This collection of two Appleseed XII “feature” films, Tartaros & Ouranos, is no more than the full version of Appleseed XIII wrapped up into two brief summarized versions that remove much of the exposition, and, in doing so, a lot of the bits that allow the story to make sense. Not surprisingly, considering the people involved with this series, it is not dissimilar to the the edited film versions of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex in that regard. Below is the full review of the original series previously published here.:
This popular sci-fi anime franchise returns with director Hamana Takayuki (Idaten Jump) and script supervisor Fujisaku Jun’ichi (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Loups=Garous) at the helm. Deunan, the young female special agent and her friend/partner/protector/love interest Briareos, a cyborg super-soldier return. The setting, a post-World War V non-nuclear dystopia where the shining city of Olympus stands as humanity’s last glimmer of hope. Overseen by genetically engineered humans known as “bioroids” who are programmed to want to serve humanity, Olympus is a seeming utopia in a world whose human population has been nearly cut in half. But all is not well, and growing racial divides are bubbling under the surface as “real” humans hope to rise up and wipe out the bioroids they see as a threat to human existence. Tension also exists between the humans and cyborgs and cyborgs and bioroids. Deunan and Briareos are thrust into this fight as a growing terrorist group arises with genocidal plans and a mysterious affliction amongst bioroids causing them to present suicidal tendencies grips the city.
So many years after it arrived on the seen, Appleseed still has not really moved beyond its constraints. Appleseed XIII is still somewhat of an amalgamation of many other sci-fi anime series. In this particular series, the strongest influence is quite obviously Ghost in Shell, no doubt due to the presence of Fujisaku Jun’ichi. Its philosophical explorations of what it truly means to be human in the face of the inevitable juggernaut that is technology and humanity’s need to force evolution upon itself all evoke that GiT sensibility and aesthetic. Appleseed XIII is also still a bit of a throwback to the mecha world with its numerous battle sequences, often going from one to the next, with little to connect each varying scene or subsequent episode.
That said, the thing that keeps the series afloat is its ability, like the best of all science fiction, to tackle weighty subject matter in a futuristic guise. Appleseed XIII uses its gleaming futuristic worlds and techno speak to discuss problems that affect us today, like racism, bigotry, and terrorism. And in Deunan and Briareos’ constant search for paradise, it reminds us of our own often futile attempts to return to Eden, as it were, in a world so often filled with disarray.
The image quality remains the same in these abbreviated versions of Appleseed XIII on Blu-ray as they were in the complete series. The digital animation for Appleseed XIII looks strong in this AVC/MPEG-4 1080p/24 encodement from FUNimation. Apart from some very slight banding and some inherent rendering aliasing that presents as some shimmering around edges in the CG work, this is a very satisfying presentation.
The audio is also the same as in the complete series, coming with original Japanese-language soundtrack and an English dub both provided in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit). While they are well balanced, tightly mixed soundscapes that engulf you in atmospherics and various discrete sound effects from multiple angles, and also offer a good bit of punch in the low end, they are mastered to an unusually low level, requiring me to raise my normal listening level 6db or more.
Just promotional materials are on offer here plus the DVDs for the two films as well.
- 2 DVDs with standard definition versions of the movies
- Original Movie 01 Preview (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:01:36)
- Original Movie 02 Preview #1 (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:01:06)
- Original Movie 02 Preview #2 (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:01:51)
- Textless Closing Theme #1
- Textless Closing Theme #2
- U.S. Trailer (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:02:02)
- FUNimation Trailers
The Definitive Word
Despite Appleseed sameness, it has its following. Personally, its animation style is not one of my favorites and it always feels a little too derivative and reductive too me, but I can still appreciate where it is coming from. These abbreviated versions of the Appleseed XIII series, on the other hand, just leave a lot to be desired. They offer all the coldness of Appleseed with none of the humanity or depth of characters. If you’re new to the franchise, look elsewhere.