Friday, December 30, 2011

Appleseed: the new generation

This is an index entry about Appleseed, the 2004 anime directed by Shinji Aramaki.

Appleseed’s a remake of a 1988 original video (OV as they call it in the anime world). Danen Knute’s the superb human soldier retrieved from the battlefields of the global wars and brought to the utopian Olympus community. She takes her host Hitome hostage momentarily, only to discover her former lover, Briareus, is now a cyborg soldier on their side. Essentially, he’s almost entirely a robot on the outside; his emotional distance based largely on this fact helps not a bit. His place in the deadly game between the human-run military and the Olympians involves dramatic reveals, late into the movie.

The point of contention: the bioroids, artificial humans designed with emotional controls in place to keep them from passion and violence. The hope? These bioroids, which are half the population, inspire peace among the humans. Their life cycles are curtailed as well, and they cannot reproduce; in fact, they require chemical boosters, without which they, including Hitome, will expire in three days. Danen Knute joins the Olympus special forces, using her combat skills at one point to pilot a wicked cool robot in defense of the banks containing the genetic material used to preserve the bioroids. Watch this fight carefully!

Hitome’s friendliness at first led me to think she found Danen attractive, but you realize over time she’s got an admirer in the brilliant mechanic Yoshi. Her questions to Knute unveil her evolving sense of passion; whether this is part of a natural progress in her, or is perhaps abetted by her forestalling of the regenerative booster, it’s not said. The admiration of artificial life here is futuristic and thought-provoking, if perhaps playing into a science fiction clichĂ©. Rest assured, the forces guiding the bioroids have cagey intentions as well. The appleseed and its location become the primary drama, for the life of the bioroids, and for the journeys of Knute and Briareus.

Heroines in particular have come a long, long way in the Japanese mind: no panty flashes or hostage situations for Danen Knute. One thing that's continued on in the best tradition is the thoughtful science fiction, exploring the world that could be, telling us of the world that is. Appleseed's at our end of the great line of Japanese superheroes. With the new Space Battleship: Yamato cartoon coming in 2012, pieces of the beginning of anime return with beautiful nostalgia and untold explorations to come from concepts standing the time test.

The music and drama here satisfy nicely alongside terrific animation. The robot designs by Shiro Masamune were the draw for me, at the suggestion of my friend DJ Parnell, who enjoyed our work on Danger Bot.

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