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DVD Review

Ex Machina


Starring (voice): Ai Kobayashi, Gara Takashima, Kouichi Yamadera and Kuwata Kong
Warner Home Video
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 12
Available 02 June 2008

Following a war that has eradicated half the worlds population Olympus stands as mans last hope of peace, a peace that is maintained by ESWAT, Olympus’s elite police force. In 2135 ESWAT consists of Bioroids, artificially created clones; machine enhanced humans and non-cyberised humans. In this new world order leaders have come to Olympus to discuss the production of the Bioroids, but someone else has other plans as chaos is unleashed upon the city. Only EWAST stands in the way of a disaster of biblical proportions...

Appleseed: Ex Machina (Ekusu Makina 2007, 1 hr, 40 min) is the third Appleseed film, following on from the Appleseed OVA (1988) and Appleseed (2004).  For Ex Machina, Shinji Aramaki once more takes up the directorial reins.

The main story involves the relationship between Deunan, a female ESWAT officer, Briareos, her partner who has been cybertised, and the clone of Briareos, Tereus, who together have to overcome their rather strange relationship triangle to stop a plot to control the world’s population.

One of the first things you notice about the film is its general look; the producers haven’t gone for the level of photorealism seen in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001), rather they have opted to keep some of the look of the original manga, especially where the characters facial features are concerned. I have to admit to really enjoying the 2004 Appleseed, so was looking forward to seeing this new feature.

Okay, I’ll admit that the story is a bit old hat and, without giving anything away, if you’ve seen the first story of the new Doctor Who with the Cybermen, then you will have seen the central threat already played out. The look of the film, however, is nothing short of spectacular, including the costumes designed by Italian fashion designer Miuccia Prada - now there’s product placement of a superior kind.

The action sequences are pulse pounding affairs, where Woo’s influence is clearly present. The relationship part of the story is by far the better half of the film, if nothing else because is pushes the boundaries of what one would expect from an animated film. Another great element of the movie is its portrayal of female figures, not only Deunan, who is a kick-arse police officer, but also the strong female leaders of Olympus and its satellite states.

The disc comes in a number of spoken languages - English, French and Dutch - with the same option for the subtitles. Oddly enough there is no option to listen to the original Japanese vocal track. The extras are spread across the two disc with disc one getting Team-Up: John Woo and Shinji Aramaki (16 min 27 sec) looking at how the contributions from these two great men shaped the final film; and Revolution: Animating Ex Machina (18 min 39 sec) which looks at how the creators of the film took the CGI animation to a higher level, using motion capture. Last but certainly not least you get a full length commentary.

Disc two holds the remainder of the extras. The Appleseed Chronicles (19 min 47 sec) is a rather odd affair. manga creators are renowned for their desire not to be seen in public, so we have Shirow Masamune discussing the show through written text which is read aloud by an actor. East Meets West (18 min 39 sec) looks at the impact that American and Japanese culture has had on each other. All of the extras are presented in English with options for English, French or Dutch subtitles.  

Overall I did enjoy Ex Machina. It balances the two parts of its story well and wraps the whole thing up in action visuals which will delight any anime fan - it certainly delighted me. So, great action, great animation, good extras, but the story is a little naff.


Charles Packer

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