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 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 original Japanese-language soundtrack and an English dub are 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.
A good set of extras are offered up for this release, including two commentaries and the nearly two-and-a-half-hour long Making of, The Inside. Everything else is your usual promos and clean opening and closing animations.
- Episode 007 Commentary
- Episode 012 Commentary
- The Inside Episode 001-013 (1.78:1; SD; 02:23:56)
- U.S. Trailer (1.78:1; 1080p/24)
- Textless Opening Theme
- Textless Closing Theme
- FUNimation Trailers
The Definitive Word
Appleseed XIII may still not push the boundaries of its genre, but it is still an evocative and atmospheric slice of dystopian, futuristic anime that is pertinent to today. It looks gorgeous, despite the somewhat awkward CG character motions and is sure to please many fans of this genre of anime.
Additional Screen Captures