Jul 10, 2009
MiraFirefly (All reviews)
This animation is, in my mind, a complete slander to the original manga.

Of course, these things are all a matter of perspective and of one's personal interests and priorities in a film, but the original really captured me in a unique way and was one of my first great loves in manga. It has going for it a wonderful mixture of obvious dedication and craft, high detail, geeky technophilia, memorable and dimensional characters, thoughtful reflection, '80s nostalgia, labyrinthine plot and excitement that make for a real sci-fi manga classic. Like Shirow Masamune's art, his story writing is complex, twisting to the point of being deeply confusing (a quality I actually like), and has the feel of something created by a highly talented drooling nerd moreso than a polished professional. This is why I like it.

This movie is completely different, and has almost none of the endearing, exciting and memorable qualities that make Appleseed one of my favorite comics. It's almost like an American action film; the eccentric and personal feel of Shirow's artwork is sacrificed for very dark, glossy and hard-feeling cel-shaded 3D that significantly ups the "dark future" feel but completely changes the tone of the piece and glosses over many of the personal eccentricities that make Shirow's manga art so good and so appropriate for the piece. Much of the plot - many of the good parts, in my opinion - is sacrificed so that a long and complex story can be chopped down to meet the limitations of a feature film. It's more than that, though; it's an action film. The manga is certainly fun, exciting and violent, but an "action manga" it is not; the violence means something. It's there for a purpose. In the animation, it's really just violence for violence's sake. Bri and Deunan have none of the charm and almost none of the character development that underpin the manga, and other favorite characters aren't shown at all. The philosophy of the story is more or less completely glossed over, and what comes out is a shallow, meaningless film. The technophilia is very present, but at what cost? Where went the never-ending, wandering plot? The '80s-tastic big hair? Where are the scenes of quiet reflection, the interpersonal relationships, the confusing developments? This is not the Appleseed I know, which would be less of a problem if the new version were able to live up to the memorable qualities of the original. It doesn't.

Adapting a long, twisting and philosophical piece of violent cyberpunk manga to feature film has been done before, and successfully - more than successfully. Remember Akira?
I wish the creators of this movie - the scriptwriter particularly - had given Akira a closer look. Successfully truncating a story like this one into a movie that retains its magic is a very difficult task, and the creators of the 2004 Appleseed movie failed. Miserably.