published in Empire No.69, Sydney
Original OVA series/p>
One of the first anime based on a manga by Masamune Shiro (creator of Ghost In The Shell), Appleseed is a classic OVA from the 80s anime boom. Very cyberpunk in its fixation on cyborgs, the military and futuristic dystopia, Appleseed contains the seed for much cyber anime to follow.
In the city of Olympus, humans, cyborgs and 'bioroids' (genetically designed servants) function as an integrated society. But the supercomputer controlling this integration becomes the target of terrorists who wish to collapse Olympus, thereby calling into action the city's SWAT team. The task force investigating this central criminal plot is Deunan - a tough female cop - and Briareos - an advanced cyborg of considerable power.
As with most anime based on Shirow's manga, Appleseed features some memorable mechanical design. The armoury in Appleseed is almost as important as the characters employing it, making this one of the memorable 'mecha' anime of its time. The series also conveys depth in the working partnership between Deunan and Briareos, and both during and after action sequences, Deunan develops a heightened awareness of precisely how connected she is to the criminal tensions which organically grow from Olympus' societal projection.
published in Empire No.84, Sydney
New OVA series
Japanese anime is not exempt from ‘remake-mania’. A growing list of anime titles from the 80s and 90s have been remade, glossed with a veneer that at once extinguishes their paternity and claims amazing inventiveness. Yes, they look flashier and move with fuller dynamics, but often they have lost the irrational charm that their original versions generated. The sprawling net of titles associated with the manga of Masamune Shiro matches the various trends in anime over the last 30 years where a famous manga creator has been embraced by the televisual networks and publishers in Japan to produce as many titles as possible from that manga creator. The feature Appleseed based on his manga follows the original single OVA from 1988.
This remake is entirely different – most obviously due to its production solely within the CGI domain – yet it joins its original in remaining quite faithful to the tone of Shiro’s original manga. It sharpens its focus on the relationship between crack combat fighter Deunan and her partner Briareos. He is now mostly a human frame and brain encased with a powerful cyborg corpus while she is wholly human. Having been separated for some years following ongoing insurgence battles, Appleseed picks up on Deunan and Briareos' reunion. They are here called in by government official Hitomi to deal with human terrorists who are plotting to destroy the livelihood of the massive bioroid population of the central city Utopia.
It’s the classic humans-hate-robots scenario which is the staple of supposedly enlightened sci-fi writing in the West. But in Japanese hands – where robotics is less a nightmare and more an everyday semblance of contemporary life – the sides drawn in this battle become murky and ill-defined. Appleseed has an abundance of plot upheavals in its last quarter, many of which make for fascinating considerations on the whole humans-vs-machines debate.