Appleseed - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: A-

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: Optimum Asia
  • MSRP: £19.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Appleseed

Appleseed

By Paul Jacques     September 16, 2005
Release Date: September 19, 2005


Appleseed
© Optimum Asia


What They Say
Appleseed is a cutting edge production that uses state of the art technology and 3DCG to produce one of the most visually arresting and hyper-realistic animations to date. The brainchild of leading anime creator Masamune Shirow (Ghost in the Shell), Appleseed is a post-apocalyptic science fiction epic brimming with fast-paced action and awe-inspiring visuals.

It’s 2131 AD and the future of the human race hangs in the balance. Female soldier Deunan Knute has survived a major war that has pushed the earth to the brink of destruction. Located in a bombed-out urban wasteland, Deunan is transported to the Utopian city of Olympus and reunited with her former lover Briareos whose body is now half man, half cyborg. In Olympus City, half the population is made up of Bioroids, a genetically engineered species with a limited life span who are designed without unstable human emotions in order to create a peaceful society and protect the remaining members of the human race.

In utopia, however, all is not as it seems. A group of rebel humans, who perceive bioroids as a threat to the integrity and future of mankind, try to sabotage the Olympus city computer and destroy the ability to re-activate the bioroid reproductive functions. As Deunan battles to stop the terrorists and find the ‘Appleseed’ data needed to extend bioroid life, the question of who she can trust and who is actually right- their society, or the terrorists- continues to arise.

Directed by Shinji Aramaki, Appleseed uses full CGI to allow for dynamic camera movements that enhance the action sequences. Characters are also in full CG, however, using a process called ‘toonshading’ characters retain an unmistakable ‘cell anime look’. The film is based on Masamune Shirow’s best-selling manga of the same title, which was first printed in 1985 and has since been translated and sold to numerous countries across the globe.

With some breath-taking action sequences and a fantastic soundtrack that includes the likes of Basement Jaxx, Paul Oakenfold and Ryuichi Sakamoto, Appleseed has generated enough interest worldwide to make it one of the most talked about animated films of recent times.

The Review!
This is a second remake of Masamune Shirow’s manga of the same name (ah, the bouffant 80’s). This new Appleseed has been revamped with all the CGI and 3D technologies available to a modern animation studio, and boy does it look good.

Audio:
I listened in Japanese and English and all three streams are excellent. And what’s even better is that we get real surround sound with the action audibly coming from the direction of the action- you are so going to enjoy the rail-gun ;-)

The open theme song, which is played during the fly-by of Olympus is a cracking song called Good Luck by Basement Jaxx\ Lisa Kekaula. The ending theme is called Anthem by Boom Boom Satellites. In the middle is a generous sprinkling of Ryuichi Sakamoto and Paul Oakenfold music.

Video:
It’s 16:9 aspect- at last, something to give your wide-screen TV a reason for being in the room ^_^. OK, now the bad news, this print is not quite as crisp or vivid as the R1 print. As such I suspect this is one of those R1 >> R2 conversions, rather than a Master >> R2. It’s not bad or intrusive, and the only way you’d know is if you happen to have the R1 already, but I can see the odd minor defect.

Here’s something to watch for- When Deunan and Briareos chat in the locker room, watch out for the light streaming in, and even the particles of dust it illuminates…. nice touch that ;-)

Packaging:
N/A Check disc only

Menu:
A simple, yet effective menu based on a simulation of Gaia with an overlay of the opening battle scene looping in the background. All the links worked, although a tad slow at times. The menu is mildly different from the R1 release, but not a whole lot different.

Unlike the R1 release, there is no “Extras” menu option (not a big deal).

Extras:
The Director & Producer’s commentary is quite entertaining (but distracting). If you want to know why the did what they did, then this is the track to turn on after you’ve finished watching the main movie a few times.

The other extras on the R1 release are really not worth having, the commentary is the main thing.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain some spoilers)
The film opens – and it’s one of the best movie openings anywhere! – with Deunan being attacked by a squad of mercenary cyborgs. These bots are extremely lethal and quite prone to dispatching the human opposition is some very icky ways e.g. having your head crushed. We get some great slow-motion fight scenes with these cyborgs and Deunan. And just when it looks like she is about to drilled with lead from 2x giant robot tanks (with amazing rail-guns), a squad of unknown men in battle suits drop into join the fray from a plane.

The battle ends spectacularly, with Deunan being captured by this new force (aka ESWAT) and taken back to Olympus city…….. cue the even more fabulous Opening theme music by Basement Jaxx.

In the new city Deunan discovers many revelations; she discovers that the war she has been fighting so long and so hard for has no meaning; that the world is being rebuilt with humans and artificial humans (aka bioroids) struggling against “fifth columnists” who can’t see past their racism; she is re-united with her lover Briareos, who she believed was killed a year ago. Only Briareos is very different from how she remembers him. He is now part man, part machine (cyborg), and treats Deunan with complete indifference.

As the story unfolds we learn that Olympus was built to rebirth to the human race. To that end the human scientists (the elders) created a super computer (Gaia) to run the city. The city is governed by bioroids who were created by the now dead scientist Dr Gilliam. And the bioroids have one purpose, to help humanity survive (or so they say). Only the Olympus Army, who are %100 human, do not like the bioroids and they wish to take over and run the city themselves.

Into this mix comes Deunan: Deunan is not only a superb soldier, but she holds a key to a secret, and it is a secret that the Elders, Bioroids and the Military all seek to capture for their own nefarious ends.

Of course Deunan has no idea why everyone is so interested in her, but she begins to suspect something is not right, when shortly after arriving, she is attacked again whilst being given the tour by bioroid Hitomi. Another amazing fight scene ensues with, punctuated at the end by the cryptic and dying words of an android- “Appleseed must NOT be opened”.

This attack gives impetus to the military to begin making their move towards a coup d'etat. At the same time Deunan is given a mission to find the “Appleseed”.

On the road to unravelling the Appleseed mystery she discovers many plot secrets (mums-the-word) about who built Olympus, the bioroids, her past and what secret lies hidden in the bunker known as D-Tank.

Unfortunately once the Appleseed “genie” is released from it obscurity and even greater threat faces the world. The threat is what drives the final, super spectacular, battle at the end- and boy it’s a doozy of a battle.

I’ve glossed over much of the action because I really don’t want to spoil it for you, as the action scenes are in the OMG, OMG, OMG category of sweaty armpits viewing. Suffice as to say that each subsequent fight scene is better that the last.

When I watched Appleseed 2004 the first time, I didn’t like it as I found many things lacking i.e. confusing story line, character motivation, pregnant pauses (or is that Japanese silences?) and a sparse script.

Having watched it a few more times I find myself enthralled- what a change! It would seem that a lot of the missives I had were actually deliberate directorial touches: In this film is that there is a huge amount of plot misdirection and subtle character interaction…. you think one thing and later on it turns out to be something else, and then you go “oh, yea, now I understand”.

What has changed my mind you ask? Well, to be honest almost all those initial reservations disappeared once I fully understood the nuances of the plot. And instead of seeing gaping holes in the storyline and scripting, what I now see is one very tightly written plot- ridiculously tight!

There is a scene in the bar where Deunan and Hitomi are talking about, and Hitomi wants to know what love is like? Well, as you remember the question is left hanging (as are so many questions). Yet that scene isn’t about character exploration, it’s about making a point\ counter point: The bioroid wants to ask a human about love, while in the background a human is demonstrating hatred to a bioroid. This somewhat underlines the difference between the species. And all those scenes where Duane is quizzing Briareos about what is going on, and he pauses, then ignores her question. Before I was, “hey, why didn’t they explain that?”, now I realise it’s because Briareos is lying and every pause is him stumbling on a lie. And a gazillion other questions I had; such as why doesn’t Altena tell Deunan about her past; who are the mercenaries were sent to kill Deunan at the start; who sent the droids in the van; why does Briareos cough when he is dying; who finally stops the mobile fortress? All get answered by the end of the third viewing- lots of subtle touches, all for the viewers consideration.

Of course it’s not perfect. The script lacks in places: Col. Hades character is left so vacuous in his motivations (until the end) as to be just a plot device used solely to tie up a loose end or two. My feeling is that there is a bit of his story is still on the storyboard. Even Deunan’s character seems odd, the way she just floats through the story accepting fate as it’s handed out by others. And her pivotal speech to the Elders towards the end, is, well, heavy handed to say the least (maybe she’s just Northern ;-)

In summary-
Everyone I’ve shown it to has been blown away by the visuals, you will too. If you didn’t understand the subtleness of some of the plot points, just watch it again, you soon will.

Features
Japanese Language DD 5.1,Japanese Language DTS,English Language DD 5.1,English Subtitles,Director & Producer commentary

Review Equipment
JVC 28" Pure Flat Wide Screen TV, Pioneer 454 Progressive Scan code free DVD player, Logitech Z-680 THX DD/DTS receiver & Speakers. Secondary equipment, 21” Sony Trinitron monitor, ATI 9700pro & PowerDVD v4, Creative Audigy 2ZS & headphones.

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