Appleseed (Japan 2004)

Rating: ****
Review Date: 1/1/05
Director: Shinji Aramaki

Sixteen years after a lackluster OAV outing, Masamune Shirow's masterpiece manga finally gets a big budget treatment for the big screen, with mixed results. Deunan Knute is a warrior of the wasteland, endlessly fighting a war that may not even exist. She is picked up by an ESWAT team from Olympus, which is the nation that now rules the entire world. There, she is reunited with her long lost boyfriend Briareos, a man who lost his body during the war and is now a cyborg, or "bioroid." In the utopia of Olympus, Deunan learns that over half the citizens are bioroids, and that there is increasing tension and distrust between the humans and bioroids. Briareos isn't all that he seems, either. When a genocide plan is unhatched, it's up to Deunan and Briareos to save both the humans and the bioroids, and make Olympus safe once again.

Visually, the film is flawless and absolutely stunning to watch. It may be the first anime film to be completely computer animated, and the cel-shaded characters are amazing to look at. Their motion is incredibly smooth and realistic, and they boast a high level of detail while still maintaining classic anime styling. The character designs are close to Shirow's original work, but still noticeably off. The mecha designs, however, are perfect. The action is top-notch, the cinematography is excellent, and the art direction is superb. Deunan remains one of my favorite girls-with-guns characters, and she does not disappoint. The only criticism I have about the film is the story, which deviates from the original manga in several key areas, most notably the relationship between Deunan and Briareos. The most endearing aspect of the "Appleseed" stories was the unspoken love and comraderie between the two characters, whereas in the movie, they're basically distrusting strangers full of doubt, angst, and hidden agendas. While it makes for more dramatic tension, the magic is lost and the characters don't complement each other as well as they should. Still, taken on its own terms, "Appleseed" is a fantastic piece of work that should not be missed.