Appleseed XIII is a thirteen-episode CGI anime series that takes place in the distant future. Based on a manga comic book, the show is set in the City of Olympus which is populated by a diverse group of regular humans, cyborgs and genetically engineered beings called Bioroids. The show’s leading characters are Deunan and Briareos, two agents of the elite ESWAT group who are tasked with protecting Olympus from extremist groups, such as the Human Liberation Front, who are against pure humans mingling with artificially created life forms. Maybe they’d change their views if they watched some episodes of Battlestar Galactica and realised how sexy robots can be?
This isn’t the first time Masamune Shirow’s manga has been transferred from the page to screen. The eighties saw the release of an Appleseed cartoon OVA whilst my DVD collection contains two CG animated movies that came out in 2004 and 2007. Like in those adaptations, a good chunk of the story revolves around Deunan’s relationship with Briareos, which has been put to the test ever since Briareos was injured in the line of duty. The wounds he suffered were so grave that Briareos’ body was turned from that of a dashing young man to a bulky mechanical tank complete with eight eyes and antennas… man that’s got to put a dampener on your sex life.
For the most part this sounds like what you would normally find in an Appleseed adaptation, but there are some differences. The most notable one would have to be the change in Deunan’s personality. Although the show’s heroine remains a skilled ESWAT operative her disposition is far more temperamental than I recall from the 2000 movies. Maybe the story takes place during that time of the month? Either way the character seems to have regressed to an emotional teenager, which may not go down well with fans of the franchise. I don’t know how poor Briareos puts up with her childish outbursts… oh yeah he got turned into Robocop. Becoming a machine does somewhat reduce a person’s pool of potential girlfriends (please ladies, no comments about how certain devices are more satisfying than a regular man.)
When commenting on Appleseed XIII the elephant in the room is definitely the visuals, which frankly are awful. Production IG’s decision to make the show via computer generated animation ends up being a poor choice as I suspect they either didn’t have the time or budget to pull it off. It’s a shame as I was very impressed by the style of the 2000 CG movies, which looked like three-dimensional cartoons. If 2007’s Appleseed Ex Machina is Kate Upton then Appleseed XIII is my ex… the morning after a binge drinking session. The ghastly artwork is reminiscent of a PS2 game cut scene or an early CG kids show like Beast Wars. Mechanical models such as cars and robots are passable, but the marionette like humans are not. The designs are terrible, they fail to convey emotion and their movements are often stiff.
Thankfully the Appleseed XIII stories are better than the show’s aesthetics. Granted they aren’t anything spectacular, as far as sci-fi shows go, but I was entertained whilst watching them. When the series kicks off it looks like each episode deals with an unrelated ESWAT case, but once the show’s villain is unmasked it is all revealed to be part of a grander master plan. The main storyline runs for twelve episodes, which each are loosely based on the Labours of Hercules. The show’s creators are not subtle about where they got their inspiration from, frequently cutting to statue shots of the Greek hero (which gets annoying after a time.) Episode thirteen is a standalone tale, which is ultimately skip-able as it concludes with a goofy twist ending that soils the exciting action that preceded it.
I’m giving Appleseed XIII a low three stars, although if you are the type of viewer that cannot overcome the hurdle of poor artwork you may want to reduce that rating from three to two stars. The Deunan personality change won’t go down well with some, but at least it resulted in lively squabbles, which are more dramatic than two mature adults discussing relationship issues. Overall the series fails to live up to the Appleseed legacy and isn’t strong enough for me to enthusiastically recommend purchasing. It is however worth a rental for any science fiction fans seeking a less brainy Ghost in the Shell to pass the time.