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Appleseed (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 20, 2010 by  



Action-packed, vibrant and all-out awesome! “Appleseed” set the bar for 3D animation used in a Japanese animated film back in 2004 and it still looks absolutely awesome in 2010 on Blu-ray.  Although, a major caveat of Sentai Filmwork’s first Blu-ray release is it lacks lossless audio!

Image courtesy of © 2010 Sentail Filmworks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Appleseed

DURATION: 105 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16×9), English DTS, English 5.1, Japanese DTS, Japanese 5.1, Subtitles: English, English for the Hearing Impaired

COMPANY: Sentai Filmworks

RATED: R (Some Violence)

Release Date: March 16, 2010

 

Originally created by Masamune Shirow

Directed by Shinji Aramaki

Screenplay by Haruka Handa, Tsutomu Kamishiro

Character Design by Masaki Yamada

Mechanical Design by Takeshi Takakura

Mecha Design by Atsushi Takeuchi

Sound Director: Yota Tsuruoka

CGI Director: Yasuhiro Ohtsuka

Executive Producer: Sumiji Miyake

Producer: Hidenori Ueki, Naoko Watanabe, SORI

Backround Design by Nobuhito Sue

Music Production by Shin Yasui

Original Music by Tetsuya Takahashi

Production: Fumihiko Sori

Production Design by Shinji Aramaki

Featuring the following voice talent:

Ai Kobayashi/Luci Christian/Jennifer Proud as Deunan Knute

Juurouta Kosugi/David Matranga/James Lyon as Brialeos Hecatombcales

Mami Koyama/Allison Sumrall/Lee Rush as Athena Areios

Miho Yamada/Shelley Calene-Black/Cindy Robinson as Nike

Takehito Koyasu/Andrew Love/Jack Aubree as (Colonel) Hades

Toshiyuki Morikawa/Chris Patton/Dave Wittenberg as Yoshitsune Miyamoto

Yuki Matsuoka/Hilary Haag/Mia Bradley as Hitomi

Yuzuru Fujimoto/Jason Douglas/Michael McConnohie as (General) Uranus

Plucked from the last battlefields of the final war, mercenary Deunan Knute finds herself pressed into duty with the ESWAT, defenders of the Utopian city of Olympus. But serpents lurk beneath the peaceful surface of this apparent Garden of Eden, and new seeds of destruction have already been planted! Now it’s up to Deunan and her former lover, the now-cyborg Briareos, to unravel a deadly web of plots that threaten to bring down Olympus from within!

Special Features: Commentary with Shinji Aramaki (Director) & Fumihiko Sori (Producer), Alternate English Dub (5.1), The Birth of 3D Live Anime, Original Japanese Trailer, Special Japanese Trailer, Staff Profiles.

Masamune Shirow, one of my favorite manga artists that I had the opportunity to enjoy his works back when I was a teenager.  I’ve grown up reading his manga “Black Magic”, “Dominion”, “Ghost in the Shell”, “Orion” and also had the opportunity to read his series “Appleseed”.

Although the first Shirow anime I watched was the OVA “Black Magic M-66”, I also had the opportunity to watch the first anime release of “Appleseed” and I can easily remember how cerebral the OAV was compared to “Black Magic M-66” and the two “Dominion Tank Police” OVA’s.  But if there is one thing that you can expect from Shirow’s work is an intelligent story, being created with meticulous detail and a tremendous back story.  Shirow is able to create a world with characters that just amazes me.

Granted, his work that a lot of people outside of Japan are familiar with is “Ghost in the Shell” but in 2004, all things changed with the release of “Appleseed” the movie.  The bar has been raised for anime films courtesy of director Shinji Aramaki (known for his mechanical design work on anime such as “Bubblegum Crisis”, “Gasaraki”, “Megazone 23”, “Genesis Climber Mospeada”, to name a few), character designer Masaki Yamada (“Great Dangaioh, “Samurai Champloo”, “Midnight Strike Force”), mechanical designer Takeshi Takakura (“Glass Fleet”, “Galaxy Angel”, “Heat Guy J”) and Atsushi Takeuchi (“Ghost in the Shell”, “Ah! My Godess”, “Moldiver”) along with producer/live action director Fumihiko SORI.

And now the film makes its HD debut on Blu-ray from Sentai Filmworks.  “Appleed” also happens to be the first Blu-ray release from Section23 Films.

“Appleseed” is about a young female soldier named Deunan Knute, a survivor of the Global War who is running away from a group of strong, mecha enemies.  She eventually is captured and we learn that she is actually rescued by a group who have brought her to the Utopian city known as Olympus.

She meets Hitomi, a bioroid (robots that look like human, were built to protect humanity and have no emotions of love or hate) who is responsible for recruiting new members of ES.W.A.T. (Extra Special Weapons and Advanced Tactics).  Upon Deunan’s awakening, she finds out that her former boyfriend Briareos Hecatonchires, who has been missing is alive.  But no longer the man he once was.  He is now a cyborg that still has part of his humanity but his whole look is of a robotic soldier who works for ES.W.A.T.

Deunan is shocked by finding out that Briareos is still alive but surprised that when around her, he acts as if he doesn’t care.  Meanwhile, she is brought up to speed about the city of Olympus in which its inhabitants are half human and half robot/clone known as Bioroids.  The city is governed by three factions – Prime Minister Athena (who is a first-generation Bioroid actually created by Deunan’s mother, Dr. Gilliam Knute) who has been searching for Deunan; General Uranus III of the Olympus Army who doesn’t like Bioroids and does not trust them; and the Council of Elders, a group of Elders that listens to a supercomputer known as Gaia who believe the future is with Bioroids and not humanity.

Because of these three factions, all is not good in the world as each have their own agenda and everyone is going after data known as “Appleseed”.  Data that will give Bioroids the ability to reproduce and extend Bioroid life.

But it appears that these factions are all after Deunan.  Why is she a target for these factions and why do they want her?

VIDEO:

“Appleseed” receives its 1080p (16×9) High Definition Blu-ray release and for the most part, Sentai Filmworks does a great job in ensuring the film and their first Blu-ray release looks very appealing.  It’s important to remind everyone that “Appleseed” was released in 2004, before SORI’s “Vexille” (2007) and before “Appleseed Ex Machina” (2007).

When I first watched this film on DVD, I was blown away by the animation.  Watching it in 2010, the animation, movements and the overall look of the film is still pleasing but having seen how far it has come a few years later with the sequel, you can’t help but watch this film and think to yourself of how this film was the stepping block for big things to come.  The artistic backgrounds still look amazing and the Blu-ray release definitely gives us more detail of the concrete, the overall vibrant look of Olympus to the awesome detail of the mecha and vehicles.

Comparing it to its DVD counterpart, the Blu-ray looks fantastic.  Even if you have never seen the sequel to “Appleseed” or even “Vexille”, six years later after the film’s release, “Appleseed” still holds up very well.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

This is where things tend to get a little murky with this release.  To put it bluntly, there is no lossless audio.  Sentai Film works forgoes Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD MA for simple DVD DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1.  Granted, the DTS audio track has more space to work with on the Blu-ray versus its DVD counterpart but this is a film in which lossless could have taken this film to an amazing direction.

We are given both the Geneon English dub track and then we are given the Sentai Filmworks English dub track in DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1.  In addition, we also get the Japanese DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio tracks.

I have watched the film with both soundtracks and I have to say that…I enjoy the new dub for Deunan but I prefer the older Briareos as I felt the newer dub made him sound like X-Men’s Wolverine.  But overall, it all comes down to preference and for me, I preferred the newer English dub track over the original but I also preferred the Japanese soundtrack over both English tracks.

Without the lossless soundtracks, if you have a solid home theater receiver and have the ability to play stereo on all channels, I felt that was my choice to have a more immersive soundtrack.

Speaking of the soundtrack, when the movie was released in Japan, I was doing review work of the original album soundtrack (before I watched the film) and I was very impressed with the original soundtrack and its use of electronic music.  It definitely kept in pace with the action and overall, fans of Boom Boom Satellites, Paul Oakenfold, Ryuichi Sakamoto will definitely dig the music soundtrack.  Also, Tetsuya Takahashi does an amazing job with the musical score as well!

As for subtitles, subtitles are in English and English for the hearing impaired.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Appleseed” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio commentary with Shinji Aramaki (Director) and Fumihiko SORI (Producer) – Both Aramaki and SORI discuss various scenes of the film and what was changed from the original dialogue, various challenges they encountered from the creation of the 3D segments from the original sketches, the revisions, added scenes that were not part of the original story and more.  Subtitles are provided for the commentary and when each person talks, the subtitles for Aramaki are white and SORI’s are in yellow.  Overall, an upbeat commentary track.
  • Alternate English Dub – Not more of a special feature but an audio setting.
  • The Birth of 3D Live Anime – (35:54) A special Japanese featurette (with English subtitles) about the making of “Appleseed”.  From the use of motion capture to the making of the 3D characters, the environments and more.
  • Production Staff Files – A text based profile of Shirow Masamune, Shinji Aramaki, Fumihiko SORI, Yusaku Toyoshima, Yasuhiro Ohtsuka and Tetsuya Takahashi.

When “Appleseed” came out, I remember my first impression was… “I hope it’s a lot better than the OVA series”.  And sure enough, after watching the film, I was impressed by the 3D animation, the enjoyable storyline, the pulse-pounding action, the music, the mechanical designs and more.

I felt that “Appleseed” raised the bar for Japanese animated films and sure enough, we have seen how far both Shinji Aramaki and SORI have taken 3D animation and anime a few years later and I can only wonder what kind of film these two have in store for viewers in the near future.

“Appleseed” was very exciting in that the storyline was smart but also managed to have a bit of humor and also this dramatic aspect as Deunan is reunited with her boyfriend turned cyborg Briareos.

I will also say that the film was viewer-friendly because when the manga series came out, I was very fortunate to pick up the “Appleseed Databook” to get a better idea of the “Appleseed Chronology” because the manga and also the OAV can get a bit over your head, while this film, anyone can easily watch it and understand what is going on.

Overall, “Appleseed” is one of those animated films that is deserving of a Blu-ray release.  For Section23 Films/Sentai Filmworks, “Appleseed” is a fantastic choice for a release.  But I know the main caveat for anime on Blu-ray fans is the fact that this release does not come with a lossless English and Japanese track.

But considering the price this Blu-ray is going for and in terms of audio, you do get two English dub tracks in DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1, you get the Japanese audio track in DTS/Dolby Digital 5.1 and also an audio commentary track in addition to a half hour documentary on the making, you do get your money’s worth.   Also, since the sequel “Appleseed Ex Machina” came out on Blu-ray several years ago, if you own that release, you more than likely will want this first film for your collection.

Overall, “Appleseed” is an awesome film and for fans of Masamune Shirow’s work, especially those familiar with the “Appleseed” manga series and OVA will definitely be pleased by this film.  The characters and the whole city of Olympus just looks fantastic on Blu-ray.  Again, the lack of lossless audio is a bummer but for now, especially for its price in the US, this is the definitive version of “Appleseed” to own and in my opinion, it’s a film worth having in your anime on Blu-ray collection.






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