Review: Appleseed XIII – Complete Series / Cert: 15 / Director: Takayuki Hamana / Screenplay: Junichi Fujisaku / Starring: Lucy Christian, David Armitrage, Emily Neves / Release Date: Out Now
This hugely ambitious thirteen episode 2011 CGI anime based on Masamume Shirow’s manga series Appleseed is set in the aftermath of a worldwide non-nuclear conflict which has decimated the world’s population, leaving the hi-tech ‘city-nation’ of Olympus standing as a symbol of power and hope in a ruined world. But the city, governed by a huge artificial intelligence called Gaiea, administered by genetically-engineered bioroid humanoids, is under threat from a melting pot of simmering racial, religious and political discontent bubbling away beneath the city’s idyllic façade. Olympus is protected by ES.W.A.T., an elite military force whose numbers include Deunan, a feisty and nubile female agent and her partner/lover Briareos, a formidable cyborg soldier. Deunan and Briareos dream of finding their own, more simplistic utopia out in the blasted wasteland, whilst a terrorist group known as the Human Liberation Front is hostile to the city’s plans for the bioroids to preserve the essence of humanity for the sake of future generations. Scooby-Doo this ain’t…
Anime newbies (hello there!) are likely to find themselves variously baffled, thrilled and dazzled by the scale and scope of the imagination on display in Appleseed XIII. This is big, bold, brash hardcore sci-fi which makes no real concessions to newcomers; its violence is tough and occasionally disconcerting and the animation (farmed out to 13 Japanese CG studios who were responsible for one episode each) is vibrant and only very occasionally inconsistent, the stylistic differences between the various studios briefly noticeable now and again. But what most impresses is the ambition of the story itself; what initially appears to be a standalone series of episodes soon starts to reveal its arcs and its pervasive influences from Greek mythology – indeed the whole series takes its inspiration from the Twelve Labours of Hercules, with episodes effectively based around one of the Labours. Inevitably some episodes are stronger than others and the numerous larger-than-life action sequences are balanced by some surprisingly deep characterisation, gentle moralising and some downright weird and ambiguous imagery.
It’s a bold and well-executed series but its uneven pace and artistic pretensions – not to mention its controversial deviations from the Appleseed story familiar to classic manga aficionados – suggest that it’s likely to be regarded as a misfire and a missed opportunity for the very audience it was designed for. Worth a look but inevitably hard work for newcomers to the genre and a disappointment for fans.
Extras: Commentaries / Behind-the-scenes featurettes / Trailer