Another one from the dusty and crusty video store I found. I'm sort of happy to update this review, it was one of the original 5 line ones I wrote and really needed replacing.
It's the future, and all the bad stuff has happened, leaving the vast majority of the world a de-populated wasteland strewn with wreckage. Some people still survive, the strong or the lucky, but they are the exception. However in one pocket of the world the Central Management Bureau has survived and is rebuilding civilization from the ashes. This time they're going to do it right, taking the opportunity of a clean slate and super high technology to build a modern utopia. The only flaw in their plans are that humans, especially those brought in from the wasteland, prove to embody both chaos and order. The answer is to build another race of humanity, the bioroids, but is a race trained for order truly human?
And at the point of the interface between chaos and order are two specialists brought into Olympus from the `outside'. Deunan and Briareous, as elite special ops cops, were living in combat zones long before the real one hit. They're monstrously skilled, efficient and no strangers to violence. In the peaceful city of Olympus they're the equivalent of a battleaxe. But given that crime and terrorism still exist it turns out that society needs exactly the skills they possess. In short there's some bad guy ass that needs a high tech ass-kicking.
Ah, Appleseed, Masamune Shirow's master-piece manga from before he was famous. Which meant he had the time to provide a detailed rendition of the ideas that drive him. Hard edged and complex characters, complex (and often somewhat confused) philosophies, brilliantly designed and realised technology and completely amazing action sequences. This coupled with stories of such intricate and clever complexity that you can read them 20 times and still be wondering if you got all the details. Truly, while destined never to be finished, Appleseed is a classic manga.
And then there is this tape, Appleseed the anime, which is so definitely not. Everything about this production just screams `video quickie'. I guess it was done at a time when people assumed Shirow's popularity was transient and slapping out a quick OAV movie would be a bit of an earner. Heck, the script is written by the director which is a sure sign of limited interest. The fact that this is produced by Gainax, who are so obviously capable of so much more, is simply the final piece of evidence.
While it seems overkill let me explain in more detail. Everything in this movie is `flat'. This includes the animation but it also extends to the script. It's simplistic, sort of stupid and does extremely little to bring out any depth in the characters or tension in the events. It has some tech design stolen from the manga, and there's echoes of Shirow's complex philosophical basis, but they're pretty much just window dressing. This is the sort of thing that would be produced if someone flicked through the manga and then started writing. It has some of the appearance but it just doesn't get it, or have any style, or make much sense.
Even the characters names get mangled in the dub. Briareous is an intellectual, urbane black male but he speaks like some sort of gruff drill sergeant. Athena is one of the most subtle and sophisticated manipulators of events, but here she speaks like a thug. Deunan, perhaps one of the most cool women in manga (and I include Kusanagi from ghost in the shell in that) becomes largely window dressing. They take deep characters and produce absurd and dull simplified versions. It's simply average anime if you don't know the manga, it's a crime against taste and decency if you do, but in the end it's something of no interest to either.
I realise that, as a lover of the manga, I'm going to prove the harshest critic of the anime. Can't really help that. However even if you have never read the manga I suspect you're going to find this a yawner. The pacing is very slow, there's no feeling of pressure. There's no cleverness, no insight and the conclusion is just very silly. And it takes so long for the plot to even present itself. You may still enjoy the bits of Shirow's story they've copied, some of the tech design is sweet, but I don't think anyone will be claiming this is anything other than distinctly low-average anime.
The true strength of Shirow is his combination of tech knowledge and the depth of detail in his designs. The true weaknesses of this anime are a completely lazy feel, sloppy depiction and boring animation. There are some action sequences, but they're so short and rare (there's really only 1 good sequence in the entire film). They even have to invent a land-mate (the mini-mecha that are the signature tech in the series) because the real Guges (or the terrorist mecha used in the book) is too much work to animate. The action, energy and tactical complexity is lost to such an extent that even the action sequences are pretty yawn-inducing. The character art is no better, very simple and flat stuff, and I've already mentioned how very average the dub is. The music appears to have been taken from the nearest elevator, and the `clang' sound effects for land-mates moving would be funny if it wasn't all so tragic. It's all minimally competent, I've seen worse, but you can tell they just didn't really care. Heck, they don't even check the English words used in the animation, "red alart" and "olumpus" being obvious examples.
The magnificence of Masamune Shirow (Ghost in the Shell) is completely lost in this extremely average production based on one of his early manga. For an Appleseed fan it represents an opportunity wasted, for everyone else it's just a pretty boring and unimpressive anime. Either way, other than fast forwarding for some of the tech, it's best avoided. If you bought this... my condolences.