Appleseed (アップルシード)
Made in: Japan
Language: Japanese
Director: Shinji Aramaki
Starring: Ai Kobayashi, Jurota Kosugi, Yuki Matsuoka, Yuzuru Fujimoto, Mami Koyama
Year: 2004

Synopsis: It's the distant future, in the year 2133 or something like that. Much of the world has been devastated by a global, conventional war. A young woman named Deunan Knute (voice of Ai Kobayashi) lives among the ruins of a city, continuing to wage guerilla campaings against a group of...things. I don't know what they are and it's never explained.

Anyway, Deunan is cornered one day by a mob of baddies, but is rescued by a paramilitary group known as E.S.W.A.T (Extra-Special Weapons and Advanced Tactics). Deunan is tranquilized and taken to a large, beautiful city called Olympus, which is the polar opposite of the post-apocaylptic hell that she's lived in for years.

Olympus is a utopia managed by beings know as bioroids which are complex, artificially created humans. Although highly intelligent, they have suppressed emotions. They ever get too angry, jealous, nor do they raise their voices. The rationale behind that is to maintain peace, since ordinary humans have a tendency to become too emotional (and therefore war-like). The bioroids, and entire city of Olympus, are monitored by an enormous central computer called Gaia. Gaia, in turn, is operated by a mysterious council of elders.

Deunan is recruited to become part of E.S.W.A.T, where she is reunited with Briareos (voice of Jurota Kosugi). Briareos was Deunan's former lover, but was severely injured and thought to be dead. However, he was taken to Olympus where his body was rejuvenated with advanced technology. He's alive, but is now a cyborg that resembles a big, scary-looking robot. Fortunately for Briareos, Deunan still loves him anyway.

The utopia known as Olympus is not all that it appears to be. A group of renegade military officers, all of whom are human, are secretly plotting to destroy Gaia and all the bioroids. And when Deunan is sent on a secret mission to foil the coup and save Olympus (by recovering a device known as the Appleseed), she learns that she is only a pawn within a wider conspiracy that's somehow tied to her past.

The Good: Appleseed is a beautiful work of anime (the term for the iconic Japanese animation). The artwork of Masamune Shirow's manga (comic book) series is incredibly detailed and stunning, and brought to life using a blend of 3D and traditional cel animation.

Some critics have complained that the blending of two mediums was very jarring, but I didn't find that to be true. I personally thought it was smart for the filmmakers to go with the older cel techniques for animating humans, since creating human emotions in 3D is still a tough thing to do.

Despite the look of the movie, Appleseed had a pretty complex and well thought-out story. The action was very entertaining and the characters were pretty interesting. And even though she's just a cartoon, Deunan is a strong, fun protagonist that we care about. I haven't read the original manga series, but this movie definitely had a comic-book feel in terms of stylized action and plot development.

And finally, the music was pretty creative. I'm a big fan of the electronic sounds of Paul Oakenfold, and his music works well as it underscores some sequences.

The Bad: Although I liked much of the music, some of it was a little obtrusive. Appleseed certainly has its slow moments, and is a little heavy on exposition. Many story elements are typical in anime films, such as tough (and incidentally beautiful) women, big robots, crazy weapons, pessimism towards human nature, and the use of mass annihilation as a background or theme.

In other words, many parts of the story are predictable (if you've seen enough anime), and aside from the artwork, it doesn't do much to break out of the typical anime mold. For instance, any anime movie/television show involving a huge computer and mysterious, all-knowing "elders" is pretty much a recipe for disaster. And any "perfect" machine that is introduced will certainly malfunction at some point.

Who would like this movie: Appleseed is for you if you're a fan of anime, science fiction, and comic books. If you love 3D animation, this movie is certainly beautiful to look at. Story-wise, it's solid but a little predictable if you're familiar with the subject matter. But it's very entertaining, and despite its production value, does not come across as pretentious.

(3 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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