Appleseed Anime Review
US Release By
Mecha Police Action
In the distant future the experimental city of Olympus is home to both the Biodroids created to live there and humans brought in from the outside world, all controlled by the supercomputer GAIA. However, some humans are unhappy with this supposedly 'perfect' society and acts of terrorism are rife. Nats Dunan and Buliaros Hekatonecles are two humans who work in the Olympian SWAT team and fight terrorist activity. But something big is coming, a new challenge which threatens the very existence of Olympus. Are they up to the challenge?
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Based on the well known manga of the same name by manga master Masamune Shirow, Appleseed is a fairly straightforward utopia/dystopia police story. The manga is an involved political action drama and urban warfare, but this early animated incarnation only scratches the surface of its potential. A lot of the complex subplots were lost in the translation from manga to anime but the main themes remain: Even if we are happy, is it more important to have our freedom? Sadly, this theme isn't addressed with much depth, and that lack of substance is true in almost every aspect of the anime. The characters--who were quite colorful in the manga--are somewhat lacking in personality, so the movie ends up working best as an action flick. On that count it fares somewhat better; the action is infrequent, but what there is is good, although the climax is disappointing. The visuals are based on Shirow's distinctive work but not executed terribly well, so they don't stand out.
In total Appleseed isn't that bad; not essential, but you might want to check it out. Still, as far as anime based on Shirow manga goes, it's frankly disappointing.
Full ReviewSwitch to Quick Review
Appleseed is based on the well known manga of the same name by manga master Masamune Shirow. Among other adaptations including Dominion Tank Police, Black Magic M-66 and the legendary Ghost in the Shell, Appleseed is considered the least notable of the lot. The box cover certainly looks promising, but it is sadly misleading--rather than down-and-dirty urban brawls, this is a fairly straightforward utopia/dystopia police story.
First the technical details. As far as animation goes, Appleseed is nothing to write home about. It's fairly basic, more or less standard for an anime of its age and the character designs, although true to Shirow's originals, only vaguely reflect his personal style, leaving it looking a little generic. The mecha (coordinated by Hideaki Anno--just a little trivia) look all right, but again are fairly standard and are unlikely to have you crushing the armrests of your chair. The exceptions are the Multipede Canon and Sebastian's battle suit, which are honestly quite cool, but they still aren't anything to lose your long sleep over.
The sound mix varies. The voice acting ranges from average (Karon, Sebastian) to mediocre (Dunan, Buliaros, most of the extras) to downright irritating (Hitomi). Incidentally the language content is extraordinarily high, only exceeded by Cyber City, and Appleseed isn't even a hardcore cyberpunk. The music varies as well--in the 'climatic' mecha smash it is very poorly chosen, but in the sequences that follow and during the credits the music is quite thumpy. Again, unexceptional, but not awful.
Then there's the plot. A lot of the complex subplots were lost in the translation from manga to anime but the main themes remain--even if we are happy, is it more important to have our freedom? However, the biggest let-down of the entire anime is caught up with this--I personally think the terrorists were right in theory, if not in execution, but they still lose and life goes on as if nothing has happened. If the humans in Olympus (about 20% of the population according to Karon) were at least to make some effort to gain more freedom I would be satisfied, but the people who are unhappy with their lot are just treated as "extremists" who have to be dealt with.
Character wise, there isn't that much in this anime. The relationship between Dunan and Buliaros is never clearly defined and characters are somewhat lacking in personality or character. A few traits come through--Buliaros (a massive cyborg) is kind of light-tempered, Dunan is extremely fiery, Athena is a megabitch and Hitomi is a bimbo (very much like Lynn Minmay, even in character design) but they aren't very deep. This is probably best watched as action anime.
Ah, the action. The action scenes in Appleseed are pretty good, if infrequent, with people shooting each other, mechs shooting each other, big things shooting each other and people hitting each other. There isn't nearly enough though to make a really good action anime and it isn't as good as all that. The shooting is frequently very gory as head shots are the go, with appreciable splashes of blood, although the brains stay firmly within the skull. Unfortunately, the ultimate climax of the anime--the run through GAIA and the attempt to disable the circuit--is frankly disappointing and rather dull. Okay, they run down a booby-trapped corridor, turn a corner and... hit the books!? Oh please!
There are quite a lot of details in Appleseed, some good, some bad, some mystifying. Why, for example, in a city ruled by a single computer and rife with terrorism, would you have a disabling device which will effectively shut down the whole city? If Olympus is the main city on Earth now, where did those defense gunboats launch from? There is considerable use of cybernetics--Buliaros looks like a giant robot rabbit (well, not really but check out those ears!)--but it's fairly pointless as the cybernetics don't seem to give any real advantage or play any major role as they do in Ghost in the Shell. Dunan is supposed to be ambidextrous and have an unrivaled ability to spot moving objects, but this isn't used in here, which is a pity. What's the big deal behind the biodroids? I mean, they even look identical to humans, so what's the difference? There is some interesting stuff, such as frequent references to Greek mythology (between GAIA, Athena, Olympus itself and Tartarus) but again, what's the point?
You may be getting the impression that I hate Appleseed. I don't. Despite all the complaints I raised, it isn't as bad as all that as I'm mainly going on about the details. Not essential, but you might want to check it out. Still, as far as anime based on Shirow manga goes, it's frankly disappointing.
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Similar in background to Megazone 23, but inferior.
Notes and Trivia
Based loosely on the early part of the Appleseed manga series by Masamune Shirow. Not to be confused with the 2004 Appleseed movie, which is drastically higher-budget and CG-heavy.
US DVD Review
Manga's DVD boasts of stereo Japanese and Dolby 5.1 English audio, subtitles, and character bios.
Appropriate for about the 13-up crowd on account of violence.
Violence: 3 - Bullets between the eyes. BANG, you're quite dead.
Nudity: 1 - Not even during Dunan's shower, but a bit of underwear. Surprising.
Sex/Mature Themes: 0 - Bzzzzt.
Language: 3 - Lotsa swearing in the dub. Again, surprising.