Appleseed -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B-

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: C+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Manga Entertainment
  • MSRP: 24.95
  • Running time: 66
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Appleseed


By Chris Beveridge     April 24, 2001
Release Date: April 24, 2001

© Manga Entertainment

What They Say
Based on the captivating manga comic book series created by the acclaimed Masamune Shirow (Ghost in the Shell), "Appleseed" is a high-octane, action-packed race against time as the future of civilization hangs in the balance. After the devastation of World War III, the scattered governments of the world construct the perfect city--but life in Olympus is carefully controlled and monitored by Biodroids, artificially created half-human half-robots. A dedicated band of terrorists plot to destroy the central computer to restore freedom to mankind.

The Review!
Appleseed is one of the older and earlier pieces of anime I snared back in the early 90's when my addiction truly began. At the time, I had been mesmerized by the incredible manga for the series written by Shirow and figured, hey, an animated version. That ought to rock.

For our primary review, we listened to this in the original Japanese language. We did listen to some of the English dub, which appears to have been done by Manga UK back in the day. It contains many completely rewritten pieces of dialogue, such as the informant becoming an arms dealer and Deunan having the positively hilarious line about something "really getting on her tits", as well as plenty of gratuitous swearing. The show was fairly mild to begin with, but the dub changes the feel of it greatly. And this was only from a few minutes of checking out the English 5.1 mix to see how it sounded. You'd think I'd learn by now. Thankfully, the Japanese track sounds pretty decent though there's little really noteworthy about it. No real issues with that or any noticeable dropouts or distortions.

Originally released in Japan back in 1988, the animation style and the source materials are showing their age. What once looked really slick isn't quite what it used to be. The transfer itself is fairly decent and the majority of the problems, mostly bits of grain and background artifacting, can be attributed to old source material. Colors are pretty decent and black levels look nice, but where we see most of the trouble is in the light blue skies and in some of the hair with artifacting and blockiness. There's a few minor nicks here and there as well.

Thankfully for the cover we get a nice piece of Shirow Appleseed artwork and not something from the show itself. Deunan and Briareos in full gear look good here and the manga logo for the show as well. The back cover has a summary of the show and profiles on the two leads (though with different names than subtitles and the domestic manga). The insert provides a piece of animation artwork and in the foldout a nice piece of Shirow artwork. the back side of the insert contains the chapter listings.

Much like the cover, the menus use Shirow manga artwork with the motion to create some nice looking images. They start off in black and white and fade to the soft colors Shirow tended to use a lot back in the early days of Appleseed, and the overall effect is nice. Access time between submenus is a bit on the slow side with a few delays, but nothing substantial. The menu layout is pretty straightforward and works well otherwise.

Besides the character bios, there's not a heck of a lot here even though there's a lot listed. The Japanese production credits are basically the scrolling credits in English that was on the original subtitled VHS tape but is also available at the end of the show after the dub credits have rolled. The rest of the special features here are all promotional videos of various Manga shows, most of which have been released awhile ago. I still find it amusing when they bill their shows as animation for the 21st century when most of it came out years and years ago.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Having not watched this OVA for close to ten years now, it's made me realize two things. I really want to read the manga again and sometimes distance in time can really change your perceptions of a show.

Appleseed was long considered one of the poorer manga to anime translations. With a manga that's so rich in visuals, action and imagery, the anime has always seemed mundane and almost a show "by the numbers". The humanity and the oomph that made the characters so exciting in the books simply isn't here.

Though my opinion has lessened over the years after taking in this viewing again. The plot, though simplistic, does work fairly well as a sidestory for the manga. A terrorist plot to steal one of the new mobile platform tanks is underway and aided by a cop in the city of Olympus. The terrorist, a bit of a cyborg, doesn't have much of a reason beyond the simple "free humanity from the biodroids" shtick. The cop has a bit more of a reason in that he realizes the city is stifling for humanity, as evidenced by how his wife felt it to be a cage, one from which she freed herself by jumping from their balcony to her death.

During the cat and mouse game of catching the terrorist and his conspirator we deal primarily with Deunan and Briareos, two folks brought in from the Badlands by young Hitomi to help the city adjust to real humans. Olympus is 80% biodroid, and most of the humans brought in tend to be cops. There's a lot of layering about humanity and its meshing with biodroids in the manga, but that's really something that's only on the fringes of this story.

There's one thing about this disc that do annoy me beyond what's mentioned above. The subtitles, which look to be a different font than Manga's other discs, are lower than they should be. When watching on the HDTV in Theaterwide mode 1, they start to go off the screen. I've not really had this problem with hardly any other disc. Add in that they're very thin subtitles that shimmer a bit depending on the color they're over, it's very annoying.

The other bit that bothered me was in the opening, there's a text scroll about why the world is the way it is. Prepare to pause here folks, it moves fast. Either that or it's not meant to be read.

Having retired the VHS tape from awhile ago, it was interesting to revisit the show and see how my views of it have changed in the intervening years. It's definitely rekindled my desire to reread the manga again. But it's also got a number of small flaws plus one truly awful dub that changes the meaning of entire segments. If you're a die-hard Appleseed fan, do yourself a favor and skip the dub, even if you like 5.1 mixes.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1,English Subtitles,Character Bios,Japanese Production Credits

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.


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