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11/11/13

APPLESEED (1988) - REVIEW


Based on Masamune Shirow's popular manga, Appleseed is a sci-fi animated feature set in a post-World War III test city called Olympus, a utopia peopled with humans, cyborgs and bioroids and run by some kind of super computer.

Kinda like a more cyberpunky, better version of Elysium.

The film follows an ESWAT team (Enhanced SWAT) as they try to stop some cyborg known as A.J. Sebastian who seems to be responsible for more and more terrorist attacks within Olympus. As it turns out, he might not be working alone and there's even some suspicion that there might be a traitor within the police department itself. Then again, there's also the growing feeling that this utopia might not exactly be all that perfect either so the morals of this whole affair are blurred throughout. You could compare the film to something like Ghost In The Shell but it's certainly much lighter in tone and in content. The film does a good job at setting up its concept but it doesn't really go too deep in its exploration of the themes at hand like GITS does, instead opting for mech-suits and action-packed sequences. Despite its potentially complex ideas, Appleseed's story is relatively simple and very easy to get into. It's not surprising that the manga eventually spawned more films and a series, though, as there was definitely potential there for much, much more.

The great characters really help make Appleseed into a memorable feature: you've got Deunan, a human officer, and Briareos, her cyborg partner who has a human body but a robot head with antennas. He looks weird, especially when wearing normal human clothes and chilling out in bars. The most interesting character, though, has to be Calon, the human police officer with a different, less obedient outlook than our ESWAT team. While everyone around him seems perfectly happy to accept that this artificial society works and shouldn't change because it was designed to work and it appears to, indeed, work, he doesn't see it that way and believes that people should be freed from this unreal pretend-utopian cage. Appleseed raises really interesting ideas and handles them well even though a RoboCop-style burst of satirical edge could have probably elevated it to something a little bit sharper, more mischievous and ultimately more complete. Luckily, the characters, their motivations and the fact they swear like mad any chance they get helps Appleseed to stay fun and compelling during its entire, deceptively short, running time.

Overall, while it doesn't quite live up to the fullest of its potential, this early version of Appleseed is still a solid anime feature complete with good animation, an involving sci-fi concept and some thrilling action set-pieces.

Check it out.

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