Year of Sentai is back this week, this time with a movie review! A movie was a nice break from the 20+ episode anime reviews I’ve been immersed in the last few weeks. Unfortunately the next review will be another 20+ episode anime, but thus is the nature of a years worth of anime. Anyway, enjoy my review of…
Studio: Digital Frontier
Director: Shinji Aramaki
Aired: Apr 17, 2004
Episode Count: 1 (Movie)
Languages: English, Japanese with English Subtitles
Genre(s): Action, Drama, Mecha, Military, Police, Sci-Fi
Streaming: Nowhere, On Sale HERE
Price: $ 13.99
Appleseed occupies the very rare space of anime-type shows/movies that were made entirely in CG. While this might turn off the vast majority of the anime viewing public, I found it a welcome change of pace from the day-to-day animation style of most anime movies. If nothing else, this movie showed that (with a large budget) CG is a viable form of animation for Japan. Given that this movie came out in 2004 I was fairly impressed with the level of animation, but I would tell anyone who was thinking of watching it to remain aware that it’s over a decade old at this point. Beware all ye who enter here with an aversion to CG or older anime.
[Spoilers] Our story begins with a young woman (Deunan Knute) in a fight for her life against… aliens? Robots? Mutants? These things will never be explained, but suffice it to say that Deunan and her soldiers are woefully outmatched. She is saved by a paramilitary police force called ESWAT (what’s the E for? Good question… jingly keys). After she is saved, she is then incapacitated by ESWAT, and handed over to a young woman named Hitomi. Upon waking Deunan finds herself in Olympus, a “Utopian” society half filled with humans and bioroids.
Bioroids are superior human clones that work alongside humans to run the government. These clones have repressed emotions, no ability to reproduce, and have to undertake routine life extension procedures to stay alive. Hitomi (Deunan’s liaison) happens to be one of these bioroids, and a former comrade Briareos (and former lover) of Duenan’s is now some sort of android. They explain to Deunan that she has been scouted for Olympus’ ESWAT because of the soldier skills she developed in the outside world. Unbeknownst to her, there are major forces in the government and military that want her for a heretofore undisclosed reason.
Later in the movie hostile forces in the military perform a terrorist attack on the life extension facilities in Olympus. Right at this moment Hitomi collapses, because she is overdue for a life extension procedure (plot device activated). Thus Deunan is presented with a reason to carry out a covert mission to find the notes from the scientist who created the bioroids (Dr Gilliam). These notes contain the procedure that will give bioroids the ability to reproduce organically, and this procedure (for some reason) will save Hitomi’s life. On this mission Deunan finds out that Dr Gilliam was her mother, and that she had the amulet containing the notes the whole time. Right as she is learning this her squad is betrayed by one of their own to the military.
The military lead by General Uranus and Colonel Hades want to destroy a large vat containing a bioroid virus called the D-Tank. This virus would completely kill the bioroid population, and with Dr Gilliams notes destroyed there could never be another race of bioroids to challenge man’s supremacy. Deunan and Briareos urges the general to consider that they are all being manipulated by the elders who run Olympus, and in their escape Deunan kills Colonel Hades (who apparently hated her father). When it is clear that they have escaped Briareos explains that all his actions were to protect Deunan, before succumbing to his wounds and dying… just kidding he conveniently shut himself down and sent a signal to the mechanic (Yoshi) comes to revive him. With Yoshi’s mech, Deunan flies to Olympus to deliver the research notes to Prime Minister Athena.
Upon returning to Olympus the elders immediately reinstate the bioroid capability to reproduce organically, and then reveal that the D-Tank wasn’t a bioroid fail-safe virus but a human one. The virus inside the tank would effectively make all humans infertile, thus slowly eliminating humans from the earth to pave the way for biodroid society. The elders unleash the mobile fortresses that protect the city to destroy the D-Tank, and start the slow destruction of humanity. The bioroid prime minister (Athena) as well as several other bioroids oppose this plan (since their prime directive is to help humanity), and ESWAT works with the bioroids to ensure D-Tank’s safety. At the end of it all the elders die (offscreen), and the city is left to a new generation of human/bioroid cohabitation.
Due to the short nature of movie plots, Appleseed takes some pretty sharp turns in terms of its story. Some aspects are left open (like the monsters she’s fighting in the beginning), while others end very abruptly (like the elders deaths). I think that the plot would have lent itself better to a full series, but given the constraints of a movie the director seemed to do his best with what time he had to fill. An extended cut might have provided a happy middle ground between a series and a regular length movie. Another issue with this movie is the fact that it somewhat gives away plot points. At one point Briareos chastises Deunan for beating his troops in training, and he clearly foreshadows the troops saving her life in that scene. It’s not the strongest story in anime film history, but it’s a decent action flick storyline for fans of mech and sci-fi.
Appleseed primarily focuses on Deunan as it’s main character, so in contrast all the other characters are a little thin on the development side. Deunan develops rather nicely, starting the show as a stoic soldier, and ending it as a somewhat more compassionate defender of the new Olympian society. In this time we see her become much more self assured as she learns more about herself, her past, and her new home. I will say that it was a tad unbelievable how quickly a life-long warzone soldier adapted to things like civilian clothes and not being shot at 24/7, but they did attempt to cover this in Deunan’s brief battlefield nightmare.
Other than Deunan the characters don’t really have much of a role other than serving as motivation for Deunan. Hitomi is her key motivating factor late in the show as the “life extension” plot device is used to force Deunan’s hand to try to save her life. Briareos pushes Deunan to respect her fellow ESWAT members, and acts as her love interest. Uranus and Hades are the focal point for the audiences (and eventually Deunan’s) ire, until the real villains are revealed. The elders simply attempt to guide Deunan to their own ends until she finally breaks free of them to save humanity. All of these characters revolve around Deunan like she’s the sun, and only a few of them have any kind of development. However, that development (as you may have guessed), comes as a result of Deunan’s actions or speech. Welcome to the Deunan show everyone.
Visuals and Music
As I’ve stated before this movie is animated entirely in CG, and it is also over 10 years old. Many will disagree, but I found the animation to be well above par for a 2004 CG animation. Some of the scenes were better animated than some CG scenes in today’s anime. Despite this praise it does show it’s age in a few areas. Most notably the night covert ops scene, which to me looked like the development footage of a Call of Duty game. Other than that the ageing in the movie was fairly minor in my mind, but then I’m not terribly opposed to older anime in the first place.
The music in Appleseed is electronic type music that is the is very thematic for the cyber-punk style of story telling that we get from it. Overall the soundtrack didn’t really standout over the visuals and story of the show. However, during the last fight of the movie the music took on a Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy composer) aspect, and somewhat reminded me of end boss music for a JRPG. It was really the one time in the movie I stopped and took notice of the music. To be fair, I’m sure this was intentional on the part of the composer.
While I did have slight issues with the story, and the way in which the world seemed to revolve around Deunan, I did enjoy this film. The story delivered plot devices in a somewhat ham-handed manner, but at the end of the movie there were only a few questions left unanswered. Appleseed seeks to tell you a complete story in a little under 2 hours, and does a decent job accomplishing it. Despite this I can’t call it one of my favorite anime movies, or even a contender for top 10, as it does the bare minimum to be considered a decent anime film. If I had to equate it to a college essay, Appleseed would be a solid “C” paper. Hopefully the sequel “Appleseed Saga Ex Machina” does a better job.
TL;DR: Appleseed delivers a decent cyberpunk/mech story in a little under 2 hours. Unfortunately the plot devices and foreshadowing are pretty easy to spot, and the main character seems to be the center of every character’s universe. Despite these problems, Appleseed manages to entertain well enough. Oh, and I hope you like CG, because this whole movie is CG. Cheers.
Recommended Audiences: Teens and up. Appleseed only makes cursory mentions towards sex, and even those are couched more in science than in romance. Still, some of the terminology might be challenging to younger audiences.
Appleseed gets shot during an escape, but survives with a plot convenient 3/5 HP!