital, he is assigned a new partner named Aeacus, who is part cyborg; it turns out he has a Connexus.

An international conference takes place in Olympus concerning the idea of putting all of the nations’ satellites under Olympus’ control. There is an attack on the area during the conference, and it is discovered that humans are joining the cyborgs in the rioting and fighting. Aeacus also betrays E.S.W.A.T., and is killed. The rest of the film shows Deunan and the others trying to find out what is causing the cyborgs and humans to riot. In the process of their investigation, Briareos is affected. Is there anything Deunan can do to save Briareos?

In my opinion, Appleseed Ex Machina was a pretty strong follow-up to the Appleseed film. The computer animation used in this film is even better than in the first film, and there are some shots and sequences where you truly feel like you’re watching a live-action film. However, I have to admit that in some respects, the story of Appleseed Ex Machina wasn’t quite as strong as the first Appleseed film. Even though I thought the story wasn’t quite as strong, I still enjoy watching Appleseed Ex Machina.

When it comes to the DVD itself, the languages menu is a little on the frustrating side. It is done in such a way that the language option for each country is written in that respective country’s language. Unfortunately, this means that the Japanese and Chinese options are written with the Japanese and Chinese characters. If you want to choose either of those as a language option, you have to have some familiarity with the written characters. Also, after you choose the language, you are automatically returned to the main menu. In order to indicate that you want subtitles, you have to return to the languages menu and choose the subtitles.

The regular DVD release of Appleseed Ex Machina also has two short documentaries on it. The first is “Team Up: John Woo and Shinji Aramaki.” This runs for about 16-and-a-half minutes, and through interviews with Shinji Aramaki, crew members, and anime journalists, you find out what each of these individuals brought to Appleseed Ex Machina.

The other documentary is “Revolution: Animating Ex Machina.” This runs for about 18-and-a-half minutes, and it talks about how the animation was done for the film, and it also delves a little bit into the English dubbing for the project. The trailers feature only includes two anime-related trailers (both of which are for the live-action version of Speed Racer). There is also an audio commentary.

There was also a two-disc special edition version released for Appleseed Ex Machina. The second disc includes two documentaries. The first is “The Appleseed Chronicles.” It runs for about 20 minutes, and goes into the history of the Appleseed manga. Personally, I was a little disappointed that this feature never touched on the 1988 OVA version of Appleseed or the 2004 Appleseed film directed by Shinji Aramaki.

The other documentary is “East Meets West,” and it runs for about 18-and-a-half minutes. This feature talks about how anime crossed over into the west, and how various terms and ideas involved with anime have been cross-pollinated between the Japanese and American cultures.

A Blu-ray version of Appleseed Ex Machina was also released. When it comes to the Blu-ray release of Appleseed Ex Machina, my husband and I discovered that when you put it into a Blu-ray player, the film starts to play automatically instead of going into a menu. We thought this was an annoyance, because for someone who is putting in the disc to watch one of the bonus features instead of the film has to hit the “menu” button on their remote in order to get to what it is they want to see.

Also, the version of the film that plays is the English dub. In order to change the language, you have to pop up a menu to make changes to the audio and subtitle specifications. Just like the DVD pressing, the audio options are done in such a way that the language for each country is written in that country’s respective language. Unfortunately, this means that for the Japanese and Chinese options, they are written in their respective country’s characters. You have to have some familiarity with the characters for at least one of those languages to figure out which one it is that you want.

The Blu-ray pressing of Appleseed Ex Machina includes the bonus features from both the regular DVD release and the two-disc special edition release of the film.

According to the box, the film is 1080p High Definition 16X9, while the special features “may be in standard definition.” For audio, it says the film is in Dolby Digital English 5.1, Francais 2.0, Cantonese 2.0, Dutch 2.0, and German 2.0. For the special features, it says, “Audio standards may vary.” For subtitles, the box lists English, Francais, Chinese, Dutch, German and Korean for the movie and select bonus material.

When it comes to comparing the video quality of the Blu-ray to the DVD, I really didn’t notice anything that looked significantly different between the two releases. However, I do have a gripe with the subtitles on the Blu-ray release. There were times that the subtitles were hard to read, especially on really bright shots.

I believe that fans of Appleseed should have a copy of Appleseed Ex Machina in their anime home video collection. If you have the capability to play Blu-rays, then I would recommend going with the Blu-ray pressing.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of the two-disc special edition of Appleseed Ex Machina that I checked out through the King County Library System and after watching a copy of the Blu-ray that my husband and I purchased.

Additional posts about Appleseed:

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