Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex

July 7, 2006

Movie Review By: SFAM

Year: 2002

Directed by: Kenji Kamiyama

Written by: Masamune Shirow (Story), Kenji Kamiyama (Chief Writer), et al.

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Very High

Key Cast Members:

  • Major Motoko Kusanagi: Atsuko Tanaka (Japanese), Mary McGlynn (English)
  • Batou: Akio Otsuka (Japanese), Richard Epcar (English)
  • Chief Daisuke Aramaki: Osamu Saka (Japanese), William Knight (English)
  • Ishikawa: Yutaka Nakano (Japanese), Michael McCarty (English)

Rating: 9 out of 10


Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture

 

Overview: Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex (GITS SAC) uses the same characters as Masume Shirow and Mamoru Oshii, but takes place prior to the first GITS movie. Like the GITS movies, GITS SAC revolves around Section 9, an elite anti-terror police force that works behind the scenes to keep the peace. The overall tenor of this series is far more action oriented than Oshii’s movies. While there are a few philosophy moments (including a terrific one with Batou and the Tachikomas), the vast majority of the season is action oriented. In short, we get high-end, slick cyberpunk butt-kicking in GITS SAC – one that’s well worth watching, even if you do miss the philosophy.

 

Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture

 

The Laughing Man Story: In a world where cyberization has become the norm for a large segment of the population, a number of negative side effects have become possible. In addition to cyberbrain hacking, a disease called Cyberbrain Sclerosis has emerged which seems to randomly affect many who’ve undergone significant cyberization. The Mega-corporation, Serano Genomics has produced a cure for Cyberbrain Sclerosis – Serano Micromachines, a nanotech implant device that, when ingested regularly supposedly halts and eventually works to cure the disease. Unfortunately, the Micromachines only seem to help a small segment of those contracting the disease. A hacker named the Laughing Man seems bent on exposing a cover-up – one which posits that the lost Murai Vaccine has an almost permanent curative for those with Cyberbrain Sclerosis. Unfortunately for Serano Genomics, a real cure for Cyberbrain Sclerosis would decimate their profitability.

 

Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture

 

The Laughing Man is a hacker extraordinaire who is able to hack into cyberbrains at will, and worse for public confidence, is able to take over TV shows at will. Section 9 has been brought in to find and stop the terrorist known as the Laughing Man. Throughout the season, while there are side plots, it’s the Laughing Man story which drives Section 9. As it continues, the intrigue builds and the plot thickens. Eventually, corporate betrayal, political scandals and personal vendettas play a role in setting the context and exposing the larger truth.

 

Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture

 

The Side Stories: While the Laughing Man is the focus of the season, there are many side quests in GITS SAC. Some of the episodes closely resemble stories from Masume Shirow’s original GITS Graphic Novel. Among these, Batou has an interesting commando encounter with his past, and Aramaki is taken prisoner by thieves in a bank, only to get involved in a more intriguing plot. For him to survive, Motoko must be able to interpret his actions from afar to correctly figure out his strategy. Generally, the stand-alone episodes are good enough to keep you entertained – some are excellent.

 

Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture

 

7Th Volume is the Best: While GITS SAC is pretty good throughout the series, the 7th volume – the last one – is by far the best. Without the 7th volume, I would probably rate GITS SAC 8 stars, but the 7th volume really deserves a 10 star rating. In the 7th volume, Section 9 is disbanded, while political intrigue hounds their very lives. The team escapes a crack commando unit and then all go their separate ways. Motoko and Batou become the focus of the volume, and in doing so, display more humanity and feeling then they do the rest of the series. On top of this, many of the best FX are found in volume 7.

 

Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture

 

Differences with Oshii and Similarities with Shirow: Whereas Mamoru Oshii’s movies centered on the impacts of a cyberpunked society to the individual (Motoko in GITS, and Batou in GITS: Innocence), GITS SAC tends to broaden the filter to look at overall patterns in society. This leads to wonderful throw-away gems like the virtual meeting room (basically a holodeck) where everyone jacks into the meeting and then disappears when complete. We also get plots centering on problems with children in this changed new society, alienation of the masses, and loss of identity and humanity as technology takes center stage in human interaction. GITS SAC is also far more like Masume Shirow’s original graphic novel. While it doesn’t have the overt sexuality of Shirow’s work, Motoko is drawn as Shirow would; Shirow’s humor is evident in a number of the episodes; and the action takes center stage for the most part.

 

Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture

 

The Tachikomas: Early on, Major Motoko Kusanagi determined that the Tachikomas weren’t destined to be front-line fighting droids. For this reason, in order to become useful, the Tachikomas sped up their learning AI processing. As the season progresses, the Tachikomas begin to exhibit full signs of sentience, including Freewill and more devious functioning – so much so that Motoko becomes worried about their potential. Many interesting discussions take place over the development of the Tachikomas. One of the more intriguing ones that wasn’t really answered was whether being a digital life form instead of an analog one, would the Tachikomas ever develop a Ghost?

 

Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture

 

External Memory Devices and Cyberbrains – Augmented Thinking: One of the really interesting things about the GITS world is the integration of augmented brains. Conversations and complex thinking become dramatically enhanced. While the philosophical conversations are significantly reduced in GITS SAC when compared to the GITS movies, we still get a myriad of instances where cyberbrains allow people to call up a set of details about any subject that no other human could ever do. Cyberbrains in GITS SAC show a society where humanity truly has become post-human in a very real way, even though the actual look of most humans hasn’t changed much.

 

Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture

 

The Dubbing: GITS SAC is one of the few animes where the English cast is just about as good as the Japanese cast. Both William Knight (Aramaki) and Richard Epcar have been in their roles from the initial Ghost in the Shell movie in 1995, and all of the cast members have stayed consisted for both GITS Innocence and GITS SAC. Atsuko Tanaka (Motoko), Akio Ôtsuka (Batou), and Kôichi Yamadera (Togusa) have also been in their roles since 1995. It’s hard to pass up on Atsuko Tanaka though – I love her as Motoko. In any event, while the moods between the English and Japanese cast are different, they are both excellent.

 

Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture

 

The Sound: GITS SAC consistently has decent quality sound supporting the visuals. The use of the side speakers for voices is especially emphasized. The sound FX (explosions, gun shots, car chases) are always top notch. But truly, the most impressive thing in terms of sound is the sound track. The opening and closing songs (Inner Universe and Lithium Flower) by Yoko Kanno are flat out terrific. Throughout, we are treated to a variety of songs and background music, which almost always add to the action and visuals on screen.

 

Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture

 

The Visuals: GITS SAC has a variety of aids that add to the overall quality of the look. While some shots look pretty basic, others involve a variety of cool FX, including digital color grading, a myriad of environmental effects, and cell-shaded computer models. GITS SAC gives us a variety of color palettes including dominant greens, reds and blacks, and occasional blues and yellows. Overall, GITS SAC is a very professional, high quality production.

 

Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture

 

The Bottom Line: GITS SAC is a high quality cyberpunk production. While I personally like the tone and tenor of Oshii’s movies far more than I do GITS SAC, this is a personal preference. GITS SAC provides continued quality action wrapped up in impressive visuals and sound. While the first 6 volumes might only merit an 8 star rating, the conclusion is just terrific. This, along with the overall high level crafting GITS SAC provides throughout (visuals, sound, dubbing, songs) certainly raises the bar. And do yourself a favor – watch GITS SAC on a system with high quality surround sound – you’ll notice the difference.

 

This post has been filed under Hot Cyberchicks Kicking Butt, Awesome Cyberpunk Themes, Memory Modification, Made for TV, Man-machine Interface, 9 Star Movies, Hacker Movies, Awesome Cyberpunk Visuals, Animes, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 – current by SFAM.
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Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex

July 7, 2006

Movie Review By: SFAM

Year: 2002

Directed by: Kenji Kamiyama

Written by: Masamune Shirow (Story), Kenji Kamiyama (Chief Writer), et al.

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Very High

Key Cast Members:

  • Major Motoko Kusanagi: Atsuko Tanaka (Japanese), Mary McGlynn (English)
  • Batou: Akio Otsuka (Japanese), Richard Epcar (English)
  • Chief Daisuke Aramaki: Osamu Saka (Japanese), William Knight (English)
  • Ishikawa: Yutaka Nakano (Japanese), Michael McCarty (English)

Rating: 9 out of 10


Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture

 

Overview: Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex (GITS SAC) uses the same characters as Masume Shirow and Mamoru Oshii, but takes place prior to the first GITS movie. Like the GITS movies, GITS SAC revolves around Section 9, an elite anti-terror police force that works behind the scenes to keep the peace. The overall tenor of this series is far more action oriented than Oshii’s movies. While there are a few philosophy moments (including a terrific one with Batou and the Tachikomas), the vast majority of the season is action oriented. In short, we get high-end, slick cyberpunk butt-kicking in GITS SAC – one that’s well worth watching, even if you do miss the philosophy.

 

Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture

 

The Laughing Man Story: In a world where cyberization has become the norm for a large segment of the population, a number of negative side effects have become possible. In addition to cyberbrain hacking, a disease called Cyberbrain Sclerosis has emerged which seems to randomly affect many who’ve undergone significant cyberization. The Mega-corporation, Serano Genomics has produced a cure for Cyberbrain Sclerosis – Serano Micromachines, a nanotech implant device that, when ingested regularly supposedly halts and eventually works to cure the disease. Unfortunately, the Micromachines only seem to help a small segment of those contracting the disease. A hacker named the Laughing Man seems bent on exposing a cover-up – one which posits that the lost Murai Vaccine has an almost permanent curative for those with Cyberbrain Sclerosis. Unfortunately for Serano Genomics, a real cure for Cyberbrain Sclerosis would decimate their profitability.

 

Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture

 

The Laughing Man is a hacker extraordinaire who is able to hack into cyberbrains at will, and worse for public confidence, is able to take over TV shows at will. Section 9 has been brought in to find and stop the terrorist known as the Laughing Man. Throughout the season, while there are side plots, it’s the Laughing Man story which drives Section 9. As it continues, the intrigue builds and the plot thickens. Eventually, corporate betrayal, political scandals and personal vendettas play a role in setting the context and exposing the larger truth.

 

Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture

 

The Side Stories: While the Laughing Man is the focus of the season, there are many side quests in GITS SAC. Some of the episodes closely resemble stories from Masume Shirow’s original GITS Graphic Novel. Among these, Batou has an interesting commando encounter with his past, and Aramaki is taken prisoner by thieves in a bank, only to get involved in a more intriguing plot. For him to survive, Motoko must be able to interpret his actions from afar to correctly figure out his strategy. Generally, the stand-alone episodes are good enough to keep you entertained – some are excellent.

 

Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture

 

7Th Volume is the Best: While GITS SAC is pretty good throughout the series, the 7th volume – the last one – is by far the best. Without the 7th volume, I would probably rate GITS SAC 8 stars, but the 7th volume really deserves a 10 star rating. In the 7th volume, Section 9 is disbanded, while political intrigue hounds their very lives. The team escapes a crack commando unit and then all go their separate ways. Motoko and Batou become the focus of the volume, and in doing so, display more humanity and feeling then they do the rest of the series. On top of this, many of the best FX are found in volume 7.

 

Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture

 

Differences with Oshii and Similarities with Shirow: Whereas Mamoru Oshii’s movies centered on the impacts of a cyberpunked society to the individual (Motoko in GITS, and Batou in GITS: Innocence), GITS SAC tends to broaden the filter to look at overall patterns in society. This leads to wonderful throw-away gems like the virtual meeting room (basically a holodeck) where everyone jacks into the meeting and then disappears when complete. We also get plots centering on problems with children in this changed new society, alienation of the masses, and loss of identity and humanity as technology takes center stage in human interaction. GITS SAC is also far more like Masume Shirow’s original graphic novel. While it doesn’t have the overt sexuality of Shirow’s work, Motoko is drawn as Shirow would; Shirow’s humor is evident in a number of the episodes; and the action takes center stage for the most part.

 

Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture

 

The Tachikomas: Early on, Major Motoko Kusanagi determined that the Tachikomas weren’t destined to be front-line fighting droids. For this reason, in order to become useful, the Tachikomas sped up their learning AI processing. As the season progresses, the Tachikomas begin to exhibit full signs of sentience, including Freewill and more devious functioning – so much so that Motoko becomes worried about their potential. Many interesting discussions take place over the development of the Tachikomas. One of the more intriguing ones that wasn’t really answered was whether being a digital life form instead of an analog one, would the Tachikomas ever develop a Ghost?

 

Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture

 

External Memory Devices and Cyberbrains – Augmented Thinking: One of the really interesting things about the GITS world is the integration of augmented brains. Conversations and complex thinking become dramatically enhanced. While the philosophical conversations are significantly reduced in GITS SAC when compared to the GITS movies, we still get a myriad of instances where cyberbrains allow people to call up a set of details about any subject that no other human could ever do. Cyberbrains in GITS SAC show a society where humanity truly has become post-human in a very real way, even though the actual look of most humans hasn’t changed much.

 

Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture

 

The Dubbing: GITS SAC is one of the few animes where the English cast is just about as good as the Japanese cast. Both William Knight (Aramaki) and Richard Epcar have been in their roles from the initial Ghost in the Shell movie in 1995, and all of the cast members have stayed consisted for both GITS Innocence and GITS SAC. Atsuko Tanaka (Motoko), Akio Ôtsuka (Batou), and Kôichi Yamadera (Togusa) have also been in their roles since 1995. It’s hard to pass up on Atsuko Tanaka though – I love her as Motoko. In any event, while the moods between the English and Japanese cast are different, they are both excellent.

 

Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture

 

The Sound: GITS SAC consistently has decent quality sound supporting the visuals. The use of the side speakers for voices is especially emphasized. The sound FX (explosions, gun shots, car chases) are always top notch. But truly, the most impressive thing in terms of sound is the sound track. The opening and closing songs (Inner Universe and Lithium Flower) by Yoko Kanno are flat out terrific. Throughout, we are treated to a variety of songs and background music, which almost always add to the action and visuals on screen.

 

Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture

 

The Visuals: GITS SAC has a variety of aids that add to the overall quality of the look. While some shots look pretty basic, others involve a variety of cool FX, including digital color grading, a myriad of environmental effects, and cell-shaded computer models. GITS SAC gives us a variety of color palettes including dominant greens, reds and blacks, and occasional blues and yellows. Overall, GITS SAC is a very professional, high quality production.

 

Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture

 

The Bottom Line: GITS SAC is a high quality cyberpunk production. While I personally like the tone and tenor of Oshii’s movies far more than I do GITS SAC, this is a personal preference. GITS SAC provides continued quality action wrapped up in impressive visuals and sound. While the first 6 volumes might only merit an 8 star rating, the conclusion is just terrific. This, along with the overall high level crafting GITS SAC provides throughout (visuals, sound, dubbing, songs) certainly raises the bar. And do yourself a favor – watch GITS SAC on a system with high quality surround sound – you’ll notice the difference.

 

This post has been filed under Hot Cyberchicks Kicking Butt, Awesome Cyberpunk Themes, Memory Modification, Made for TV, Man-machine Interface, 9 Star Movies, Hacker Movies, Awesome Cyberpunk Visuals, Animes, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 – 2009 by SFAM.
Please follow and like us:

Appleseed (2004)

April 15, 2006

Movie Review By: SFAM

Year: 2004

Directed by: Shinji Aramaki

Written by: Masamune Shirow (Manga), Haruka Handa & Tsutomu Kamishiro (screenplay)

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Very High

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Medium

Key Cast Members:

  • Deunan Knute: Ai Kobayashi
  • Briareos: Jûrôta Kosugi
  • Hitomi: Yuki Matsuoka
  • Rating: 6 out of 10


    Appleseed screen capture

     

    Overview: Masamune Shirow’s Appleseed recently got a second anime treatment. The last was in 1988 – this time, in 2004, the anime is done up in eye-popping 3D graphics. With a budget of only 10 million as compared to over 90 million for a movie like The Incredibles, we shouldn’t be expecting too much. Surprisingly, we get far more than expected, especially with regards to the wonderfuly rendered backgrounds. While the animation is interesting enough, the story is more problematic. So too are the change in the feel of the characters. This is really where the original version succeeds far better than Aramaki’s version.

     

    Appleseed screen capture

     

    The Story: Appleseed takes place in the year 2131, a war-ravaged dystopian future where most all of human society is in ruins. Over two years after the last war, the only example of advanced human civilization is a newly made city called Olympia, which has been engineered to be a created as a perfect refuge from the rest of the world. Over half of the city’s inhabitants are comprised of bio-engineered “biodroids,” which are human-like beings designed to serve specific roles in the society. An all-knowing computer named GIA supports the city council in controlling all aspects of city life.

     

    Appleseed screen capture

     

    Deunan Knute, a fighter extraordinaire has been living alone in the wastelands, not realizing that the war is over. She is beset by two warring groups of fighters, one of which who is trying to kill her, and the other group, which rescues her and takes her to Olympia. There she is re-acquainted with her long lost lover, Briareos, who now has been transformed into a cyborg after his body was lost in the war. She is tasked to join “ESWAT,” a special mecha-enabled police force that keeps order within the city. Deunan also befriends a biodroid named Hitomi, who shows her around the city. Unfortunately, Deunan barely gets a chance to settle down before the assassination attempts on her life start.

     

    Appleseed screen capture

     

    Duenan quickly learns that she has been dropped in the middle of a power struggle between humans, who are concerned that the biodroids secretly aim to exterminate them, and biodroids, who worry the same about the humans. Somehow, Deunan has become essential in this struggle, yet it has nothing to do with her fighting capabilities. It turns out that her parents, before dying, developed a method for biodroids to reproduce, which would make them almost exactly like humans. But this research was lost long ago. Now, Deunan has become a pawn for both sides of this struggle, and worse, it appears as if her ex-lover, Briareos has chosen sides.

     

    Appleseed screen capture

     

    Unfortunately, the story in this version of Appleseed is problematic at best. There are too many sub-plots that obfuscate the key points. The myriad of loose ends introduced that are never followed up on. Gia, the sentient computer that runs Olympus is the probably the worst casualty. We get introduced to her, and, if you know something of the Appleseed story from the Manga, you expect to see lots more than what actually ends up being conveyed. In the end, the plot centers on a simple theme of racism. This is a shame as there were so many interesting cyberpunk aspects of Olympus that get short-circuited.

     

    Appleseed screen capture

     

    The Animation: Appleseed’s backgrounds are wonderfully rendered. This more than anything accounts for the majority of the “wows” Appleseed received. They are done in a way that allows 3D camera maneuvering, so as to allow you to see the same scene from multiple angles, and at times, even provides Matrix bullet-time effects. For the most part, the 3D CG overlaid with 2D cell shading really works. It’s an extension of the idea we saw in Malice@Doll, only with far better rendering tools. The machines look especially awesome. Both the Gunhed style tanks at the beginning of the movie and the platform sentinels at the end. Unlike many cyberpunk movies, there isn’t a dominating color palette in Appleseed, but the color scheme seems to stick more often than not to light and dark shades blue-greens, with yellow & browns in transition scenes.

     

    Appleseed screen capture

     

    In terms of the characters, only Deunan Knute really looks polished. Her body movements, facial expressions and general actions really work. The rest, especially the human characters, often look stilted in their moments. Hitomi, their biodroid friend, is especially problematic at times. This might be due more to the motion-capture techniques they use, which work wonderfully for the city, but not so well for the characters. Also, I really dislike the way they animated the hair. The hair on the humans in the 2004 edition look like something out of Reboot. However, considering the budget, I think they made the right decision in spending scarce resources on Deunan. Had they just made everyone look slightly better, Appleseed would have faltered horribly. By at least making Deunan polished, they developed a star that fit right alongside their wonderful backgrounds.

     

    Appleseed screen capture

     

    The Sound: Many times throughout the anime, Appleseed plays more like a music video than it does a movie. The modern heavy rock beats worked well for the action scenes. And truly, the action scenes are where Appleseed excels. There, the 3D positional sound, the music accompaniment and the 3D CG graphics are at their absolute best. The accompanying score really wasn’t all the memorable, but at least served up the slower paced moods fairly well.

     

    Appleseed screen capture

     

    Differences From Shirow’s Work: While both animes deviate from Masamune Shirow’s Appleseed Manga, Aramaki’s version is the most egregious. While the 2004 version starts outside of Olympia as the Manga does, it only has Duenan there, whereas in the Manga has both. This version introduces a new dramatic twist of Duenan and Briareos getting back together for the first time in two years. While this in itself isn’t bad, the side-effect is: these two characters are no NOTHING like the Manga. The Duenan Knute and Briareos of Shirow’s Manga, and of the 1988 version, are precursors to the Ghost in the Shell’s Motoko and Batou. Here, Briareos is a moody, lost soul trying to deal with his cyborg body, and Duenan is far more vulnerable than tough. The playful chemistry we see between these two both in the Manga and the 1988 anime is completely missing here. For those who aren’t familiar with the Manga, this probably won’t bug you, but it certainly sapped some of the enjoyment out of this movie for me – so much so that I’m dropping a star off the review for it.

     

    Appleseed screen capture

     

    The Bottom Line: Appleseed is definitely worth seeing for the visuals alone. While some of the characters don’t work, the Duenan, the machines and the action scenes work wonderfully. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t equal up. Too many elements are introduced and then discarded in favor of a truly simplistic storyline. They could have done better. Also, as I mention above, this is not the Deunan and Briareos I’ve become familiar with – these characters are different from both the Manga and the earlier anime. This bugged me enough to drop a star from the review, but you might not mind so much.

     

    Page 2: More Screencaps –>>

     

    ~See movies similar to this one~

    This post has been filed under Hot Cyberchicks Kicking Butt, Utopia Surrounded by Poverty, Man-machine Interface, 6 Star Movies, Awesome Cyberpunk Visuals, Animes, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 – current by SFAM.
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    Appleseed (2004)

    April 15, 2006

    Movie Review By: SFAM

    Year: 2004

    Directed by: Shinji Aramaki

    Written by: Masamune Shirow (Manga), Haruka Handa & Tsutomu Kamishiro (screenplay)

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Very High

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Medium

    Key Cast Members:

  • Deunan Knute: Ai Kobayashi
  • Briareos: Jûrôta Kosugi
  • Hitomi: Yuki Matsuoka
  • Rating: 6 out of 10


    Appleseed screen capture

     

    Overview: Masamune Shirow’s Appleseed recently got a second anime treatment. The last was in 1988 – this time, in 2004, the anime is done up in eye-popping 3D graphics. With a budget of only 10 million as compared to over 90 million for a movie like The Incredibles, we shouldn’t be expecting too much. Surprisingly, we get far more than expected, especially with regards to the wonderfuly rendered backgrounds. While the animation is interesting enough, the story is more problematic. So too are the change in the feel of the characters. This is really where the original version succeeds far better than Aramaki’s version.

     

    Appleseed screen capture

     

    The Story: Appleseed takes place in the year 2131, a war-ravaged dystopian future where most all of human society is in ruins. Over two years after the last war, the only example of advanced human civilization is a newly made city called Olympia, which has been engineered to be a created as a perfect refuge from the rest of the world. Over half of the city’s inhabitants are comprised of bio-engineered “biodroids,” which are human-like beings designed to serve specific roles in the society. An all-knowing computer named GIA supports the city council in controlling all aspects of city life.

     

    Appleseed screen capture

     

    Deunan Knute, a fighter extraordinaire has been living alone in the wastelands, not realizing that the war is over. She is beset by two warring groups of fighters, one of which who is trying to kill her, and the other group, which rescues her and takes her to Olympia. There she is re-acquainted with her long lost lover, Briareos, who now has been transformed into a cyborg after his body was lost in the war. She is tasked to join “ESWAT,” a special mecha-enabled police force that keeps order within the city. Deunan also befriends a biodroid named Hitomi, who shows her around the city. Unfortunately, Deunan barely gets a chance to settle down before the assassination attempts on her life start.

     

    Appleseed screen capture

     

    Duenan quickly learns that she has been dropped in the middle of a power struggle between humans, who are concerned that the biodroids secretly aim to exterminate them, and biodroids, who worry the same about the humans. Somehow, Deunan has become essential in this struggle, yet it has nothing to do with her fighting capabilities. It turns out that her parents, before dying, developed a method for biodroids to reproduce, which would make them almost exactly like humans. But this research was lost long ago. Now, Deunan has become a pawn for both sides of this struggle, and worse, it appears as if her ex-lover, Briareos has chosen sides.

     

    Appleseed screen capture

     

    Unfortunately, the story in this version of Appleseed is problematic at best. There are too many sub-plots that obfuscate the key points. The myriad of loose ends introduced that are never followed up on. Gia, the sentient computer that runs Olympus is the probably the worst casualty. We get introduced to her, and, if you know something of the Appleseed story from the Manga, you expect to see lots more than what actually ends up being conveyed. In the end, the plot centers on a simple theme of racism. This is a shame as there were so many interesting cyberpunk aspects of Olympus that get short-circuited.

     

    Appleseed screen capture

     

    The Animation: Appleseed’s backgrounds are wonderfully rendered. This more than anything accounts for the majority of the “wows” Appleseed received. They are done in a way that allows 3D camera maneuvering, so as to allow you to see the same scene from multiple angles, and at times, even provides Matrix bullet-time effects. For the most part, the 3D CG overlaid with 2D cell shading really works. It’s an extension of the idea we saw in Malice@Doll, only with far better rendering tools. The machines look especially awesome. Both the Gunhed style tanks at the beginning of the movie and the platform sentinels at the end. Unlike many cyberpunk movies, there isn’t a dominating color palette in Appleseed, but the color scheme seems to stick more often than not to light and dark shades blue-greens, with yellow & browns in transition scenes.

     

    Appleseed screen capture

     

    In terms of the characters, only Deunan Knute really looks polished. Her body movements, facial expressions and general actions really work. The rest, especially the human characters, often look stilted in their moments. Hitomi, their biodroid friend, is especially problematic at times. This might be due more to the motion-capture techniques they use, which work wonderfully for the city, but not so well for the characters. Also, I really dislike the way they animated the hair. The hair on the humans in the 2004 edition look like something out of Reboot. However, considering the budget, I think they made the right decision in spending scarce resources on Deunan. Had they just made everyone look slightly better, Appleseed would have faltered horribly. By at least making Deunan polished, they developed a star that fit right alongside their wonderful backgrounds.

     

    Appleseed screen capture

     

    The Sound: Many times throughout the anime, Appleseed plays more like a music video than it does a movie. The modern heavy rock beats worked well for the action scenes. And truly, the action scenes are where Appleseed excels. There, the 3D positional sound, the music accompaniment and the 3D CG graphics are at their absolute best. The accompanying score really wasn’t all the memorable, but at least served up the slower paced moods fairly well.

     

    Appleseed screen capture

     

    Differences From Shirow’s Work: While both animes deviate from Masamune Shirow’s Appleseed Manga, Aramaki’s version is the most egregious. While the 2004 version starts outside of Olympia as the Manga does, it only has Duenan there, whereas in the Manga has both. This version introduces a new dramatic twist of Duenan and Briareos getting back together for the first time in two years. While this in itself isn’t bad, the side-effect is: these two characters are no NOTHING like the Manga. The Duenan Knute and Briareos of Shirow’s Manga, and of the 1988 version, are precursors to the Ghost in the Shell’s Motoko and Batou. Here, Briareos is a moody, lost soul trying to deal with his cyborg body, and Duenan is far more vulnerable than tough. The playful chemistry we see between these two both in the Manga and the 1988 anime is completely missing here. For those who aren’t familiar with the Manga, this probably won’t bug you, but it certainly sapped some of the enjoyment out of this movie for me – so much so that I’m dropping a star off the review for it.

     

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    The Bottom Line: Appleseed is definitely worth seeing for the visuals alone. While some of the characters don’t work, the Duenan, the machines and the action scenes work wonderfully. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t equal up. Too many elements are introduced and then discarded in favor of a truly simplistic storyline. They could have done better. Also, as I mention above, this is not the Deunan and Briareos I’ve become familiar with – these characters are different from both the Manga and the earlier anime. This bugged me enough to drop a star from the review, but you might not mind so much.

     

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    This post has been filed under Hot Cyberchicks Kicking Butt, Utopia Surrounded by Poverty, Man-machine Interface, 6 Star Movies, Awesome Cyberpunk Visuals, Animes, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 – 2009 by SFAM.
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    Aeon Flux

    March 24, 2006

    Movie Review By: SFAM

    Year: 1995

    Directed by: Peter Chung & Howard Baker

    Written by: Peter Chung et. al.

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Very High

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High

    Key Cast Members:

  • Æon Flux: Denise Poirier (voice)
  • Trevor Goodchild: John Rafter Lee (voice)
  • Rating: 9 out of 10


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    Overview: Aeon-Flux, the brainchild of Peter Chung (also the writer/director of the terrific Animatrix short, “Matriculated”), is one of the really innovative and unique animated shows to come out of the United States. We really have to thank MTV for allowing this show to get produced, and then, after realizing that they just couldn’t control it, for letting it go on unfettered for a second season. Aeon-Flux is not meant to be a coherent whole – this postmodern cyberpunk show is as nihilistic as they come.

     

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    The Story: Aeon Flux takes place in a truly bizarre near-future setting, in which genetic engineering, body modifications, and excessive self-gratification are the norm – yet these extremes take place in a controlled surveillance society. Nearly all events take place in the utopian city, Bregna, which is controlled by a supreme oligarchy. Trevor (voiced by Vampire Hunter D’s John Rafter Lee), one of the two central characters, is a prototypical mad scientist who, at first seems to have little regard for anything other than his own perverted desires. As the show goes on, we find that he is in fact truly besotted with Aeon Flux, who, in many ways is his complete opposite. Aeon Flux (voiced by Denise Poirier) represents the forces of anarchy, and is continually involved in fucking up Trevor’s carefully laid scheming. Unfortunately for Aeon, she too cannot resist Trevor’s guile, which just as often, leads to her downfall.

     

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    Virtually every episode is different in Aeon Flux, but all of them deal with a strange, fast-paced plot that deals with espionage in some way. Episodes usually have the feel of a chess match, where Aeon and Trevor match wits over completely strange and esoteric plots. More often than not, nobody wins. In fact, unlike most shows, the winning and ending itself is rarely important. This is not what the shows are about. More important is the mood, the feel, and the atmosphere that exudes from the visuals, the dialogue and the score.

     

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    Spoiler – Aeon Flux Dies…A lot! Well, OK, it’s not really a spoiler. It’s more a fact of the show itself. Unlike most shows, in this one, the star dies regularly. Early on in the long shows, Trevor clones Aeon Flux, so thematically, there is now an infinite number of Aeons just waiting to bite the big one. And while there’s now a “rationale” for the deaths, this isn’t really the point – Aeon Flux isn’t meant to hold together that way. It’s almost as if each episode is completely it’s own show. But if she dies, rest assured it will happen in a truly innovative and gruesome way. It could be drowning in a vat of poisen, getting dropped out of a plane, being eating by bizarre genetically modified creatures, or, well, you get the idea. .

     

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    Aeon Flux – the Ultimate Anti-heroine? In many ways, Aeon Flux comes across as the ultimate anti-heroine. While she clearly knows right from wrong, and generally tries to stop the worst abuses, Aeon is an ultra-acrobatic, top-notch action/espionage heroine who works for herself. She’s just as likely to take an assassination job as she is to stop a horrid virus from killing mankind. Did I mention she’s drawn up in ultra-hot, skimpy clothes, and likes to have sex a lot? In this way, she really does qualify as a more female than female character (usually cyberpunk reserves these for cyborgs and androids). Most interestingly, because of Aeon Flux’s propensity for dying, you never know whether or not she’s going to make it through alive, or even whether she’ll complete her mission (she seems to fail almost as much as she succeeds). This really does add an excitement to the episodes.

     

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    The Love-Hate Relationship: Aeon-Flux and Trevor have a complete love-hate relationship. Even when they are bent on killing one-another, there is always sexual tension, which while often consummated, never leaves the two characters. Every episode gives us yet another chance to explore their relationship in a completely bizarre way. Trevor is definitely Aeon’s Kryptonite. More often than not, his presence alone is enough to make her botch her mission. However, this doesn’t stop Aeon from ruining most, if not all of Trevor’s take over the world plots.

     

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    The Visuals and Cinematography: Aeon Flux gives a number of different looks as the show progresses. Perhaps my favorite are the perspective shots such as the one above. We also get lots of wide angle shots, strange close-ups, gradients, and a number of truly surrealistic sets. Unlike most cyberpunk, Aeon Flux doesn’t really adhere to a single dominating color scheme – but to the extent it does, the blues are more highlighted than the rest. Usually, each episode will have a unique theme that dictates the color choices – often they will take a color palette (oranges, greens, etc.) and detail it out in interesting ways. Some episodes are truly surreal in nature, while others are straight neo-noir. The overall goal is always to innovatively create a far-out intense atmosphere wrapped up in a tightly paced, no-nonsense near-future espionage show. More often than not it succeeds.

     

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    The Violence: Much to MTV’s initial chagrin, Aeon Flux is NOT a kids show. This is an adult cartoon in every way possible, including the intense violence. While the shorts are more violent than the half-hour episodes, Aeon Flux is consistently violent. There are leg amputations, deaths by gunshot, poison, insects, creatures, aliens, viruses, et cetera (often to Aeon herself!). Blood and gore are often just a scene or two away. All of this serves to strengthen the near-future but otherworldly atmosphere of Aeon Flux.

     

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    The Gadgets: Aeon-Flux is filled with gadgets of all flavors. Most common are body modifications and “biopunk” elements (just learned that word ). Body modifications include external spinal cord implants, leg jumping implants, conversions of limbs, eye implants, and various compartmentalized bodily storage areas. Genetic engineering is a huge theme in Aeon Flux, far more than the cyber-aspects. We also see repeated instances of cybernetically modified insects who’s function is to inflict a virus of some kind into a target population (Now we know where DARPA got the idea from!). Needles are also a recurring them, and show up everywhere from guns, to security implements, to, um, the operating table.

     

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    The Bottom Line: Aeon Flux is one of the really creative shows to come out of United States Television. This show validates the purpose of cable TV – we get to see talented folks like Peter Chung let lose their creative energies to produce something truly unique. And while I normally don’t spend too much time talking about the DVD features, I must on Aeon-Flux – the DVD set is flat-out terrific. I almost put it up there with Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood and The Kino edition of Metropolis as one of my favorite DVD productions of a long-lost show. The commentaries, featurettes, and extras are all terrific on the Aeon Flux DVD. If I had any qualms about whether to give Aeon Flux 8 or 9 stars, the incredible quality of the DVD set answers it for me.

     

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    This post has been filed under Hot Cyberchicks Kicking Butt, Security-Surveillance State, Made for TV, 9 Star Movies, Animes, Alien Movies, Surreal Cyberpunk Movies, Awesome Cyberpunk Visuals, Cyberpunk movies from 1990 – 1999 by SFAM.
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