Appleseed XIII: DVD review

Appleseed is a manga that ran back in the 80s which spawned an OVA and some feature films. Both films came out in the UK but the franchise never got its own full length series. In comes Appleseed XIII, a 13 episode show that is all CGI, which caught my interest; when I heard about it back in 2011, I was very interested in watching this. Also as someone who is new to Appleseed, I will look at this show as a newcomer to the franchise.

Production I.G are no strangers to CGI animation, so I’m glad to see them at the helm along with Jinni’s Animation Studios, although most of their contributions have been on film, one example being Oblivion Island. Appleseed XIII was directed by Takayuki Hamana; while most of his director credits have been a mixture of sport and supernatural anime, he has worked on Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade and Blue Seed in a Key Animation role.

Our main characters, the tomboy heroine Deunan and the cyborg male lead Briareos, are partners who are part of the E-S.W.A.T squad who are called up for mostly high security jobs. They live in Olympus, a city filled with Humans and Bioroids, and dream to live one day in paradise.

Most of the story of Appleseed XIII is focused on the Ark Project, a spaceship that will help Bioroids look over humankind in the years to come, this requires at least one of ten unprocessed Bioroids to run the ship but days before the launch,a Human Liberation Front terrorist group begins to attack these bioroids and the E-S.W.A.T squad is brought in along with Deunan and Briareos to stop them.

That’s the main plot of the show but never really takes centre stage until later in the series; instead the opening feels very episodic, while also giving character history to both Deunan and Briareos and their close relationship, which newcomers like me will appreciate. Although both go on E-S.W.A.T missions in the early episodes, the focus is mostly on our main characters’ strained relationship which lasts through the first half and gets really frustrating.

While I admire Appleseed XIII at times, the show has too many lows that gave me a negative impression. The biggest one is how the series hammers in the Greek mythology; now I totally understand that the Appleseed world is centred around that, but with me not having a great deal of knowledge on every Greek god doesn’t help, not to mention the fact thatthe show seems to keep throwing in the same Greek mosaic paintings in almost every episode and keeps re-using them. This wastes around two minutes in every episode. It also doesn’t help that flashbacks are used pointlessly, wasting even more time that could have been used to give some backstory on the  E-S.W.A.T members (since I never remembered any of their names) or give more time to focus on the plot.

I have very mixed feelings about the CGI animation; when it comes to mech and background designs, the show impresses, giving the city a beautiful look, on the other hand, the character designs feel plastic and very unrealistic and worst of all, the animation quality is inconsistent. For example, in Episode 4, there is a scene where a bunch of bad guys are in scientist uniforms but ten seconds later, once the scene switches away and back to them, they’re back in their casual gear, the show can get really lazy.

So is there anything I really liked about it? Well the climax of the show is well done, even though I never got emotionally invested in it. I liked some of the stand-alone episodes, the ones that don’t involve Deunan and Briareos. Episode 4 has a really sweet story about a missing sick child and a police robot trying to get the child back to its parents, while Episode 10 has an interesting story about a human and a bioroid sculpture artist.

Also Appleseed XIII has some usual extras like the English commentaries for Episode 7 and Episode 12 but one of the most interesting extras is on disc 3 as the whole disc contains a ‘behind the scenes’ look at every Appleseed XIII episode being made, including Japanese staff discussion (all subbed), use of motion capture, and how the CGI models are made, so overall, there is around 3 hours of extra content here, which might interest some.

In summary

While the show had some good ideas, I just couldn’t get into Appleseed XIII. I feel there are better Sci-fi series like both Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex series or the Mardock Scramble movies; still, if you’re desperate for more Appleseed and if you like the positives that I’ve mentioned, then give it go.  

Episode 7 commentary
Episode 12 commentary
English language trailer
Textless OP & ED
‘All Inside’ Ep 1-13 (Behind the scenes look at the making of Appleseed XIII)

5 / 10