Friday, July 22, 2011

First Impressions: Appleseed XIII

Plot Synopsis: (from MAL)It is the 22nd Century, the Third World War (2099-2126) has decimated a large part of Earth even though nuclear weapons have not been employed during the conflict. Old nations such as England, France and China have survived but have difficulty restoring their power. On the other hand, new nations and organizations such as the Sacred Republique of Mumna and the Poseidon Organization have been born on the ashes of the world resulting from the Third World War.

In this bleak future, we are introduced to ex-L.A. SWAT members Deunan Knute and Briareos Hecatonchires. Having survived the world conflict and living in a desolated city, they are found by a young woman called Hitomi who proposes them to follow her to the utopian city of Olympus which has become the world's most powerful organization and which registers the new relations in terms of politics, economics and military between new and old nations/organizations. In Olympus, they are integrated in the prestigious ESWAT (Extra Special Weapons And Tactics) organization, whose main mission is to protect Olympus from terrorist attacks and Olympus's interests in the world.

From here on, the two main protagonists encounter a great number of other characters and organizations who will be implicated in international plots that target Olympus.

Before viewing: Masamune Shirow is very renowned in the world of anime. Most well known for Ghost in the Shell, he is a prolific cyberpunk science fiction writer with an impressive record of work behind him. This particular series is an adaptation of his 1985 manga which has been adapted to anime several times. This series is CG animated, which is a bit of a turnoff. Japanese CG animation is usually pretty bad. The only time I've been happy with it was in the Final Fantasy VII film, which was a film I would prefer to watch mute; the animation is so lovely, while everything else is so convoluted and makes no sense. From what I've seen, this animation isn't nearly as up to par.

After viewing: The animation is pretty bad. It feels like watching cutscenes from an older video game, and a pretty badly made one at that. The scenery is nice enough, but the people sit on that line between anime and CG, and it just doesn't look good. Also, the way they move can be really awkward. It's not so bad in the fight scenes, but when they're standing around talking, the way they gesture, stand, blink, or how their lips move are all so fake looking, like marionettes. It's pretty distracting and makes it difficult to get yourself sucked into the series, because its distracting and doesn't flow together very well. Its constantly reminding you that you're watching something created in a computer, something lifeless.

Story-wise, there doesn't seem to be much at this point. It mostly seems to be about Deunan and Briareos and their missions in the ESWAT team. Deunan isn't a team player, and it astounds me that she managed to become a member when she consistently refuses to pay much mind to orders, trust any of her team members or work as a team. Don't they do team building exercises as a part of training? She is constantly being scolded for it by her partner, Briareos, but she shrugs it off or makes excuses, like how it was how she was raised, or it doesn't matter because everything turned out all right anyways. She never gets punished for her insubordination, so she just keeps doing it. She's a pretty Mary Sue-ish character, and it's pretty annoying.

A personal pet peeve of mine is when a character is half-"insert race/species/other" here and it's some throwaway fact about them, something that doesn't affect their character designs, abilities or character at all. Deunan is supposedly half-black, and she's as white as they come. Can they at least give her darker skin or hair, rather than be blond and pale? They use racism as a way to establish some angst in her life, (her mom was killed because she's black apparently), and it feels so forced.

There's something interesting the series does, which is kinda cool but seems pointless. It is full of references to Greek mythology, and it's not very subtle about it. There's a terrorist group known as the Argonauts and some political entity known as Poseidon. The opening theme is basically just the constellations outlined in the stars, while statues of the figures in the constellations, like Orion and others appear on the screen. And most bizarre, Greek murals constantly pop up in the middle of dialogue, which is admittingly pretty interesting, and nicer looking than the characters talking awkwardly at one another. Deunan even has a dream sequence all done in mural, and it's pretty cool. But I'm not sure what the point is, or if there even is a point to it. It might simply be from the Evangelion "we did it because it looked cool" mindset behind their biblical references. I hope that later episodes will give the allusions a point because at this point it feels like they're trying to make the series look smarter than it actually is, and it comes off as super pretentious.

This is a seriously flawed series, with more bad points than good ones. There is much better science fiction of this ilk out there, with more likeable characters, better animation, and  more interesting futuristic settings than this series. I could only recommend this for Shirow completists.

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