2131 AD: After a major war, Deunan, a highly skilled soldier, reunites with her former lover Briareos whose body is now half man, half cyborg. Together they travel to the last human city, Olympus. In the utopian city, the population is half made up of bioroids, a genetically engineered species designed to create a peaceful society. But when a group of rebels try to sabotage Olympus' mainframe, Deunan must battle to stop the terrorists and find the 'Appleseed' data needed to extend bioroid life.
I had been wanting to watch this film ever since I first saw the trailer for it many years ago. The trailer almost literally had me salivating on the spot as the visuals and animation looked quite simply incredible. I was sold and I just had to see it. Somehow though it has taken me years to actually get round to it. Fortunately I finally got my butt in gear and watched it, and I'm glad I did.
First off, the visuals are superb. They are the greatest selling point of the film, and possibly what carried the most hype in the time around its release. The animation is so smooth and realistic I was gob smacked at how impressive it looked. It wasn't until I watched the "Making Of" that I realised how it was made to look quite so impressive. Given the look of the film, you could be forgiven for thinking that the main characters were animated using traditional cell animation, albeit expertly done, as they have been given the simple colouring look that you always have with cell drawings, and the rest of the sets were CG rendered much like Wonderful Days. However, the whole film is in fact 3D computer graphics - something I was a little disappointed to find out, as I preferred the idea that there were cell animation artists who were quite simply out of this world at their job - but this is no Toy Story in image or style.
This is an out and out action sci-fi film, with a solid, if at times rather confusing, plot to boot. I don't know whether it is the Asian animated sci-fi manga style films or what, but I always seem to find them a little hard to follow, as some of the finer details don't quite make it. This was the case with both Wonderful Days and Ghost In The Shell. Despite this, my enjoyment of the film did not suffer. The finer details that I quite possibly missed were not vital for my overall understanding of what was going on. The plot line of love and emotion, and the ability of even the engineered beings to feel these on some level is rather touching at times, although rather strange when you see that one of the "men" involved is nigh on a machine. Those story lines are not the main focus of Appleseed but the details behind the main show, the action. When the action is in front of you it is fast paced and packs a punch. Guns fire relentlessly, explosions rain down with frightening frequency and the action choreography is very stylish to watch. There is minimal graphic violence, with only a few blood shots, but some of the early "head-crushing" scenes make me wonder at how the film could get away with only a UK '12' rating.
The characters all work well together, with a wide range of personalities throughout. You have your villains, your good guys, your young, emotional and caring people... All types are catered for. The main character is Deunan, a kick-ass soldier who is so good that taking out an entire battalion on her own won't faze her. The emotions of the characters are portrayed quite well, as their facial expressions were animated based on the voice actresses facial expressions while reading the script. This gave them more life and emotion, making them more believable to the viewer. However, it did find Briareos quite a strange character. Maybe because he was a machine it made him hard to relate to, but I did find him hard to care for while watching.
Not everything is generally as wonderful as I've made out so far. While Appleseed was a highly enjoyable film and I was marvelled incredibly by the visuals, the film did not really have the overall depth and grippingness in its story to make me think it was an unbelievable film. I would recommend the film based on the visuals alone, but if you want the whole film experience the visuals will cause a slight anti-climax when comparing to other aspects. Some scenes were a little too clichéd looking and formulaically scripted, not giving the film the energy or originality it really needed. While overall these are only small criticisms given the standard elsewhere, they do prevent the film from reaching the "must see" levels.
I am always impressed by the attention to detail in every area of an animated film and with Appleseed there is no exception. With the 3D world they'd created you get a full living city to wander over. From the inhabitants, to the buildings and trees, every little detail has been carefully added to make the visual environment as real as possible. More detail is possible in 3D rendered films compared to the traditional cell animated films and it is this detail that makes the world come alive. I was mesmerised by it and how it looked. The time, care and effort that is required to create a world like this is very great and the fact that it has been done so well is highly commendable.
I would recommend Appleseed based on the visuals alone, as even though it is now several years old, it still compares very well with current films. The story-line and action sequences give the film more than just skin deep glamour, and make the overall experience highly enjoyable.
Audio & Subtitles
The film comes with the original Japanese audio in either DTS or DD 5.1 surround, or an English audio track in DD 5.1. I watched the film a bit in English and a bit in Japanese DTS to see if there was much difference in the emphasis or feeling that came across. Firstly, a little is lost when comparing the English audio with the English subtitles. There was a particularly emotional scene between Briareos and Deunan on a beach where the subtitles gave far more feeling than the audio did. Maybe this was so that the English audio matched the movement of the characters' lips better? Whatever the reason, if you want the full effect of the script I'd suggest watching in Japanese and reading the English subtitles.
The audio is well spread around the soundstage, nice and loud with plenty of bass on both soundtracks. All sound effects were suitable for the action on screen and all vocals were nice and clear. On the whole both audio tracks did the job nicely. The music tracks were also quite fitting.
The English subtitles were very good. They gave more emotion than the English audio track managed, and fortunately did not suffer from spelling or grammar errors.
With this being an animated film, grain on the transfer was nigh on non existent. Colours were very well produced giving the film a very vibrant look, detail levels were very high, showing off the excellent work of the animators. There wasn't really anything for me to criticise regarding how the film looked, I thought it was basically fantastic.
DVD & Extras
The extras for the film are on the second disc. I think it is something to do with animated films, but "Making Of" featurettes are so much more fascinating to watch when they concern them. The one in Appleseed is no exception. Entitled "The Birth Of 3D Live Anime" you get to see the effort that went in to getting such realistic animation; it was quite incredible. It seemed like they were making two films, as they had to film everything first, then animate it to make it life like. I don't always watch all of the "Making Of" style featurettes but I couldn't stop watching this one! It clocks in at just over 35 minutes in length. Then there are the Design Archives. These show the conceptual images, then the CG rendering, then the final product for five different members of the crew. This is quite good as you get to see how little or greatly the designs changed from start to finish. Next up is Appleseed Info, which simply gives descriptions of different keywords used in Appleseed, profiles on the characters and information on the mechas. After this you have an image gallery, which if you like that sort of thing I guess will be decent enough. Personally I don't see the point in them. Second to last there are Staff Profiles, giving information on six members of the crew, and finally are the obligatory trailers that no film seems to leave out. Again, I don't see the point in those. Why would I want to see the trailer for the film I'm either about to watch, or have just watched? Personally, I'd rather just watch the film! Anyway, there is a decent selection here, but The Birth Of 3D Live Anime takes the prize as easily the best extra on here.
There was something that absolutely hooked me when I first saw the trailer for Appleseed and that was its visuals. As an added bonus the film actual seemed quite decent too. Fortunately the film is not all simply style over substance. Yes, the film is not perfect in story, there are some clichéd moments and times that don't set it much apart from other films, but as a whole it is quite memorable for many good reasons. I'm glad I finally got round to watching it, as Appleseed was well worth it.