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Appleseed

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What is the series about?Edit

In short, Appleseed is about a man (sort of) and a woman eking out a living in a postwar, depopulated world that has had its power structure redrawn several times and is now arguably on its very, very last legs. Four world wars have transpired, and the latest New Order consists of a singular world government stationed in the futuristic city-state of Olympus, one of the few metropolises on Earth still relatively civilized and (very) technologically advanced. In this "utopia," however, various power factions still vie for supremacy, and the usual struggles between ethnicity, creed, and ideals threaten to destroy the very last seeds of hope for the planet's survival. At the center of the various conflicts are the Bioroids, genetically-engineered humans who are unable to feel hatred or act destructively towards others, a species that could either overtake the world, or be crushed by its residents, either fate equally damning. Olympus is a progressive police-state, and the perspective is always seen from its ES.W.A.T. unit, where the two protagonists are employed full time, and see no end to daily action.

What is manga, and what is anime?Edit

Simply put (but not necessarily linguistically correct), manga is the Japanese word for graphic novel. In other words, a cel-based comic book featuring full illustration and speech superimposed in dialogue balloons. Because the Japanese read from right to left, legitimate mangas will be oriented as such, and begin at the "back" of the book and work their way to the "front." Translated manga, including the Appleseed books, feature prominent warnings for newcomers that if they continue the traditional way, they will immediately reach the story's conclusion first. Mangas are usually black and white, and can vary in detail and subject matter from all ages appropriate ("light novels") to all out pornographic ("hentai"). Shirow Masamune's, almost always in the cyberpunk genre of sci-fi, were unusually detailed for their time, and so critically acclaimed overall that the first volume of his debut series Appleseed won the Seiun (Nebula) Award for 1986. The original manga Appleseed ran for six years, spanning four volumes, two graphical encyclopedias, and an OVA anime in 1988.

Anime, on the other hand, is just the first two syllables of the word animation, only pronounced the Japanese way as ah-ni-mation. Typically, anime is further used to describe a distinct Japanese style of the art form, which traditionally features subtle stop movement, as fewer frames per second are drawn compared to North American versions. Also, they usually feature highly stylized representations of characters and settings; for example, ever since the iconic Astro Boy anime series of the 1960s, most characters sport large eyes and mouths, especially females. Animes are rarely made from original stories, as most draw on existing manga franchises.

The new Appleseed pioneers a second generation of anime (a.k.a. "3D Live Anime") that features full motion capture (real actors are used to give the characters movement) and eliminates the characteristic stop-motion feel. While the 2004 episode continues the stylized look of most Japanese anime characters (the producers at the time were concerned that the mo-cap/CGI combo might already be enough to alienate domestic viewers), by 2007, that appearance had been dropped altogether for a much more subtle and realistic human appearance for the cast. Both episodes employ full computer-graphic rendering, giving these recent installments in the series a semi-believable look, especially Ex Machina.

While most audiences have lapped up the new evolution in anime, particularly some Western audiences, some have rejected the graphical change. There have been informal proposals to drop the term anime altogether and classify the new style as something else.

Are the Bioroids human cyborgs?Edit

No!

This is one of the common mistakes made by viewers, readers, but surprisingly so, most often by "professional" reviewers. This incorrect claim has even made it onto the printed summaries found on the DVD liners or book covers, most recently on the reprint of the Appleseed manga by Dark Horse Publishing.
The Bioroid race, confirmed on multiple occasions, is a purely organic (flesh and blood) spinoff species of the homo sapiens variety, who have been extensively genetically modified to have improved biological functionality. Mostly, their mental development and capacity is the biggest differentiation between them and us, given that they traditionally are born as adults (following artificial insemination, and a rapid incubation in advanced life development units) and emerge pre educated. Emotionally, they are quite steady, unable to fall to antisocial tendancies or exhibit anger, hatred, or act unjustly. They yield to authority and natural humans, and are always inclined to be honest, though under necessary circumstances they can lie with great difficulty. For a time, to wean the species into human societies, they had intentionally shortened lifespans, routine clinical procedures necessary for them to lead a useful life, and were unable to procreate. This strategy made them easy targets for a mass genocide, so the limitations were later removed, necessitating the search for a missing DNA link, known as the Appleseed. These events were best depicted in the 2004 feature film.

Are there cyborgs as well, then? What about androids?Edit

Yes on both accounts.

For the record, cyborgs are classified as former humans that still retain a partial human body (augmented with machinery) or at the very least a human brain and nervous system, and therefore are conscious beings that possess, in essence, a personality. The most famous example of the latter type of cyborg would have to be Briareos, a Hecatonchires-class machine, who is the second protagonist of the series. Beyond him, there are a variety of other cast extras that either employ mechanized limbs or augmented vision. The justification for cyborg existence in the Appleseed franchise is that, following two new world wars, the vast amounts of severely injured humans created the need for effective prosthesis and rehabilitation solutions, but given the hurried circumstances that these solutions had to be devised under, the end result was not entirely perfected. Hence the somewhat unfinished, and robotic appearance the rehabilitated individuals now sport, with Briareos bearing no resemblance to his former self.
Androids, on the other hand, are something completely different. They were never human and possess no consciousness. Shirow Masamune avoids their presense in his stories, although a few make very brief appearances in the Appleseed manga. Book one, for example, makes a reference to "inorganic android" soldiers used in the World War IV battlefields, while from book two onwards, ES.W.A.T. experiments with a robotic policeman known as "Kotus." Infamous for its underdeveloped artificial intelligence, and indiscriminate violence during ES.W.A.T. operations, Kotus was later downgraded to more mundane roles like traffic control by the events of the fifth book, encompassed in Appleseed: Hypernotes.

What genre is the series?Edit

Generally speaking, mecha, because it involves a lot of machinery and mech-warriors (albeit toned down) in the form of the Landmate powered exoskeletons. Specifically though, it belonged to the first wave of cyberpunk fiction, along with other works like Bladerunner, which Appleseed has sometimes been likened to. Cyberpunk is characterized as being set in post-apocalyptic near futures, featuring extensive use of high technology, but with low living standards and significant social issues at play. However, most cyberpunk fiction attempts to portray this realm as still being salvagable, and Appleseed is no exception.

Does the Earth in Appleseed share real-world geography?Edit

Yes.

In both the manga and film franchises, the planet is always depicted to be our own, not an Earth in some alternate timeframe or parillel universe. Although the nations have all been redrawn, with the USA evolving into Imperial Americana, and Japan morphing into the non-contiguous country/corporation Poseidon, the landmasses are unaffected. But that's not to say that cataclysms haven't altered some continents; in the manga, a nuclear world war severely ravaged Russia and Europe, and a meteoric impact obliterated parts of China near Beijing.

Where is Olympus?Edit

Olympus is located south of the Azores in the sub-equatorial Atlantic, on a large manufactured island slighly larger than England.

What timeframe is the series set in?Edit

It varies, and even the movie "trilogy" makes mistakes, but here's the lowdown:

  • The manga begins in 2125, and ends roughly in 2137.
  • The 2004 movie is set in 2131.
  • The 2007 movie is set in 2138 (despite Warner Brother's official trailer incorrectly declaring the movie to be set in 2133)

Regarding the world wars:

  • The manga has World War III happening in the late 1990s, and World War IV in the 2100s.

The movies don't acknowledge that there ever was a fourth world war. The third is considered to be the last, and:

  • The 2004 episode depicts it as ending in 2122.
  • But the 2007 movie says it begins in 2133.

In short, the vast international conflicts transpire in the early 2120s, while the later events depicted in the series take place in the mid to late 2130s in general.

Is this a series for kids?Edit

No.

The mangas are always rated 14+ (storyline complexity, violence, occasional suggestive imagery, and coarse language), and the movies are never less than PG (same reasons, less suggestive imagery), with the 2004 episode garnering a full fledged R from the MPAA (for a brief, brutally violent introduction, where soldiers are throttled and decapitated by a cyborg).
That aside, they are also more specifically intended for adults because of their advanced storylines and plots that would likely fly over a young audience. The series has often been summarized as an exercise in sociological entertainment, and requires a mature audience to understand what's going on. A smart teen could probably grasp the storyline, if they paid close attention to the dense dialogue and subtleties between the gunfights and explosions.

Is the film series a trilogy?Edit

Yes and no.

Although three films have been released, in 1988, 2004, and 2007, they do not as yet form a trilogy. The 1988 episode, after all, was what they call an OVA, or Original Video Animation, really a made for VHS, one-off anime meant to conclude the manga series that had been running for four years. When Appleseed was revived in 2004, using CGI and motion-capture, the initial public reaction (at least domestically in Japan) was great enough to cause the producers to plan a three-episode series. 2007's Ex Machina was the second, but we have yet to see a third. They are not a purist's trilogy, in that while the premises are the same, the storylines of each of the two episodes are only loosely tied together with common storyline elements. That said, they should be watched in sequence for enjoyment.
Meanwhile, the Appleseed community waits with baited breath for the third installment to be announced. Recently, rumours swirled on Wikipedia that the name of this film was, or is, Appleseed: Final Edge, but that lead has gone cold as no proof was produced as to the origin of the supposed title.

The weapons in the movies are incredibly detailed; is there a story behind them?Edit

Yes.

Like most mecha anime, Appleseed had a host of "mecha designers," engineers hired only to make convincing and plausibly realistic props (a concept unheard of in Western animated fiction). Although they are unnamed in the contemporary CGI episodes, the weapons are supposedly made by a fictitious small arms company called Seburo, though this name is only ever mentioned in the manga. Most of the guns are variations on current designs, usually a fusion between P90s and FAMAS (submachine guns), or Walther P-series (handguns). A few odd examples are seen, such as a bullpup variant M16A2, which is a nonexistant (and entirely pointless) version of an American assault rifle.
Interestingly, series creator Shirow Masamune, and director Shinji Aramaki, have both earned their living as mecha designers at one point or another.

Are Deunan and Briareos a futuristic Beauty and the Beast?Edit

We should really ban you from the Appleseed community for that comment.

While the phrase "another Beauty and the Beast" was used in the domestic Japanese trailers for the 2004 episode, it incorrectly simplifies the two lead characters, and could portray the series as being some kind of romance, which it isn't even close it. We dont know why Shirow Masamune made Deunan's crush a cyborg (actually, we do, Shirow is a cyborg fanatic, with various male and female cyborgs featured prominently in nearly all his works), but we do know that he made the relationship curiously weighty, with a strange, almost total-absense of a sexual side to it. A favourite topic in Masamune mangas and animes is how a human, reduced to being a near total machine, would feel about themselves, their place in society, or their role in relationships. Briareos is such a character and was his first in depth exploration of the scenario.

Is the lead character female, like Ghost in the Shell?Edit

Yes.

Deunan Knute is unquestionably the main protagonist. Much of the story's premise revolves around her or her forgotten past, and the future of Olympus usually depends on her. Briareos is a strong second character, too significant to be referred to as a sidekick, but he's ultimately there to help get the job done, whatever it might be.
Interestingly enough, most of Shirow Masamune's works of fiction have main characters who are female. Perhaps more notable is Ghost in the Shell which also featured a similar heroine-and-wingman combo, in the form of Major Motoko Kusanagi and Batou.

The lip-sync is slightly off. Are the characters not speaking English?Edit

No, the cast speaks Japanese.

As Japanese domestic animes, later imported to the US, Appleseed wasn't initially intended for an English speaking audience. Along with the effort to animate their movements accurately with motion capture, the producers went one step further in both contemporary episodes, and also captured the motion of the voice actors' lips, and in Ex Machina, even their jaws, which at the time was an industry first. In Japanese, the effect is stunningly accurate, and even when overdubbed in English, it's still appreciable to see a human-like motion to their speech.

I've heard that the 2004 episode was dubbed twice. Is this true?Edit

Yes, and it matters which one you listen to.

The first one, done by Geneon for their release of the film, is highly criticized for both butchering the pronunciation of the numerous Greek names, and for sounding too childish. Hitomi suffers the most, her speech little more than a helium squeek for much of the movie ("cutesy" is what one reviewer generously said), while Deunan is at best marginal. But her intonation tries to be too dramatic, too often, and just sounds overly scripted. Briareos, who you'd think would be impossible to get wrong, comes across like a sappy weakling for the most part. Though the rest of the cast, Athena, Nike, Hades, and Uranus, for example, are decent, watching the Geneon dubbed film will ruin the experience. One professional reviewer went as far as to say that he felt like "pulling his ears off" after repeatedly hearing the cast ineptly say each other's names.
The second, however, is magic. When Sentai Filmworks acquired the North American distribution rights for the movie, they were smart enough to issue their own in-house dub, and even smarter to hire the whole cast from the sequel Ex Machina, whose performance was critically acclaimed. Plenty of superfluous exclamation marks were dropped from the script, Hitomi sounds like an adult finally, Deunan is masterfully voiced by Luci Christian, who adds equal measurses of pluckiness and grit, and Briareos gets the raspily-masculine David Matranga treatment. But, out of everyone, Deunan's mother might just benefit the most from the Sentai dub, even though she only receives about a minute of screen time and delivers only a handful of lines. Watch the scene in both dubs (the Sentai disc lets you select either), and you'll understand.

Are there any Appleseed spinoff franchises?Edit

Not really. Afterwards, other sagas followed which are similar, but unrelated.

Appleseed was suceeded by Dominion, another police-procedure cyberpunk, but there are virtually no plot similarities or carryovers. Or so I think, because I haven't read it yet. After that came Ghost in the Shell, the series that arguably defined both Shirow Masamune and the genre of cyberpunk. So popular is GITS (its fans affectionally call it) that it spawned at least two mangas, two award winning feature films, three anime television series, and several written novels. The GITS wiki is more than four times as our own; check it out.
In terms of visual similarity, 2007 saw the debut of Vexille, a CGI anime film that was billed as being produced by the makers of Appleseed, in that Fumihiro Sori (of the 2004 installment) was involved. While the visual glamour of Vexille is undeniable, most viewers admit the storyline is somehow lacking. We have a page that touches briefly upon the premise, and includes a trailer.

Are the characters names made up?Edit

No.

Although you might have never heard of it before, Deunan is in fact a legitimate female name, though a highly unpopular one. Scottish in origin, it's a distant derivative of the name Adam, only feminized. As for the rest of the cast, classical Greek names are employed, most of them formerly belonging to mythical deities. All, however, are real.

How are the names pronounced?Edit

It's hardly enclopedic, but here goes:

  • Deunan Knute - DEW-nan neuT.
  • Briareos Hecatonchires - BREE-ar-e-us hecha-TON-charus
  • Athena Areios - ATH-heena ARR-ius
  • Nike - NEE-kay
  • Hitomi - HEE-tomie
  • Yoshitsune Miyamoto - yo-SHEET-sunay me-YA-moto

Does the series give credence to Greek mythology as reality?Edit

No.

Despite the fact ninety percent of the cast are named after Greek deities, and live in a city named Olympus, effort is made on more than a few occasions, either directly or indirectly, to denounce the ancient Greek beliefs as pure mythology. The use (or overuse) of all the titles is more in line with Olympus being an academic metropolis that has bears the load of civilizing the earth once again.

So, why does Deunan keep yelling "Briareos!" anyway?Edit

We don't know.

Strangely enough, in the manga, it was practically the reverse, with Briareos frequently yelling "Deunan!"
Well, nothing can be perfect . . .

What's the significance of the name Appleseed?Edit

In Volume Two of the manga, Olympus faces a radioactive meltdown as the array of solar panel on the Tartaros arcology errantly focuses an intense beam of sunlight onto a nearby nuclear reactor. A series of failsafe, redundant circuits control the panel's positioning, each designed to supersede the last if they are damaged, and what's worse, the circuits are recessed down a supercooled cavity too small to be accessed by hand. So, to reposition the panels, Deunan uses a low powered Jacketed Hollow Point (JHP) bullet, with an appleseed afixed to the end, to jam open the control circuits, thus resetting the entire system. Hitomi, who supplies the requisite apple from one of Briareos' jacket pockets, notices that the seeds inside are unnaturally spherical in shape. The answer to this, she is told, is that even appleseeds are genetically engineered now.

For the first episode of the new movie trilogy, the Appleseed is the codename for the Bioroid reproductive genes, of which a single copy is stored in an aquamarine glass pendant. Deunan Knute, though initially ignorant to the fact, has possessed the pendant herself since her childhood, and is now pursued by multiple warring factions in Olympus, who need the Appleseed to guarantee the success of each of their own conflicting genocides. The name also has deeper significance in that all Bioroids share part of their genetic profile with Carl Knute, Deunan's late father. If the seemingly insignificant Appleseed can restore the Bioroid's reproductive capabililities, it will create an entire family tree related to Deunan.

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