All of the Appleseed goodness with none of the production quality.
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.
These two movies are a summarized take on the 13-episode Appleseed TV series.
Both language tracks for this release are offered in 5.1 surround; for this viewing, I took in the English dub. The dialogue stayed centered, but there was some nice left/right and front/back directionality with the sound effects. The sound was clear and there was no dropout on any of the channels.
I have to say that I am sorely disappointed with the video of this release. Technically, the transfer is fine. My issues have nothing to do with Funimation’s work. Rather, I am very disappointed in the quality of the animation. The Appleseed movies from a few years ago (the reboot and Ex Machina) set a high bar for what we could expect from this series, but these movies fall far short of that. I can accept that these are essentially highlights from the Appleseed XIII TV series, and that TV series generally do not have the production values of movies, but the animation is so jerky that it is distracting; in a lot of ways, it has the look and feel of when CGI was used in anime in the 90s. The actual character and set designs are fine, but the animation is so poorly done much of the time that it’s hard to watch.
The two DVDs and single BD disc come in a standard BluRay case with a center insert to hold the DVDs. The front cover is reversible—the main cover has a closeup of Briarios on the front with some screenshots and technical details on the back. The reverse cover is a nice image that wraps the whole case of Deunan and Briarios looking over Olympus and the Ark Project. Since BluRay cases are clear, whichever side is not facing out can be seen with the case open. There is a card sleeve that slips over the case that is a relatively solid blue, but has XIII cut out of the front so that the BluRay case will show through a bit. It is a really slickly designed case.
The menus for this are simply designed, but like with most BluRays, I appreciate the seamlessness of them. The main menu has a clip reel of various points of the two movies while the selections are available underneath on a black bar. Any submenus just pop up on the same screen with no need for transition. On the BD discs, both movies are easily labeled, as are the special features.
This release has just a few trailers for both the original series as well as these two movies, along with clean versions of the songs.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Appleseed XIII was a 2011 TV series that ran for thirteen episodes. The series proved popular enough that Production I.G. made two feature length films that compiled the important points of the series, similar to Ghost in the Shell’s Solid State Society and Individual 11. This release is a BD/DVD combo pack of both movies: Tartaros and Ouranos. I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed these movies, though I do wonder about their place in the larger scheme of things.
In Olympus, Gaia is carrying out a plan known as the Ark Project. The Ark Project is a plan to preserve humanity under the supervision of bioroids. However, this plan is opposed by the reemergence of a terrorist group known as the Human Liberation Front, who feel that not only does the Ark Project degrade humanity in comparison to bioroids, but outright rejects the existence of bioroids altogether.
But the Human Liberation Front is shrouded in mystery, as their mobile fortress was destroyed years earlier in an attack by Olympus, and their leader, Alcides, is supposed to have been killed in the attack. But when the planned leaders for the Ark project start being killed one-by-one, it is obvious that somebody somewhere is pulling the strings, and soon it is up to Deunan, Brioarios, and E.S.W.A.T. to solve the mystery before the Ark Project is destroyed for good.
I had not seen the Appleseed XIII TV series before I sat down to watch these movies, but I have been a fan of Appleseed since the original 80s OVA, so I didn’t hesitate to watch this. Maybe I will feel differently when I do get to watch the series, but I really do not feel like I have missed anything here. With only one minor exception (the resolution to the dispute between Deunan and Briarios over his smothering her), I never felt lost. The story here is told pretty seamlessly, and if I hadn’t already known that it was essentially a highlight reel, I never would have been able to guess.
As with any Appleseed title, the main crux of the story revolves around the question of what it means to be alive. The leaders of the Human Liberation Front view the bioroids as just copies of humans, incapable of feeling true emotion—they can only copy what they have been programed to know by their makers. And this is the thrust of their attacks on the Ark Project: they look at bioroids as undeserving heirs to humanity. So for Deunan, her mission isn’t just to stop the perpetrators, but to also try and get them to understand why their beliefs are wrong. To her, a bioroid is just as much a person as a human is, and she cannot fathom why people would view them differently.
And this is what really tends to set Appleseed apart for me: amidst all of the action and cyberpunk awesomeness, it is at heart a human story. The earlier Appleseed movies I semi-criticize for being fairly light on plot in comparison to the manga, but that’s not the case here. While there’s plenty of action in these two movies, the story of the original TV series shines through here pretty well. The relationship struggles of Deunan and Briarios are well established, and the emotional scars bore by the series antagonist are shown in all their glory. And while there is a very real physical conflict between E.S.W.A.T. and the HLF, the real story here is whether or not the antagonist can come to accept his/her past and move beyond it before ruining everything. For me, the movies were all the better for this approach.
Appleseed XIII Tartaros and Ouranos are movies compiled from the 13 episode Appleseed XIII TV series. I had not seen the series before watching these movies, but I don’t really feel like I have missed anything for having skipped them to this point. That said, had I already seen the TV series, I’m not entirely sure if these movies would have been particularly necessary. It might have been nice to revisit the story in a more compact format, but it might be a bit of a waste too. Highly recommended, though you might feel a bit of redundancy if you’ve seen the TV series already.
Special Features: Original Movie 1 Preview, Original Movie 2 Previews, Textless Closing Song, Trailers.
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: D
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: A-
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: February 25, 2014
Running Time: 168 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony PS3 w/HDMI Connection, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System