Anime Review – Appleseed: Ex Machina

A little over a year ago I reviewed Shinji Aramaki’s adaptation of the Appleseed manga. Now it’s time to take a look at the sequel.

Cast and Crew

Ai Kobayashi as Deunan
Gara Takashima as Athena
Kouichi Yamadera as Briareos
Kuwata Kong as Aeacus
Miyuki Sawashiro as Hitomi
Naoko Kouda as Dr. Xander
Rei Igarashi as Nike
Rica Fukami as Yoshino
Shinpachi Tsuji as Commander Lance
Takaya Hashi as Dr. Kestner
Takaya Kuroda as Arges
Yasuyuki Kase as Yoshitsune
Yuuji Kishi as Tereus

Directed by Shinji Aramaki
Produced by John Woo
Music by Ryuichi Sakamoto and various techno musicians
Screenplay by Kiyoto Takeuchi based on a manga by Masamune Shirow
Animation by Digital Frontier

Available from (DVD, Blu-Ray) and (DVD, Blu-Ray)

The Premise

Deunan Knute and Briareos continue to work for E-SWAT, the special operations force for Olympus, a semi-utopian light in the midst of a post-apocalyptic war-torn world. The piece of Olympus has been disrupted by a series of terrorist attacks by mind-controlled cyborgs. Now E-SWAT must get to the bottom of this before the world is plunged back into destructive war.

Additionally, Deunan now has a new partner, along with Briareos – Tereus, a Bioroid clone of Briareos, who looks the way Briareos did back when he had his human body.

High Points

The CGI in this film is far superior to the CGI from the last film. This movie looks absolutely gorgeous. The cel shading is much more subtle then in the earlier film, with the characters looking semi realistic, but with the cell shading and other visual work keeping the visuals from falling into the uncanny valley. It really helps complement Shirow’s early visual style much more then the visuals in the last film.

More then that, the “camera-work” is much improved. We get a lot of excellent tracking shots through the film, and in most of these shots the camera almost never stops moving, except for a few dialog scenes. The performance capture is also very well done, as opposed to the last film which from what I recall only did motion capture.

The relationship between Deunan and Briareos is also fleshed out better, with some actual displays of affection between the characters, rather then just the sort of general UST that you tend to get in anime.

Low Points

From what I recall, the “Bluetooth is Brainwashing” part of the subplot didn’t exist in the original manga, and I feel like it doesn’t mesh with the setting well at all. Additionally, the “Anti-Gravity Research Facility” just didn’t make any sense, in terms of the science of the setting and in terms of basic logic – which is really unfortunate as one of the strengths of Shirow’s work, particularly Appleseed the manga, is that everything mechanically is thought out in the setting, in terms of why things exist and how they work. This is not that.

Also, the subplot with Briareos and Tereus isn’t handled well. The promotional materials describe the subplot as a love triangle, but it’s anything but a love triangle. Tereus is no major rival for Deunan’s heart, and instead the subplot between the two is something of a double inferiority complex. Tereus feels inferior to Briareos because he’s the original, and Briareos feels inferior because Tereus is all young and handsome.

Content Notes

There is some bloody violence here, but no gore and no nudity.

The Scores

Originality: The setting is a progression of the setting from the first film – not totally original, but a reasonable evolution. 3 out of 6.

Animation: Much improved. This is some of the highest quality CGI animation in animated films outside of Pixar. 6 out of 6.

Acting: The acting performances are well done, both in terms of voice acting and in terms of performance capture. 4 out of 6.

Story: The film’s story has some somewhat substantial plot holes to it. 3 out of 6.

Emotional Response: This film is much more of a character-driven film then the first film was, and this film has more real emotional tension for some of the characters then the original did. 4 out of 6.

Production: This film sounds better, things are designed better, the music is produced better then the last film. 4 out of 6.

Overall: This is leaps and bounds better, from a production quality standpoint, from the first film. This movie really shows the potential of CGI animation for the production of animated films outside of the Pixar/Dreamworks mold. 4 out of 6.

In Total, Appleseed: Ex Machina gets 28/42.