A Worthy Seed

So I finally succumbed and rented the 2004 CGI-based remake of Appleseed.

The short version is – I like it. If you have the five bucks and a couple hours, go check it out.

The long version?

Appleseed is a story revolving around Deunan Knute, a female soldier with a fearsome reputation, and her boyfriend – cum – cyborg Briareos. She gets shanghaied/recruited to work for the ESWAT team for the self-proclaimed utopia of Olympus, the only shiny, active city left in the otherwise war-devastated earth. Over half of the city population is composed of bioroids, artificial humanoids that are basically biological, living robots. The bioroids run the city as well as much of its production, under the guidance of a council and a supercomputer called Gaia.

There are some who resent this, as all is not well in the utopia. As it turns out, there are decisions being made regarding the bioroids and humans that legitimately concern many of the humans who want to govern themselves, and this position, held largely by the military, also attracts bigots, and mean, spiteful men.

Of course, all hell breaks loose.

First, let me tell you what bugged me.

I haven’t followed the anime scene closely for a long, long time. I’ve seen Bebop courtesy of Cartoon Network, and I’d regularly collected and swapped movies post-Robotech including various Yamato movies, Crusher Joe, The Iczer series (blech), and so forth. Nevertheless, it looks now, as then, that the Japanese still have the knack for taking the worst of a marginally appropriate musical style and applying it in a gawdawful way. There are good places and bad places to apply techno and electronica music. This movie, like the chase scene in the Bourne identity, was not one of them. I say this both as a huge Oakenfold fan and a person who thinks the haunting piece that opens Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is just too beautiful for words.

The consistency of the cel-shaded animation was absolutely fantastic. Body movements were far less stiff than the ever-so-mediocre Final Fantasy (beautiful still shots, though). The consistency of the texturing prevented any number of jarring incongruities like those you can see if you watch Titan A.E. Nevertheless, there are places where the shiny metal surfaces are just a bit too shiny. The biggest irritant is the faces. The eyes were sometimes wonderfully expressive, and sometimes…. just stiff, like a mannequin. The jaws never seemed to move when the mouth opened and closed, which was a jarring contrast to the smoothness and lack of puppet-like feel of the rest of the movements.

Don’t let these complaints throw you off. The plot is tight, the action well-paced, and frenetic. I especially liked the interactions and politics involved between the various groups and factions. The bioroids had their own imperatives which could give pause to anyone who wasn’t fully convinced that they would never try to take over, and one didn’t have to be a paranoid bigot to be worried about it with some of what was going on. The military, played mostly as the heavies nevertheless had some very legitimate concerns that were not being addressed, and thus the brewing conflict.

Having seen the 1988 1-hour OAV version, I’ve got to say this does far better credit to the complexity of the original manga, and doesn’t feel stripped of life or character.

It would be a spoiler to discuss which of the groups were really the bad guys. I will say that it’s amazing to what lengths a person will go to to enforce their will when they think they know better than you do what you need or want.