Cast & Crew
Directed by Kazuyoshi Katayama; Based on the story
by Masamune Shirow
Animated Japan); Not Rated; contains blood
and gore and mild language; Running Time
by DAVID KEYES
tend to underestimate the power of Japanese animation, not
so much for the actual artistic style but for the imaginative,
elaborate and often bewildering stories they throw at us.
Think of the mind-numbing and twisted thrills of “Akira,”
or the compelling fantasy world of “Princess Mononoke.”
Feature cartoons don’t have to be visually superior to those
of the mainstream in order to be better, nor, for that matter,
do they have to restrain themselves to material that would
only attract the eyes of a child. Until our moviegoers are
willing to understand that, mainstream animation will always
be considered a youth market, made up of elaborate imagery
but stories with limited appeal.
one of the latest releases from Manga Video, the lead distributor
of anime in the states, is a prime example of why you shouldn’t
judge a book by its cover. Granted, it’s choppy and simple,
with characters inked underneath hard edges, but little
of that matters when you compare it to the compelling premise.
In it, mankind has suffered a great relapse in population,
a result stemmed from the disasters of World War III, which
not only reduced their numbers, but destroyed much of the
planet itself. To preserve what remained of their civilization,diffused
governments from around the world constructed a large metropolis
called Olympus, which was, at the time, considered not just
an ideal habitat for survival, but a utopia of perfection
for all of its residents. There, citizens are showered with
equality, wealth, employment, and are even given the opportunity
to live in specifically manipulated climates and environments.
Unfortunately, such elements are what make some humans feel
like they’ve been imprisoned in a plastic society, and in
the plot’s turning point, a terrorist named A.J. Sebastian
conspires to bring the city down and restore man’s independence,
even though the obstacles against him are numerous.
city itself is not ruled by humans, but rather “Biodroids,”
which are described as half human, half machine, programmed
to live specifically in the manipulated environments and
serve mankind down to the last aspect. But biodroids don’t
appear to be doing that at all; in fact, the city’s Management
Director, Athena, is a capitalist who cares little about
human beings, other than using them to achieve her goals
and keep the city stable and intact. She enlists the help
of two members of ESWAT, the primary defense system of Olympus,
to track down the terrorist known as Sebastian and eliminate
him, along with anyone else who supports his cause. But
should these two humans even follow those orders, especially
when they seemingly agree when one character notes that
they “no longer live, only exist?”
is being released alongside another anime film called “Black
Jack,” which, like this one, centers on an individual’s
somewhat-questionable attempts at expanding humanity’s vitality.
But whereas the latter is blanketed in very vivid storytelling
and characters, certain qualities about this release prevent
it from being the great product it could have been. For
one thing, many of the story’s central characters are greatly
underwritten, sometimes serving merely as vehicles to transport
us from one plot point to another. The movie is also very
short, too, clocking in at 71 minutes (including the credits),
preventing us from seriously getting into the plot. And
then there’s the biodroids themselves, which is an intriguing
concept, but suffers in the end because the movie never
makes a clear visual distinction between them and ordinary
humans. When someone walks on screen, we aren’t sure of
who they really even are or who they’re working for.
what is lacking in those areas is more than compensated
for by a highly fun-filled story, which maybe, just maybe,
could have inspired parts of both “Dark City” and “The Matrix,”
if you think about it. “Appleseed” is not one of those great
anime projects like “Princess Mononoke” or “X,” but for
those who would just like to try and gradually break into
the genre, it serves as a fine starting point.
2001, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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