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Appleseed XIII Complete Collection Limited Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read

Appleseed XIII
Appleseed XIII
While Olympus has its large plans in motion, there are fringe elements that seek to destabilize things through violence.

What They Say:
In the wake of destruction from a worldwide non-nuclear war, the city of Olympus has become the control center of the world. As humanity adopts biological enhancements in attempts to achieve perfection, a terrorist organization uprises to prevent what could be the eventual extinction of the human race. Two former LAPD SWAT members join a special mech-piloting, military force to take down the leader of the terrorist organization.

Contains episodes 1-13.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is quite good as we get the original Japanese language with a 5.1 mix as well as the new English language dub getting the same, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series has a good blend of dialogue and action to it and the action is where it stands out as it whisks across the screen with the various armored suits that are used and some of the bigger craft as well. The action certainly isn’t constant, but when it hits it’s felt across the soundstage with some good bass during it as well. The show doesn’t spend a whole lot of time with multiple characters talking at once or in a crowd so there’s not a lot going on with placement or depth, giving it more of a full feeling, but there are some good areas where it definitely comes across well. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2011, the transfer for this thirteen episode TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is spread across two discs with ten on the first and three on the second where there’s also a whole lot of extras. Being a CGI show, it’s interesting to see how it looks here because it does generally keep to the color palette we saw in the previous features where it’s darker and muted, but it also blends in some more traditional backgrounds as well which is intriguing to see how they come together. The lighter scenes and bright colors hold up very well though and the darker areas avoid any noticeable macroblocking or breakup, though some of the areas produce a bit of noise. But because of how the show is animated, it has a very solid look overall and a smooth looking visual design that makes for a very good looking transfer.

Packaging:
The limited edition version of this release comes with a heavy chipboard box that holds the two Blu-ray cases inside that holds the discs for each format. The front panel on the box is kind of awkward as it gives us a look at Deunan and Briareos together but along the edges as they face off against one of their enemies that takes up the center piece of it. It looks really unusual that they shift the leads off to the edges like this. The back panel under the sell-sheet that’s under the wrapper gives us a much better image, albeit a dark one as well, with Deia in a skintight uniform with one of the landmate type machines behind her.

Inside the box we get the two Blu-ray cases where one set holds the DVDs and the other holds the Blu-rays. The cover artwork for them definitely works better than the front of the box where one has the primary pairing together that looks good, if murky with all the dark colors, in an action pose while the second volume does it with a more intimate shot of the two. The back covers are laid out the same with the XIII spread across it with character artwork underneath. The covers have artwork on the reverse side where the left breaks down the discs and episodes along with the extras while the right side features some good artwork done in the style of the gods material we have within the series. No show related inserts are included with the release.

Menu:
The menu design for this release is simple but effective overall as it uses the series logo as its main piece that flashes the logo across it, which looks good with the colors it uses and the darker black and gray aspect of the menu itself. The navigation along the bottom is simple with a different shade of gray and white text but everything is quick to load and submenus come up quickly. The show is bilingual but the subtitles are locked to the Japanese track so when you make language selections, it only allows you to choose between the two languages themselves.

Extras:
Appleseed XIII definitely goes the distance with the extras and that really does add to the overall value of the set. On the newly produced side, there are a pair of commentary tracks by the English language production team, one for an early episode and one for episode twelve. We also get the usual in the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences as well as the FUNimation produced trailer for the show. The really big extra here is the thirteen part behind the scenes feature, which thankfully can be watched with a play all feature. Combined, it runs just under two and a half hours and delves deep into how the series is put together from various angles with a wide range of creative, technical and business folks that were involved with it. With a show like this, seeing how it gets put together definitely can add to the enjoyment of the show itself and what you notice with the nuance of it all.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Falling within the continuity of the two theatrical movies that have been released previously, Appleseed XIII is a thirteen episode series that follows the same model and largely uses the same animation style and designs. When that first movie came out, I remember seeing it in a theater in Boston and enjoying it quite a lot, though most attendees hated the animation style itself, which was pretty radical at the time it first came out. Appleseed was one of my first manga exposures back in the 1980’s from Studio Proteus and it’s lasted with me for an age with the dynamic of that artwork, the complexity of the situation and the engaging characters. With an old OVA that just didn’t do the property justice, I’ve largely been happy with the incarnations we’ve gotten, though I’ll easily admit that I’d love to see it get the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex treatment sometime.

With Appleseed XIII, the show doesn’t spend much time overall re-introducing us to the setting, characters and their backgrounds, which I definitely appreciate. It expects that you’ve seen the movies or are familiar with the property so it’s not covering the same ground again from the start, showing us how Deunan and Briareos were brought in to Olympus or how they ended up in ESWAT. Instead, they’ve been here for a bit. This may make it harder for new viewers, but with so many shows always starting from the beginning again, it’s refreshing to be dropped into the period where Deunan and Briareos have been established for a bit and Deunan is still having a hard time really getting along with everyone else, which allows the show to help thaw things a bit. It does reference some of what’s come before though and there are nods to the origins, so the show definitely hits some good notes in this regard.

The premise for the season is one that definitely plays out better in a marathon form as it’s seeded throughout with some gaps between things really coming together. Past and present and future is what the series wants to work through here as there are various storylines going on that do connect with each other. One of the overriding aspects of Appleseed is the way Olympus runs with its combination of humans, bioroids, cyborgs and robots and finding a path for co-existance and acceptance so the species as a whole can move forward. There are some interesting things touched on about it here, especially as they make many references to the gods because of the Olympus angle and how they and mankind existed in stories all those years ago, and it also spends a good bit of time on some of the trials of Hercules, both verbally and through certain statue references.

With Olympus working towards that and expanding the future with the Ark Project that will bring space exploration back into play after the world came to the brink previously, there are those that want to upset the balance as well. Human Liberation Front, the radical side of what’s left of humanity that’s completely against what Olympus represents, is setting their plans into motion through the extremist group known as the Argonauts. While they were dealt with before at one point that resulted in some of the key personnel being killed, the second generation and remnants are putting their ideas into play and that has it leading to some dangerous moments as they have no problem causing destruction across a wide area even while going after a single target. The story elements for this aren’t all that clear at times, especially because of the way there’s bioroid copies and a lot of betrayals that come into it later on. I like the concepts and ideas, but the execution just falters along the way.

For Deunan and Briareos, they’re still coping with whether they really want to be here in Olympus or not, but they’re sticking to it and finding themselves caught up in some of the more dangerous situations because of it. With the Argonauts operating in the background with some surgical strikes and political considerations with Poseidon and their own plans for gaining position and power in the world, the series really does expand on the world in some interesting ways, but it’s so circumspect with it that it’s tenuous and hard to grab onto in order to really connect with it. The show tends to have an episodic feeling to it overall and they’re interesting enough as it focuses on how Deunan and Briareos handles things, but it lacks what it needs to really bring it all together in the larger context.

In Summary:
Unlike a lot of anime fans, I’m not adverse to the 3D CGI approach that’s used for the Appleseed world. Granted, I’d love to get a more traditionally animated two season series that faithfully adapts the manga, but I can’t see that happening anytime soon. With Appleseed XIII, we get a series that doesn’t spend its time revisiting what’s been done before and just goes forward with new material and the occasional nod towards what’s come before. But it has a hard time really bringing the larger story together in a way that makes it compelling. I like the politics of it, but it loses its way from time to time with how it brings it all out and introduces us to the different aspects of it. The show falls short with what I had wanted it to do and the way the characters interacted, but there are concepts I like and the set has some fantastic extras to it that really delves into how its made.

Features:
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 7 Commentary (Monica Rial, Mike McFarland, Ian Sinclair), Episode 12 Commentary (Colleen Clinkenbeard, David Matranga), The Inside 1-13 (subtitled), U.S. Trailer, Textless Opening Theme, Textless Closing Theme

Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A+

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: June 4th, 2013
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 390 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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