Appleseed (1988)
Directed by Kazuyoshi Katayama

Artistic Value: * *
Entertainment Value: * * ½

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Some time in the future, men have built a utopian city, Olympus, which they share with artificial human beings called bioroids. Although the bioroids are well adapted to the highly regulated life of this ideal city, men are not and frequently rebel against the constraints placed on their behavior. When a group of terrorists attempt to destroy Gaia, the supercomputer controlling Olympus, two human policemen, the cybernetic Briareos and his female partner Deunan Knute, set out to stop them.

Kazuyoshi Katayama's animated film Appleseed is visually and narratively unexceptional, but its various action sequences do make it somewhat entertaining.

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Sadly, the animation used in Appleseed is far from impressive. The backgrounds are drab and uninspired. Virtually all the character designs are uninteresting, and several are frankly ugly. Many are further weakened by their frequent lack of correct proportions. A given character's head will often be too small for his body, his hands will be the wrong size for his arms, or he will have some other similar problem. Briareos, however, is a strange and intriguing creation. He is a giant of a man with a robotic head adorned with rabbitlike ears and a face resembling that of a spider. He is, unfortunately, virtually the only imaginative visual element of the film.

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Irrespective of their ugliness, the characters are given potentially interesting qualities and are presented with potentially affecting moral issues. The viewer is thus intrigued by hints about the pasts of Briareos and Deunan, revelations about their opponents, and vague references to the natures of particular bioroids, as well as by reflections on personal freedom, ethical choices, and the integration of technology into human life. Little, however, is done with any of these themes. The viewer is, ultimately, left unsatisfied as a consequence.

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The story of the hunt for the leader of the terrorists attempting to destroy Olympus is, however, entertaining, and the resulting action sequences are consistently well realized and genuinely exhilarating. The various gun battles, car chases, and depictions of combat and random violence do keep the viewer sufficiently engaged so that the movie never becomes boring.

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While Appleseed is not a bad film, its poorly developed narrative and visual unattractiveness greatly diminish its appeal. It is, consequently, never more than an exciting diversion.

Review by Keith Allen

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