Anime as a whole is marked by its sophisticated visuals and even more sophisticated consideration of the human condition. This is a genre that is not afraid to ponder deep philosophical questions and challenge its audience to consider ideas that dont always have an easy answer, if there is any answer at all. APPLESEED, based on the wildly popular manga series of the same name by Shirow Masamune, is, alas, not one of those films.
The premise is true to form. Its 2131 and heroine-warrior Deunan Knute is plunged from a world that has destroyed itself with endless and ultimately futile wars into the man-made utopia of Olympus. Its a haven run by Gaia, a machine that keeps tabs on everyone, the humans with their violent streak, and the bioroids, who are cloned from only the finest human DNA, have suppressed emotions, and are sterile. The idea was to use the bioroids to stabilize the human population and make a peaceable kingdom at last. Humans, though, being what they are, have taken a racist dislike to the bioroids with predictable results. Deunan somehow holds the key to solving the problem of human and bioroid coexistence, but shes disoriented from the change in venue, and unsure of who to trust and who can blame her? The enigmatic Hitomi, who is her guide to the brave new world, the seven elders in their floating chairs, Briarios who, before being rebuilt as a cyborg was her lover, or Athena, the Prime Minister and a first-generation bioroid.
So much to work with and all of it tossed in favor of banal platitudes and a star-crossed romance with all the tension of an oil-change and all the gravitas of an Archie comic. The characters are realized with similar depth. The women, even the somewhat mature Athena, are bosomy and bodacious in their form-fitting attire, while the men, save for the seven elders, are buff to the extreme in similar accoutrements. Its only the obvious bulk that distinguishes Briareos musculature from the merely organic. The animation juxtaposes rather simply-drawn characters with 3-D settings that seem all but real. Rather than adding verisimilitude, its jarring. As for those simply-drawn folks, the animators had trouble getting glassware or guns to sit comfortably in their hands, and when they walk, theres something not quite right with the perspective and the movement. And while the robot armor is, I believe, supposed to evoke the more elaborate samurai armor from days gone by, instead it calls to mind nothing to much as crickets and toucans. And then theres the endless expository dialogue that drones on and on, eating up screen time and the audiences patience
The plot boils along with one cliché after another and Deunan endlessly yelling Briareos name as they brave one tedious and tediously staged cliffhanger after another. When Hitomi asks Deunan what its like to be in love, thereby wandering into Pinnochio-Data territory with all the subtlety of a blow to the head with a blunt object, there is no point in taking anything that follows seriously. And were only a third of the way through. APPLESEED is so boring that despite a booming sound design and a tendency to blast the inevitable pop-lite songs to eardrum-shattering levels, it may actually induce narcolepsy.