Sunday, 17 February 2013

Review - Appleseed (1988 - Dir. Kazuyoshi Katayama)

Appleseed (1988) is probably the most faithful visual representation of the manga by Masamune Shirow (creator of Ghost in the Shell). The later films Appleseed (2004) and Appleseed Ex Machina are both CGI and due to the 3D nature of their character models differ greatly from their 2D inspiration. Ex Machina makes the furthest departure by making Deunan worryingly attractive especially compared to the fairly butch shot-putter in this version.

It may be faithful visually but the names are all over the place. Deunan Nat (normally known as Deunan Knute) and Bularius (Briareos in the manga) are members of SWAT in the utopia known as Olympus. You wouldn't think that SWAT would have to lot to do, or even exist in a utopia, but exist they do and they've got problems; someone is not happy in paradise. So unhappy that they decide to thieve a mobile gun platform and obliterate the city. But how have they done this? Maybe they've had some help from a cop on the inside...

Appleseed combines mecha, cyberpunk and sociology to produce something a little bit different. The way it's written makes the viewer identify with the terrorists - always a risky choice. When one of the characters discusses how some of the city's inhabitants are still not happy, despite having everything they want they have nothing to fight or strive for, I can see where he's coming from. This brings to light the important distinction between what people want and what people need. What I want is a huge Scalextric set with all the trimmings, but what I need is a slap.

The mecha action is only so-so and there are better examples out there (Neon Genesis Evangelion to name but one). The finale involving the mobile gun platform never quite gets going and feels like a bit of a letdown. The designs are pretty cool, especially on the baddie Sebastian's landmate which is particularly nasty with its evil claw action. 

The main draw of Appleseed, as always, is the relationship between Deunan and bunny-eared cyborg Briareos. They obviously work well as a team but deeper feelings are also hinted at. The depth of their relationship is never revealed in its entirety. It still all feels a little underdeveloped though and this aspect maybe only fully comes to fruition in Ex Machina.

This is quite an old slice of anime and it has dated, but at only 67 minutes it doesn't outstay its welcome and I managed to get it dirt cheap. If all of this doesn't convince you that it's at least worth a punt, it contains a pipe smoking lady and a male cop called Karen. But there are better entries in the series...

If you liked this you could also try:
Patlabor, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Ghost in the Shell.

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