Apfelland is a small but beautiful country surrounded by Russia, Austria, and Germany. Vel is a boy who lives in the capital, Charlottenburg. He happens to help a girl Frid. She was kidnapped because radium mine was found in her grandfather's abandoned mine. Aiming at the radium mine, various people gather there, for example, an American who wants to make money, a Polish woman disguised like a man who wants to earn money for the revolution, and the ministry of Apfelland who plots to affiliate with Germany. Vel and Frida are involved in their plots, and they know the secret of the mine.
Stories about the damsel in distress adventure are a hackneyed staple in the realm of storytelling across all mediums. However, whenever done correctly, will always result as a source of enjoyment for its audience. Such is the case for the film Apfelland Monogatari, a surprising gem from the early 90s period. The film does not fail to entertain the viewer, packing in an intricate plot, wonderful characters, and colorful visuals to keep one entranced by the story.
Set in an alternate early 20th century Europe at a time of nation-building and old feuds, the film manages to incorporate a realistic sense of the historic era
with its relevance to geo-political events, nations, weapons, and down to the very lifestyle of the time period. That goes without saying however, as this film is based on the manga from Yoshiki Tanaka. Yes, THE Yoshiki Tanaka, mastermind creator of the Legend of the Galactic Heroes and Arslan Senki manga and later anime adaptations. Also assisting in the creation of this anime was the director, Kunihiko Yuyama, who would later go on to direct the Pokemon franchise. Therefore it is easy to see the influence of the young protagonists as they adventure in order to save the world from ruin. Cliche? Yes, however was still a good story.
However this is a heavily character-driven story, very akin to Laputa: Castle in the Sky or Nadia: Secret of Blue Water. What stands out for this film is despite its brevity, we are given a well-received cast that for the most part have ample screen time. Each character contributes to the story and only on a few occasions were there unnecessary characters introduced into the film yet this did not detract from the overall enjoyment. There is also a great dynamic of action and drama added to generate excitement for the viewers.
The art, with the direction of Mitsuki Nakamura, were appropriate for the story, giving the feel of a late 80s animation however remaining fluid for its time. However there are noticeable moments with reused footage and animation that become repetitive.
The seiyuu performance was nicely done. Some might recognize a few of them, such as the MC being the same voice of Conan Edogawa from Detective Conan. The OST for the film initially felt out of place, however as the film progressed it became intertwined with the story in an adequate manner.
Apfelland Monogatari is another quiet gem that went below the radar of the rise in anime for the 90s, however do not let its age fool you. While retaining a cliche story yet not being mainstream, it nevertheless is an enjoyable film full of wonderful characters and an exciting adventure.