Cyberpunk Review » Appleseed (2004)

April 15, 2006

Appleseed (2004)

Movie Review By: SFAM

Year: 2004

Directed by: Shinji Aramaki

Written by: Masamune Shirow (Manga), Haruka Handa & Tsutomu Kamishiro (screenplay)

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Very High

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Medium

Key Cast Members:

  • Deunan Knute: Ai Kobayashi
  • Briareos: Jûrôta Kosugi
  • Hitomi: Yuki Matsuoka
  • Rating: 6 out of 10

    Appleseed screen capture


    Overview: Masamune Shirow’s Appleseed recently got a second anime treatment. The last was in 1988 – this time, in 2004, the anime is done up in eye-popping 3D graphics. With a budget of only 10 million as compared to over 90 million for a movie like The Incredibles, we shouldn’t be expecting too much. Surprisingly, we get far more than expected, especially with regards to the wonderfuly rendered backgrounds. While the animation is interesting enough, the story is more problematic. So too are the change in the feel of the characters. This is really where the original version succeeds far better than Aramaki’s version.


    Appleseed screen capture


    The Story: Appleseed takes place in the year 2131, a war-ravaged dystopian future where most all of human society is in ruins. Over two years after the last war, the only example of advanced human civilization is a newly made city called Olympia, which has been engineered to be a created as a perfect refuge from the rest of the world. Over half of the city’s inhabitants are comprised of bio-engineered “biodroids,” which are human-like beings designed to serve specific roles in the society. An all-knowing computer named GIA supports the city council in controlling all aspects of city life.


    Appleseed screen capture


    Deunan Knute, a fighter extraordinaire has been living alone in the wastelands, not realizing that the war is over. She is beset by two warring groups of fighters, one of which who is trying to kill her, and the other group, which rescues her and takes her to Olympia. There she is re-acquainted with her long lost lover, Briareos, who now has been transformed into a cyborg after his body was lost in the war. She is tasked to join “ESWAT,” a special mecha-enabled police force that keeps order within the city. Deunan also befriends a biodroid named Hitomi, who shows her around the city. Unfortunately, Deunan barely gets a chance to settle down before the assassination attempts on her life start.


    Appleseed screen capture


    Duenan quickly learns that she has been dropped in the middle of a power struggle between humans, who are concerned that the biodroids secretly aim to exterminate them, and biodroids, who worry the same about the humans. Somehow, Deunan has become essential in this struggle, yet it has nothing to do with her fighting capabilities. It turns out that her parents, before dying, developed a method for biodroids to reproduce, which would make them almost exactly like humans. But this research was lost long ago. Now, Deunan has become a pawn for both sides of this struggle, and worse, it appears as if her ex-lover, Briareos has chosen sides.


    Appleseed screen capture


    Unfortunately, the story in this version of Appleseed is problematic at best. There are too many sub-plots that obfuscate the key points. The myriad of loose ends introduced that are never followed up on. Gia, the sentient computer that runs Olympus is the probably the worst casualty. We get introduced to her, and, if you know something of the Appleseed story from the Manga, you expect to see lots more than what actually ends up being conveyed. In the end, the plot centers on a simple theme of racism. This is a shame as there were so many interesting cyberpunk aspects of Olympus that get short-circuited.


    Appleseed screen capture


    The Animation: Appleseed’s backgrounds are wonderfully rendered. This more than anything accounts for the majority of the “wows” Appleseed received. They are done in a way that allows 3D camera maneuvering, so as to allow you to see the same scene from multiple angles, and at times, even provides Matrix bullet-time effects. For the most part, the 3D CG overlaid with 2D cell shading really works. It’s an extension of the idea we saw in Malice@Doll, only with far better rendering tools. The machines look especially awesome. Both the Gunhed style tanks at the beginning of the movie and the platform sentinels at the end. Unlike many cyberpunk movies, there isn’t a dominating color palette in Appleseed, but the color scheme seems to stick more often than not to light and dark shades blue-greens, with yellow & browns in transition scenes.


    Appleseed screen capture


    In terms of the characters, only Deunan Knute really looks polished. Her body movements, facial expressions and general actions really work. The rest, especially the human characters, often look stilted in their moments. Hitomi, their biodroid friend, is especially problematic at times. This might be due more to the motion-capture techniques they use, which work wonderfully for the city, but not so well for the characters. Also, I really dislike the way they animated the hair. The hair on the humans in the 2004 edition look like something out of Reboot. However, considering the budget, I think they made the right decision in spending scarce resources on Deunan. Had they just made everyone look slightly better, Appleseed would have faltered horribly. By at least making Deunan polished, they developed a star that fit right alongside their wonderful backgrounds.


    Appleseed screen capture


    The Sound: Many times throughout the anime, Appleseed plays more like a music video than it does a movie. The modern heavy rock beats worked well for the action scenes. And truly, the action scenes are where Appleseed excels. There, the 3D positional sound, the music accompaniment and the 3D CG graphics are at their absolute best. The accompanying score really wasn’t all the memorable, but at least served up the slower paced moods fairly well.


    Appleseed screen capture


    Differences From Shirow’s Work: While both animes deviate from Masamune Shirow’s Appleseed Manga, Aramaki’s version is the most egregious. While the 2004 version starts outside of Olympia as the Manga does, it only has Duenan there, whereas in the Manga has both. This version introduces a new dramatic twist of Duenan and Briareos getting back together for the first time in two years. While this in itself isn’t bad, the side-effect is: these two characters are no NOTHING like the Manga. The Duenan Knute and Briareos of Shirow’s Manga, and of the 1988 version, are precursors to the Ghost in the Shell’s Motoko and Batou. Here, Briareos is a moody, lost soul trying to deal with his cyborg body, and Duenan is far more vulnerable than tough. The playful chemistry we see between these two both in the Manga and the 1988 anime is completely missing here. For those who aren’t familiar with the Manga, this probably won’t bug you, but it certainly sapped some of the enjoyment out of this movie for me – so much so that I’m dropping a star off the review for it.


    Appleseed screen capture


    The Bottom Line: Appleseed is definitely worth seeing for the visuals alone. While some of the characters don’t work, the Duenan, the machines and the action scenes work wonderfully. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t equal up. Too many elements are introduced and then discarded in favor of a truly simplistic storyline. They could have done better. Also, as I mention above, this is not the Deunan and Briareos I’ve become familiar with – these characters are different from both the Manga and the earlier anime. This bugged me enough to drop a star from the review, but you might not mind so much.


    Page 2: More Screencaps –>>


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    This post has been filed under Hot Cyberchicks Kicking Butt, Utopia Surrounded by Poverty, Man-machine Interface, 6 Star Movies, Awesome Cyberpunk Visuals, Animes, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 - 2009 by SFAM.


    April 15, 2006

    Glam Creature said:

    I didn’t like this one. I even couldn’t watch it till the end. It’s because of it’s 3D animation. It seemed so ugly synthetic and horrible (I don’t mean badly done, but the style), as a candy paper, very shining and with beautiful pink ornaments, but it’s just surface, covering nothing. It looked like a movie-length trailer of 3D game, making you feel empty. I’ll left it watch for android kids, preffering the stuff, where’s more touch of human hands.

    And don’t think I don’t like 3D anime at all. I liked “Ghost In The Shell 2″, for example, a lot.

    April 16, 2006

    ETM said:

    As I have already stated, I have found too many flaws in the animation besides what you guys have already said to give this one a positive review. Mine would probably have gone down to at least 5/10 on SFAM’s scale.

    ETM said:

    Oh, I forgot - the movie DID introduce me to “Good Luck” by Basement Jaxx, the song in the opening sequence, and it has become one of my favourite songs. :D

    SFAM said:

    Well see, there you go, ETM - finding your new favorite song has GOTTA be worth an extra point :D

    I do agree with Glam Creature that the look took some getting used to. EVERYTHING is shiny. That’s just the style that looked good for the money they had to put into this thing. I’m guessing the shinyness was used to cover up flaws and stuff, but it still works, assuming you get used to it.

    ETM said:

    Oh, come on, SFAM - you said it cost $10 million - isn’t that a lot, considering that the entire first season of GITS:SAC cost about $8 million? Or how about that little Japanese movie, Casshern, that allegedly only cost $6 million? I don’t think money was the issue with Appleseed.

    SFAM said:

    That’s a good point ETM. 10 million takes you further outside the US. I don’t really have a sense of the costs involved in doing the 3D animation we see here though - I wouldn’t be surprised if it costs more than the animation we see in GITS: SAC (again, I don’t know this though). Still, I think they put their effort where it needed to be. I don’t think the animation is perfect (as I stated), but I do find it to be absolutely wonderful in places. And if I were only to have one character fully rendered, Deunan would be my choice.

    curt said:

    Speaking of GITS and CG that sometimes looks too shiny, will you be reviewing MAN-MACHINE INTERFACE here soon? I just read it, and I’d really be curious to hear your take!

    SFAM said:

    Hi Curt, actually I’ll be reviewing Transmetropolitan sometime in the next day or so (I already have the review done, but am working out what I want to do with screencaptures).

    So yeah, graphic novels/mangas are going to be reviewed here. I particularly love Man-Machine Interface, especially the second half. I really love its take on Motoko’s children. This will definitely be reviewed.

    April 17, 2006

    Anime! said (trackback):

    Review: Appleseed…

    Nice write up of the new Appleseed here:……

    August 13, 2006

    Hugo said:

    Very impressive this. Maybe not as impressive as ‘Ghost in the Shell’ but a very cool film just the same. I especially loved the fly arounds of Olympus; they were spectacular. Deunan kicks ass :P.

    August 28, 2006

    Hadakàar said:

    I don’t want bothering but i think Masume is a little wrong. The name is Masamune, isn’t it?

    SFAM said:

    Hi Hadakàar, thanks for the catch! I definitely want you bothering if you see me making mistakes like that! Corrected.

    February 2, 2007


    “AppleSeed Saga Ex Machina” that’s the title of the sequel to “2004’s AppleSeed” it will be released in Japan this year - 2007.

    […] reported on 24Framespersecond, Fumihiko Sori (Producer of Appleseed) directing a new cyberpunk anime called, Vexille for Shochiku Films. The description is as […]

    March 26, 2007


    Shinji Aramaki will be directing “AppleSeed Saga Ex Machina” the sequel to “AppleSeed 2004″. Also planned for 2007 is a 26-episode animated series and a PS2 game from Sega.


    “AppleSeed Ex” is the name of the PS2 video game from Sega. It is based from “AppleSeed 2004″. It was released February 2007 including the limited box set.

    […] top quality, hopefully more care is spent on the story for Blame! than was spent on the 2004 Appleseed movie. Filed under Upcoming Movies by […]

    June 2, 2007

    randomrob said:

    I thought it was trying a little too hard to appeal to a teenage american audience… the grunge rock was really out of place… but like Final Fantasy: the Spirits Within, I have to give a tip of the hat to the artists for going above and beyond. Wonderful visuals- the Mobile Fortresses attacking the city at the end was worth the price of admission.

    September 19, 2007

    minos said:

    this is a great story, i think the movie take us to the non return point. maybe in the future things sould be that way, but i really dont think so. the graphics are cool, maybe if the texture is improved could be the best i ever seen.

    Ak!mbo said:

    How do people think about the Appleseed manga?
    I wasn’t able to get my filthy claws into an issue before they were taken off the shelf (definitely to recieve new covers in time for the new movie..) and I wanna know if I should get my expectations up..
    I enjoyed GitS very much though the second one went too far in my opinion…
    Any thoughts on Dominion Tank Police as well would be great.

    March 11, 2008

    wiredcoma said:

    Just letting you guys know that the new AppleSeed, Ex Machina, came out the other day. I’m gonna pick it up the next time I’m in town. (probably friday when I get paid… haha)

    March 21, 2008

    wiredcoma said:

    I just watched Ex Machina, and I gotta say it was fucking awesome. The story was pretty good, the graphics looked great and the action scene were wonderful.

    Go check it out if you haven’t yet.

    April 4, 2008

    DAn said:

    wats the first song you see on Appleseed called and who by?

    November 21, 2008

    Radox Redux said:

    I honestly think a point has been missed here. Saying Appleseed only comes down to racism, is downright wrong. It’s not about bioroids vs humans. It’s much more about human nature and the implications and roles of bioroids on society. What we have here is a movie that like ‘Ghost in the Shell’ tells you the stuff you need to know. It’s daring to be sure; present a model of a geniunely workable society, and then poke holes in it to deliver quite a mature message: that their may not always be a workable solution. There’s other things in here as well about the concept of humanity and a possible mass ‘euphanasia’, but I won’t linger on the plot details since they’re obvious enherited from the manga.

    However I do think that removing a star for a different (and much more interesting I might add) portrayal of Duenan and Briareos’ is just wrong. You can’t rate something based on comparisons, you have to judge by it’s own measure. If anything this version of Appleseed is a lot more realised thematically than the 1988 rendition. I kind of find it annoying that this only gets 6/10 stars whilst something as badly realised in it’s themes as ‘Renaissance’ gets 8/10.

    kabukiman said:

    Wheb I saw the movie I was amzed by the animation. The story was a bit confused, but with shirow work it’s normal. Latter I read the manga and thought it was great, but I saw one flaw in the movie: you can’t compact a story soo rich in one movie without serious cuts. Characters and plot suffer, aspects fo the story are chosen and other are droped, what matters is if the story is convincing . In GIS, the movie was a complete story, you don’t need to read the manga to understand fully. I don’t think that the same happens in Appleaseed.

    SFAM said:

    Hi Radox Redux, while I agree that the Renaissance story is not is strongest part, it doesn’t suffer a severe drop off from a previous work. Regarding what Appleseed is about, I would absolutely agree that the Manga is about a lot more, whereas the movie provides a real drop off from that. Regarding whether I should have dropped a star for the change in relationship with Duenan and Briareos, that’s a fair point, and I can certainly see disagreement on this point. But I do think that a movie based on a previous book does involve comparisons - this is both normal and expected.

    Regarding Kabukiman’s point, I would agree that Oshii’s GIS is a complete story, and that Appleseed suffered from cuts. Even though it too changed from the manga, the quality was of a very different order.

    Ak!mbo said:

    Lo and behold, my predictions came true!
    Appleseed [and Dominion] is now re-released, along with Shirow’s fantasy / sci fi manga of a really difficult name, in the updated GitS styled format. The books are now smaller, the drawings some times a little hard to make out, but at least they have glossy new cover images and fit flush besides Blade of the Immortal in my bookshelf…

    November 24, 2008

    kabukiman said:

    Blade of the immortal has really atitude! Pitty it’s in the samurai period and not cyberpunk. I think it would fit better.

    January 21, 2009

    isis said:

    great movie!!!
    i liked all the cyberpunk atmosphere and the graphics are great!!!

    January 23, 2009

    Anonymous said:

    hey why aren’t you featuring Appleseed Saga Ex Machina? it’s out already.

    March 31, 2009

    macky said:

    i love to watch this movie

    May 10, 2009

    Yora said:

    The movie is trash. But in a good way.
    All that has been said is true: The story is weak, the characters are different from the manga, and the animation is somewhat weired.
    But I had great fun watching it. So I’d rather give it 7 than 6 points.
    Really no “must see”, but great fun to watch.

    June 30, 2009

    Gothik_Knight said:

    Seen both 3-D movies. Love them both.
    When I first bought the first 3D film, I had to go to my parents house to watch it. (my dvd player did a melt-down). My mother watched it with me, and she loved the visuals and characters and how things developed. Though I did have to explaine a few things to her like why Briarious has “bunny ears” as she put it. My mother found out I had the 2nd film, and barrowed it to watch it. LOL.

    Great movies. Ex-Machina is even better than the first film. I like the more realistic art style to the characters.
    We need for films done in the Ex-Machina style of 3D.

    November 6, 2010

    jacob said:

    This is so badly animated (visually), It just looks like it is from the 90/80s… There is no way I could look past that, especially considering the date..

    Anyway I didn’t like the story. And the message it was sending out about peace, and equality, and whatnot.

    April 17, 2012

    borg said:


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