October 18, 2005 on 9:06 pm | In Appleseed | 1 Comment

As an anime fan, and one not disposed to any one genre, I have had many opportunities over the years to consider the morality of robots and their place in society. Appleseed based upon Shirow Masamune’s manga, gave me a chance to consider just about every robotic moral dilemma ever conceived in the space of just 100 minutes.
Despite its many convolutions, Appleseed is a quite pretty if frequently clichéd film.

In the distant future, Deunan Knute fights a war for reasons she can’t quite remember. One day she’s saved from this existence by a group from Olympus, the world’s secret Utopia. Deunan finds that Olympus is the world’s only peaceful city, as it is half populated by bioroids, a specially bred variant of humans that exist without the extremes of emotion. Humans, the naturally hateful bastards, allegedly don’t like the bioroids.
When something terrible befalls bioroid kind, it’s up to Deunan to unlock her repressed childhood memories and find the Appleseed!

The first thing I noticed about Appleseed was how danged weird it is. The characters are animated through a combination of motion capture and “cell-shading”, the technique of “painting” over CG images. This looks great in video games, but is somewhat less well done here. Not that I was looking, mind, but Deunan’s cleavage being rendered as a flat line doesn’t “speak” to me.
More noticeable, and less perverse, is that the elders unlucky enough to have moustaches look as if they are sprouting feathers from the nose.
The style is nice enough to grow accustomed to; less easy than that is the opening song; the song that introduces us to Olympus is Basement Jaxx’ “Good Luck”, a truly bizarre way to usher us into Utopia.

The problem with the bioroids is that they’re so damned calm, and for the story to work in any sense that could even vaguely be considered interesting, the script has to incorporate several internal contradictions.
“We bioroids cannot feel hatred, envy … or love,” says Hitomi, Deunan’s bioroid friend and guide to Olympus. Later she says “Oh, how I wish I could feel love … how I envy you humans that.”
Towards the end of the movie, the bioroid mechanic Simon says something that amounts to “just because bioroids can’t feel emotions doesn’t mean we can’t feel love!”
… yeah. It’s probably supposed to be profound, but it just comes across as daft.

Of course, this is an anime movie, so one can’t expect that it will have terribly compelling characters; while Deunan and her crew are reasonably well though out, the initial villains are particularly “stock”. It’s impossible to get a hold on them beyond the fact that they are arrogant bastards.

Really, that’s what this film is about: arrogance. Humans are arrogant for creating bioroids! Bioroids are arrogant for being genetically superior to humans (actually, some of the film’s [unintentional] humour comes from the “emotionless” bioroids’ “stupid humans!” attitudes)! Of course, I won’t reveal the last arrogance because this “twist” is where most of the film’s steam lies.

The problem with this approach is that director Aramaki Shinji changes the film’s moral ramifications several times and at breakneck speed; on top of this the more hackneyed ideas take too long to get out of the way and the “can a woman truly love a machine?” storyline – about Deunan and her reunion with her now mechanical lover Briareos – is laughably mishandled and either needed more time or none at all; I considered that aspect of the storyline negligible.

Appleseed has a fairly good story, and raises some fairly good questions, but it raises too many of them to be effective. As a film, Appleseed is good enough, but there is nothing about it that one could consider outstanding.

1 Comment

  1. I WANT TO WATCH THAT MOVIE !!! It is in DVD now, but I can’t watch it (I don’t have so much money). It’s really very injust^^

    Comment by Syew — May 25, 2006 #

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