Appleseed Alpha

In the post-apocalyptic landscape of a world ruined by global conflict, two former soldiers – human Deunan and her cyborg companion Briareos – find themselves the reluctant henchmen of Two Horns, the thuggish cyborg who now rules what is left of New York. Briareos is hard-bitten and untrusting; but Deunan still holds out hope that one day they’ll make it to Olympus, the fabled city-state that preserves the last vestiges of human civilisation. When a mission to recover a vaccine goes awry – possibly with Two Horns’ connivance – the warlord refuses to cancel the debt they owe him for repairing Briareos’ war-time injuries. Instead, he demands they undertake the dangerous task of destroying automated combat drones that have gone rogue on the edge of the city. However, just as they are about to execute their mission, they encounter two people – a soldier named Olson and a young woman named Iris – whom they rescue from the out-of-control drones. Olson tells Deunen and Briareos that he and Iris are agents from Olympus, sent out into the wastelands to destroy a prototype superweapon that was left over from the war – and which has the capacity to annihilate the remaining human population of the planet. The problem, however, is that they are now locked in a race against both time and a renegade Olympian named Talos, who was supposed to destroy the superweapon but who now craves it to fulfil his own messianic fantasies. Overtaken by events spinning out of their control, Deunen and Briareos find themselves once more in the middle of a war: one that could possibly liberate humanity from the last threat to its survival; or which could put a weapon of inconceivable power in the hands of a madman…

Derived from characters and concepts in Masamune Shirow’s iconic manga Appleseed, and directed by the equally iconic Shinji Aramaki (Viper’s Creed, Ghost in the Shell SAC 2045, Blade Runner: Black Lotus), Appleseed Alpha was produced by Sola Digital Arts as a reboot of previous anime adaptions of the source material (two of which were co-incidentally also directed by Aramaki), providing an alternative origin story not found in the canonical adaptions. That, however, is the only original aspect of the plot, which follows a fairly predictable narrative arc about post-apocalyptic mercenaries with morals struggling against a brutish warlord hell-bent on world domination. Despite this, as with its predecessors, Appleseed Alpha manages to retain an emotional core centred on the figures of Deunan and Briareos and their relationship, which can never be realised because of Briareos’ now hyper-cyborg status. But what makes Appleseed Alpha really stand out is the 3D CGI animation. That it is a 3D CGI production is clear from the “look” of the characters, who all have that plastic, standing-out-from-the-background appearance that seems endemic to the form. But whereas many 3D CGI animations are plagued by characters who move like demented, ham-strung marionettes, the action sequences in Appleseed Alpha are smooth and dynamic, and the character designs are sufficiently nuanced to allow for subtle facial expressions and very human gestures. Originally premiering in July 2014, Appleseed Alpha rightly received critical acclaim for its animation quality; and, despite the join-the-dots nature of the plot, it also manages to be surprisingly affecting and, ultimately, worth watching.     

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