Blu-ray Review: Appleseed XIII – The Complete Series

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Appleseed is a long standing anime / manga and it’s had its fair share of movies and anime releases, but what do we think of this latest incarnation of the franchise, entitiled Appleseed XIII? Well find out in our Blu-ray Review of Appleseed XIII – The Complete Series.

Synopsis:

Following a global conflict that resulted in the extermination of half the world’s population, a utopian city nation has risen from the ashes and ruins of the war. Olympus is a shining beacon of human civilization, governed by a near-omnipotent computer known as Gaia and maintained and managed by a majority population of artificially created half-human, half-robot Bioroids whose duty is to ensure the wellbeing of the minority human populace. But there is unrest within this seemingly perfect paradise. Racial, religious and political differences continue to cause unrest amongst the people and a terrorist group known as the Human Liberation Front threatens to destroy Gaia and the Bioroids in the name of human “freedom”.

Helping to ensure security in Olympus and to combat the HLF threat is an elite Special Forces organisation, ES.W.A.T. Amongst its team members are Deunan, a young female agent, and her cyborg partner and lover, Briareos. As they continue to deal with the complications of their own relationship while together having to confront terrorism, government conspiracies, corrupt corporations and the ongoing development of deadly military technology, their story and their search for their own Eden becomes the true story of Olympus.

Our View:

Forgive me if I sound vague in this review, but with the locations and characters named after Greek Mythologies it can be quite troublesome, if not downright annoying, especially when you are trying to keep up with what’s being discussed, that being said Appleseed XIII attempts to retell the story of the original manga, which was created by Shirow Masamune back in 1985, by using a unique animation style that surely gets your attention.

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Appleseed XIII is set after two great wars and massive scientific advancements, whereby majority of the world’s population now lives within Olympus – a so called ‘paradise’ that is ran mostly by bioroids, genetically engineered humans that live in a peaceful manner and are used not only to maintain the city, but are used to rebuild the human population so that a human utopian paradise can be created. Olympus isn’t the only big nation attempting this goal either, as another nation, named Posideon, is also trying to achieve it, with both nations attempting to work together to create a peaceful paradise for the earth. Outside of these two giants are other minor fractions, each of which are seeking their own independent nation and unique way of life, however some of these groups will attempt drastic measures in order to achieve their goal, including terrorist attacks on both of the giant nations.

These ‘disruptions’ lead us to our main protagonists of the story, Deunan and Briareos, who are partners within ESWAT, a tactical swat based police unit. The overall story follows the daily activities of ESWAT, namely the two protagonists Deunan and Briareos, whereby they, along with the rest of the ESWAT team, save the city from various terrorist styled attacks, whether it be protecting a government official or rescuing a little bioroid girl from being sold off. These ‘missions’ are split into individual episodes, all of which seem natural and realistic in this Sci-Fi scenario, that is until the vampire episode kicks in. Basically a viral weapon breaks out among the Bioroids, casuing them to attack in ‘vampire fashion’ – not something you’d expect from a futuristic Sci-Fi styled show. The truth surrounding this episode does not become apparent until the very end, but even then it’s a mysterious one. This episode in its entirety is not only confusing but can become annoying , especially when continuious Greek artwork references, which all have something to do with Deunan’s harsh past, appear on screen and are not explained. These references wouldn’t be an issue, but they appear in every episode and it quickly becomes tiresome.  Up until this episode the series at a “its getting interesting” phase, with a mysterious mecha killing targets and securing hostages, but this vampire episode, despite having a logically explanation, seems to steer away from the main objective of telling Deunan and Briareos struggles within ESWAT.

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It’s not just about the variety of police work though, as both the two main protagonists soon get into their own real problems when they fall out with each other. Basically Deunan gets frustrated at Briareos for always shielding her from danger, however unbeknown to Deunan, Briareos was asked by her farther to protect her from any harm.  This complication in their relationship soon spills over into their work life, and is a topic that remains constant throughout the series, even if its not always seen. Majority of this ‘relationship trouble’ is portrayed on screen by displaying Greek styled sculptures and artwork, most of which is left to the viewer to decipher what it exactly means, and as previously mentioned, since these references appear so often throughout the series it quickly becomes tiresome and annoying – something which isn’t backed up by the pace of the series, as even the pace of the series feels slow.

Extras:

Interestingly this Blu-ray release of Appleseed XIII features a healthy amount of extra content, especially when you compare it against the recent Blu-ray release of Fate/Stay Night, which contained no extras.

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Most of these extras are ‘business as usual’ (i.e. text less songs) however viewers interested in learning the production side of the series will be glad to find out that they are catered for with the ‘Inside’ episodes as well as English Cast Commentary for two of the included episodes.

Disc 1:

  • Episode 7 English Cast Commentary with Mike McFarland, Ian Sinclair & Monika Rial

Disc 2:

  • The Inside 1-13 (Behind The Scenes of each episode, presented in Japanese with English subtitles)
  • Episode 12 English Cast Commentary with Colleen Clinkerbeard & David Matranga
  • US Trailer
  • Text less opening song
  • Text less closing song

Those interested in the ‘behind the scenes’ working will be interested in viewing “the inside”, which is a Japanese look at the production of the series, as well as the English Cast Commentary. Each episode of ‘The Inside’ provides a first hand behind the scenes look at the production of the series, whether it be animation, art design and directive approach to the story, a variety of things are covered, all of which are presented in Japanese with English Subtitles.

The English cast commentary on the other hands provides an ‘audio look’ into the English dubbing production of the series, and with this being a CGI release (rather than a standard 2D anime release) the approach taken by the directors and voice actors was slightly different and more unique.  Episode 7 and Episode 12 both feature an audio commentary, each of which are commentated by different members of FUNimation and yet again provides an interesting insight into the dubbing process.

Specs:

Media:  BD 50 x2
Region: B
Running Time: 3:37:24 (Disc 1), 1:08:20 (Disc 2)
Video: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English & Japanese)
Subtitles: English (White)
Resolution: 1920×1080 (1080p)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Aspect Ratio
Frame Rate: 23.976 fps

Overall:

At its core Appledseed XIII is a CGI styled anime based upon the original manga, whereby the main protagonists, Deunan and Briareos, get their own personal stories told, and to spice it up a variety of ESWAT missions have been thrown in to keep it entertaining. That being said there is another ‘underlining’ story within this series, namely the mysterious group that keeps appearing during each of ESWAT’s missions, with this mysterious persons objective remaining unclear until the very end.

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The charm with Appleseed XIII isn’t with its (rather bland) story, or it’s Greek mythology styled names, but with its animation style. The animation used is CGI, however the way it has been used makes feel special as it feels like you are watching a manga come to life, rather than a traditional CGI film. This is further enhanced by mixing cell-shaded visuals, along with traditional 2D animation, into presenting a truly outstanding series, that in my opinion, is only let-down by its unenticing story.

The story for me felt very complex and boring, but this could be due to Appleseed XIII being the first Appleseed related item I’ve ever watched. That being said the quality of this release is superb, not only due its crisp 1080p visual and detailed animation style, but with its 5.1 Audio being available for both the English & Japanese languages, with the Japanese Audio track providing a more ‘entertaining’ experience than the English dub. It’s also worth noting that in order to change the audio track you must use the pop-up menu, otherwise you will not be able to change it, furthermore the English subtitles are locked (and unremovable) from the Japanese audio track – so there is no chance of watching it raw.

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Overall this Blu-ray release of Appleseed XII has a lot to offer, not just in visual and episodic content but within the amount of extra features, most of which related to the production side of the series. While I found the anime to be abit complex and boring others will enjoy the story it has to tell, not to mention it has some pretty interesting gunfights and mecha battles. Those who enjoyed Appleseed: EX Machina (the film by John Woo) will be interested in this series as it features similar characteristics, however those new to the franchise then be warned you will have to stick with this series for things to be explained, however if you like futuristic (Ghost in the shell) styled storylines and mecha battles then its definitely worth dipping in and taking a look.

Score: review-stars-3

Appleseed XIII – The Complete Series will be available on Blu-ray and DVD from the 7th October 2013.

About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked at ZOMGPlay, Rice Digital and Funstock and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita, PS4 or Xbox One.

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