Anime Review: Appleseed (Blu-Ray, 2010 Dub)

Bringing the classic 80’s manga into the world of CGI animation, Appleseed tells the story of Deunan Knute, a tough chick and veteran war hero in the post apocalyptic cyber-future world of 2131. While in the middle of an epic battle against many big machines, Knute is sedated and taken away to the utopian society of Olympus, where humans and human clones live together in peace. As it turns out, the war is actually over, and she is asked to join Olympus as the protector of their city.

But of course, just like any utopian society, something goes horribly, horribly wrong. A terrorist organization wipes out the facilities needed to keep the clones alive, and the only thing that can save them is the Appleseed, a bit of data created by Knute’s late mother. But as Knute dives deeper into the search of the this critical piece of information, she uncovers that the conspiracy runs far deeper than anyone had anticipated. Many powerful enemies stand between her and the survival of the artificial species.

Fans may have remember that the movie was originally released in the US by Geneon Entertainment in 2005. However, the company did not last much longer after that and the film’s sequel, Appleseed Ex Machina, was later released by Warner Brothers with a completely new dub cast.

Well now Sentai / Section 23 has rescued the original movie, and they redubbed it with the Ex Machina cast for better consistency between the two films. And for the first time ever, they’re releasing the computer generated anime film on Blu-ray disc.

And oh god, does it look freaking sweet!

The most defining aspect of this movie is in its visual style. The movie is rendered entirely in 3D computer generated animation, but all of the characters are “cell shaded”, the process of making a 3D image look flat like a traditional cartoon. The mesh between the realistic backgrounds and the flattened anime characters provides a very interesting contrast that is quite pleasing to the eye.

And it looks even more gorgeous in HD thanks to this Blu-ray release. Absolutely gorgeous.

I believe we first encounter the power of the HD visuals in a scene where Knute and her artificial comrade Hitomi are driving down a highway in broad daylight. The glass skyscrapers in the background reflect the bright colors of the blue sky, and the smooth futuristic highway roads reflect those buildings. It all looks sharp and clean, and the colors brilliantly popped on my HDTV screen. With bright scenes like this rendering this beautifully on this Blu-ray release, it becomes a real shame that so much of the film takes place in the dark.

The other aspect of this film that really stuck out to me was its soundtrack. Starting off with a technobeat background music reminiscent of the Matrix, we quickly jump into the opening credits sporting a Cowboy Bebop style soulful R&B theme song. From that point on, the film just continues to deliver one memorable song after another, particularly during the action sequences.

But even beyond the enhancements offered from the computer generated environment, the movie just looks good from a pure anime perceptive. The character designs are quite appealing, especially with the character of Hitomi. The cybernetic city backdrop is quite interesting and satisfies that sci-fi bug in all of us. And the action sequences are quite intense, often diving into the bullet time camera angles that have been the foundation of Hollywood films for the past decade.

But there is a major drawback to the style of the film that is almost impossible to shake off while watching it. The animation often comes off as stiff as a video game cut scene, which I found to be completely distracting and often disrupted my suspension of disbelief for the film. It felt like a video game, just one that you are not playing.

And once you get past all the eye candy Appleseed has to offer, there’s really not much there to provide for an interesting plot. In fact, I remember specifically falling asleep in the middle of watching this film back in 2005. So it did not surprise me to find myself losing interest in the movie once again in 2010 for this re-release. They really should have just cut the final 20 minutes of this flick, because you really just want it to end at a certain point.

* * * * *

The Good: Fantastic visual style of CG animation renders stunningly in HD. Good action sequences and character designs. Exceptional soundtrack.

The Bad: Animation is very choppy and stiff. Boring ending.

Final Verdict: Once you get past the fact that it looks like a long video game cut scene, Appleseed offers enough eye candy to make it worth checking out on Blu-ray. Watch it!

Review copy provided by Sentai / Section23 Films.

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