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DVD Review

DVD cover

Appleseed XIII
Complete Series Collection


Starring (voice): Kouichi Yamadera, Maaya Sakamoto, Ami Koshimizu and Hiro Shimono
Distributor: Manga Entertainment
RRP: £29.99
Certificate: 12
Release Date: 07 October 2013

Masamune Shirow created two influential mangas, both of which went on to be made into animes, Ghost in the Shell (1991) and Appleseed (1985). Both explored the impact of technology not only on society, but on the visceral bodies of the population.

Ghost in the Shell did well, turning into a successful franchise of films and a television series, for some reason Appleseed did not fare as well. That is not to say that the manga did not produce some impressive films, but it took a long time for an anime series to come to fruition.

Appleseed XIII: Complete Series Collection (2011 - 13 episodes x 282 min) was directed by Takayuki Hamana from a Junichi Fujisaku script.

Appleseed posits a world which has suffered a calamitous fifth world war. Although the war was conventional, less than half of the population survived. Retreating into giant metropolises, the most famous of which is Olympus. The remaining humans are cared for by Olympus’s AI Gaia and its army of biologically grown bioroids, who now threaten to outnumber the humans.

The story revolves around a young, female ES.W.A.T. agent Deunan and her boyfriend Briareos, a cyborg. They are tasked to keep peace in Olympus, a concept known as Utopia. The cities name and aims are a misnomer, as there are factions within and without the city unhappy with the status quo. With the logic of a machine Gaia plans to save humanity, even if it means removing the essence of humanity from its population and people and other cities are fighting back.

The films had utilised 3D CGI, but on a much bigger budget, having outsourced the animation to thirteen different animation companies. The end results are variable, with some of the ancillary characters having little or no shading on their faces, making them look unnervingly like hairy eggs with hair.

For fans of the films, there has been a shift in some of the characters. Deunan has undergone a strange girlification; she's still ballsy, but now she also worries about her relationship with Briareos, has girly talks with her friends and worries about her holidays. This injection of emotion may well have been included under the impression that it would flesh out the character, but to be honest in a hi-tech science fiction anime, do we care? I fear not.

The episodes are based around the twelve labours of Hercules. How do we know this, well it’s reflected in the episodes title, also Olympus has a bloody great statue in the centre of the city, worst still the show refers to the statue ad nauseam.

Oddly enough, for a show which champions its 3D CGI characters, it is often the 2D backgrounds which work better, although even here some of the garish creations make the city look like a candy store.

There is also the matter of why the characters all look odd when they walk and this took me a little time to figure out. Human’s essentially walk by falling over. We fall over; place one leg out front, pivot over that one fall over onto the other leg. The result of this is that we all lean forwards even if it is imperceptible most of the time. In the show the characters all walk bolt upright, making them look like they are doing some form of slow, jaunty march.

So what does work well? Well it’s CGI so the mechanical section look great and the freedom of creating the show in a computer means that the action scenes are well done. The Japanese voice actors are great and the English dub is good, both are presented in 5.1.

The show comes on a three DVD set, with the episodes taking up the first two DVDs. Disc one has a commentary for episode seven and episode twelve on disc two, oddly these are also the two best animated episodes. Content-wise the commentaries are a combination of frivolity and some genuinely useful information. Disc Two also has the English Language Trailer (1 min, 57 sec) as well as the Textless Opening (1 min, 01 sec) and closing (31 sec) theme.

Disc three is where the real goodies are hiding. Appleseed: The Inside (2 hr, 23 min, 31 sec) takes a look at how all thirteen production companies approached creating their own episode. It can be played as a single feature or you can choose to watch the episode specific sections.

Now, I’m not denying that the show represents a brave attempt to push the envelope and individual episodes work well, but the overall use of the labours motif, and the variable quality of the work, means that this is probably one advance too far. The individual pieces fail to make up a greater whole.


Charles Packer

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