Anime Reporter gears up for Appleseed XIII, Takayuki Hamana’s (from such anime series’ as Prince of Tennis and Sisters of Wellber) CGI anime adaptation of Masamune Shirow’s sci-fi manga, Appleseed.
Set after the events of World War V, Appleseed XIII follows the story of Deunan (voiced by Death Note’s and Soul Eater’s Maaya Sakamoto in Japanese and Elfen Lied’s and One Piece’s Luci Christian in English), a young woman and her cyborg companion, Briareos (voiced by Koichi Yamadera from Cowboy Bebop in Japanese and David Matranga from Devil May Cry in English). The two are ever on the lookout for ‘paradise’, a home where they can escape the violence and tragedy that made up their life on the road together. The series’ main focus is on these two and their life in Olympus city, a vast metropolis made up majorly of bioroids, genetically designed humans programmed to work for the benefit of natural humans and for society in general, with some cyborgs and robots thrown in for good measure, and their time in ESWAT, Olympus’ elite special police force. Pieces of the pair’s history are revealed through frequent flashbacks of their time on the road together.
If you’ve noticed the influence of Greek mythology on the names of characters and setting then you’re far from mistaken. Greek legends and figures are an important symbol throughout the series and many episodes are drawn from the events of famous myths. This is used to varying degrees of subtlety during the thirteen episodes of the series but it rarely oversteps the primary narrative and viewers will not suffer for not being versed in ancient Greek.
The plot of the series can feel a little fractured, giving more focus to Deunan and Briareos’ romantic relationship than the violent and high stakes scenarios they face would often warrant. Many storylines serve as parables of a sort, with the resolution of a crisis often providing Deunan with the perspective she needs to resolve her relationship’s own conflict. For this reason, episodes may feel a little mechanical and formulaic with viewers possibly working out plot twists well before the characters themselves.
The animation, an interesting blend of CGI and traditional anime style, provides some beautiful scenes and characters stand out on the screen, right up until the moment they move or begin to speak. The CGI creates the rather unfortunate effect of watching puppets or particularly colourful mannequins, but there is little of life to be found in watching these characters. While an interesting and unconventional use of computer graphics, the CGI inevitably begins to feel rather heavy handed and, while animation style is of course no indication of the quality of plot or characterisation, the graphics at play here can only serve as a distraction, a reminder that one is in fact watching something made by someone on a computer rather than allowing viewers to become engrossed in scenes.
The characters of the series can feel a little flat, though this is certainly due to the animation to some extent. Conversations serve little in the form of humour or entertainment and more as ways to move the plot forward. This can action-light episodes drag somewhat and feel more than a little laboured. When action is abundant however, the show really shines. Here, the animation is an asset, with explosions and chases rendered beautifully and smoothly and a lack of gratuitous explosions and showdowns means that plot typically moves forward alongside scenes of violence.
Ultimately, Appleseed XIII feels like a missed opportunity. With plenty of character history and a vast world and culture to build on, it’s hard not to feel short-changed by the unsatisfying end result.
Appleseed XIII is available on DVD and Bluray from Manga UK
62% – “ One for the diehard fans”
Appleseed XIII comes across as a strong idea which withered slightly in the execution. Fans of the series may feel the need to reconnect with the world they love, but it may not be for everyone.