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Appleseed XIII(TV) (2011)
In the fallout of a global nuclear war, humans coexist with bioroids -clones made of the best human DNA- in the thriving city of Olympus. Mechsuit mercenary Deunan and her cyborg partner Briareos lead an elite paramilitary task force to take down anti-clone terrorist bent on bombing their post-apocalyptic paradise into oblivion.
For more about Appleseed XIII and the Appleseed XIII Blu-ray release, see Appleseed XIII Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on May 22, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Luci Christian, David Matranga
Director: Takayuki Hamana
» See full cast & crew
Appleseed XIII Blu-ray Review
A stranger paradise.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, May 22, 2013
Broadway musicals have given rise to several legendary partnerships through the years. Even those without the slightest interest in "tuners", as Variety used to call them, have heard of The Gershwin Brothers, Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II, Rodgers and Hart, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, Bock and Harnick, Kander and Ebb and maybe even Maltby and Shire. Few outside of the Broadway geek class (and I count myself a member in good standing of that august society) have heard of Robert Wright and George Forrest, despite the fact that the two had a number of high profile musicals achieve notably long runs on Broadway. Wright and Forrest's greatest claim to fame was their penchant for taking previously composed works by classical masters and adapting them to song form. Their first big hit was Song of Norway, a highly fictionalized musical account of Edvard Grieg's life set to Grieg's own music. A couple of lesser known musicals followed, including a fascinating show called Magdalena that was the great Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos' only stage musical. In 1949, the team revisited one of their earliest successes, The Great Waltz, which in its original form had had some input from Oscar Hammerstein himself, and had another huge hit with their (again) highly fictionalized tale of two feuding Strausses set to the music of both Johann Strauss I and Johann Strauss II. In 1953 Wright and Forrest had one of their most memorable hits with Kismet, a charming musicalization of a play by Edward Knoblock. Kismet featured rejiggered versions of music by Russian composer Alexander Borodin, a fascinating figure in musical history who actually made his living as a chemist and doctor but who composed in his free time (rather like the American Charles Ives, who was an insurance impresario in "real life"). Borodin wrote highly evocative, even exotic sounding, music, and his lush melodies gave Kismet much of its air of faraway lands. The score yielded several huge hits, including a reworking of Borodin's "Polovtsian Dances" from his opera Prince Igor. Which brings us at last to Appleseed XIII. Though my hunch is few will notice it, the evocative vocalese opening theme in this latest iteration to the long running Appleseed saga is none other than Borodin's timeless melody, now reworked into a kind of techno-trance format with swirling synth backup and some unexpected (but nicely done) modulations. Is this an ironic tip of the hat to "Stranger in Paradise", given the kind of post-Apocalyptic environment that is so important to Appleseed XIII's story?
The answer to that question is an unqualified: yes, although the irony may not be as pointed as one might expect, given the environment of the Appleseed universe. The final episode in this series is in fact called "Paradeisos", and the quest for the crime fighting duo of Deunan and Briareos does seem to be to find their own version of Paradise, which in this case is supposedly the "new world order" of Olympus, the ostensibly utopian enclave that nevertheless has its share of malfeasants and some other technology laden problems (something that makes Appleseed XIII rather reminiscent of some of the Ghost in the Shell franchise).
Appleseed has had a perhaps unexpected impact in the world of anime despite having relatively few versions (at least when compared to other iconic franchises). Appearing first as a manga in the mid- to late eighties, with an OVA appearing in 1988, it then took more than a decade and a half for the first feature film, Appleseed, to appear in 2004. Three years later the perhaps even higher profile Appleseed: Ex Machina came out, a film which received some hefty PR due to the involvement of John Woo. All three of these outings can be enjoyed as standalone enterprises, though there's probably more of a connective tissue between the two films than between the OVA and the first film. Though there aren't explicit connections between Appleseed: Ex Machina and Appleseed XIII, there are some similarities in terms of both an emphasis on warring factions, especially among those who are suspicious of the bioroids (the Human Liberation Front), as well as a focus on technology gone awry, especially with regard to Gaia, the all knowing computer which "runs" Olympus.
Those who have enjoyed the previous Appleseed offerings will probably find quite a bit to enjoy in Appleseed XIII, not the least of which is a return to the basic relationship between Deunan and Briarios, something that was at least partially jettisoned in Appleseed: Ex Machina. Deunan's character is a bit different in this outing, perhaps more vulnerable than in previous iterations and also prone to some silliness (there's an uncharacteristic "drunk" scene in the early going here which feels really out of place. But the "you and me against the world" ethos of the original Appleseed manga is handled quite faithfully here and is probably this series' most tangible asset.
On the other hand, there are a lot of atypical elements in this reboot as well. One of them, which can only be hinted at so as not to spoil anything, involves a complete cheat which may actually anger some audience members. With an overarching emphasis on problems with technology and glitches in Gaia, there's a denouement in the final episode which may totally put off some and sour them on the entire series. It's a "meta" moment that may be understandable in terms of letting Deunan and Briareos bond ever more tightly with each other (albeit with some pretty syrupy dialogue about "family"), but it may make the more cynical people watching this wonder if they've just wasted their time getting invested in a conflict which may in fact be illusory.
Appleseed XIII Blu-ray, Video Quality
Appleseed XIII is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of FUNimation Entertainment with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. I'm frankly a little conflicted about this CGI enterprise. There's no denying the sleek, often quite nicely crisp, looking animation, but at the same time, it often feels like we're stuck in a videogame rather than an anime. Watch, for example, how discrete blocks of various characters' hair movesŚit's a weird anomaly and completely distracting at times. On the other hand, the CGI allows for some really nicely nuanced dimensionality as well as some extremely fluid action sequences. But the patently "fake" look to some of the proceedings perhaps is antithetical to Appleseed XIII's attempts to craft a "real" feeling future world. In any case, no matter how you personally may respond to the CGI, the transfer here is largely flawless. There is some minor banding evident at times, but otherwise no horrible artifacts are apparent. Colors are bold and well saturated, and line detail is largely impeccable. Surfaces often have that overly rendered look, depriving the series of any real feel of texture, but that's part and parcel of this series' tendency to look more like a videogame than an anime.
Appleseed XIII Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Appleseed XIII features Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mixes in both the original Japanese as well as an English dub. While there are some fairly dramatic differences in the voice work between the two languages, otherwise the mixes are quite similar. There's some excellent immersion throughout this series, especially noticeable in the bombastic fight sequences (which are also rife with LFE). Some of the aerial scenes offer impeccable panning effects as various objects or characters zoom through the air. Dialogue is very cleanly presented and the really lovely score sounds fantastic. Fidelity is excellent and dynamic range is extremely wide.
Appleseed XIII Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Appleseed XIII Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Appleseed XIII reboots the Appleseed universe to decent but occasionally misbegotten effect. The best part of this series is the nicely reestablished relationship between Deunan and Briareos, something that's much closer to the original conception than at least the second film. Even the basic plot point of factions fighting over the future of the bioroids is completely in line with Masamune Shirow's approach. But there are a couple of major missteps here, not the least of which is a really annoying "reveal" in the final episode which may remind some older viewers of the old television series Dallas' so-called "dream season". Still, there's enough here for most die hard Appleseed fans to enjoy, and newcomers will almost certainly like the series, which delivers enough back story and context for anyone to understand. This Blu-ray offers great looking video (though some, like I did, may have issues with the CGI) and equally robust sounding audio. Recommended.
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Appleseed XIII Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Appleseed XIII Complete Series Blu-ray - March 23, 2013
FUNimation Entertainment has announced the Complete Series release of Appleseed XIII, the 13-episode CGI anime series from Production I.G, Jinni's Animation Studios and director Takayuki Hamana. Appleseed XIII arrives on Blu-ray via 5-disc standard and 5-disc Limited ...
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