Appleseed (Appurushīdo) (1988)

Appleseed (Appurushīdo) (1988)

I think you could argue that some classics hold their status by virtue of reaching certain storytelling spaces early, by being perhaps more influential rather than brilliant in their own right.

I’d argue that the 1988 OVA adaptation of Masamune Shirow’s manga fits that mold pretty neatly, since so many tropes, settings and ideas have carried forth well into the present, yet the film itself has its limitations.

Of course, the Appleseed manga is probably more key in terms of the influence I’m talking about (and obviously Akira before it) but the OVA is still part of the storytelling tradition that puts certain conventions and characters into the fore.

And while there’s certainly cyberpunk elements re: technology, rebellion in oppressive societies and augmentation, the film reads more like a Hollywood action blockbuster if you strip away those typical cyberpunk or science-fiction elements.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing either, that’s part of the fun for me when I watch it – it’s not unlike Lethal Weapon set in the 22nd Century!

So for me, what can I say represents Appleseed’s best parts?

Maybe the ‘time-capsule’ aspects – that ‘old-school’ anime character design which was usually a little rounder of face, with visible noses and sharper use of shadow, along with what I consider the wider, more generalised US influence – the big hair, 1980s workout-costuming, a montage sequence and a saxophone and light synth-soundtrack.

Add to that robotics, guns and explosions and a clear, linear ‘police-hunt-terrorists’ storyline and you’ve got Appleseed. Even Briareos and Deunan have a bit of a buddy-cop dynamic going on – though any such character interactions/development (or exploration of the social system in Olympus) tend to take a back seat to the action and tech. (There’s bits of humour here and there too but again, it’s not the focus either).

In fact, another joy for me tends to be seeing how the future is imagined both in terms of how society is organised and how technology might evolve – and Appleseed has both fascinating ideas and amusing moments common to a lot of 80s and 90s cyberpunk: especially when it comes to the office settings or communication technology.

Here, computers are massive, police still print on paper and phones have only reached ‘video’ and yet military tech and cybernetics are light years ahead. Audiences probably appreciate a good deal of familiar things in future-settings though, and predicting the future must be so, so very difficult. I tend to think speculative fiction writers do get it right pretty often too.

Where the OVA suffers in my opinion is due to some truly clunky dialogue and the missed opportunities to reveal more detail about the world and characters, something a series might have solved, but the movie still packs a lot into its runtime and I tend to prefer it over say, the 2004 adaptation, though nostalgia clearly plays into that feeling.

If you’re curious about the film’s place in the timeline of cyberpunk or maybe Shirow’s work in general, then you’ll probably pick up a few familiar themes and ideas – I remember feeling like the multi-leg tank was a clear precursor to GITS’s spider tank.

And speaking of that robot design and influence, I think some Boomer designs from Bubblegum Crisis might be a nod to Landmates and other robots in Appleseed, which is the kind of detail I tend to enjoy noticing because it reminds me just how interconnected storytelling tends to be!

4 Stars

11 thoughts on “Appleseed (Appurushīdo) (1988)

  1. Pingback: Armitage III (Amitēji Za Sādo) | The Review Heap

  2. This was one of my first introductions to anime. It’s definitely in the group that I consider to be the reason I got into anime in the first place. So many great ideas but it needed more time to shine like the manga. Masamune Shirow is one of my all-time favourites too.

    As for inspiration, this inspired me to write a short that I plan on expanding into a novel at some point. I need to try to get it into my schedule…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Me too! I remember being blown away too – probably a key text in kicking off my love of cyberpunk, yeah.

      Have you also read the manga for ‘Appleseed’? It’s another on my long list to one day read 😀

      Nice, lemme know when it’s done! How’s NaNoWriMo going at the mo?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve read parts of it. It’s one of those titles that seems to be harder to find all of it. I’m pretty sure some of it was in Manga Mania which was a magazine that published various chapters of different stories in a serial basis.

        I wrote that short more than ten years ago now… It had an interesting idea that I’d like to explore a little more. Hopefully doing NaNoWriMo will give me the kickstart to get back to finishing more projects.

        Current, I’m at 6.6k words and should be 10k. Works been demanding this week and should calm down next week so I think I’ll catch up in no time.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Ah, okay – that’ll make it harder for me in the future, but not impossible I guess, maybe it’s easier to find via digital?

          Cool! I’ll be watching your blog for new about ti, and nice – that’s not too far behind. If I’d started it this year I’d be at perhaps 1k, lol

          Liked by 1 person

          • Well, I’ve had a couple of solid days production and am now at 12.5k words. Based on my plan, I’ve already added in several scenes that weren’t there, so I think I’m still going to be writing it in December, even if I hit 50k by the end of November.

            Feels good to be writing again. The words are coming out of me faster than before, so if I can get a couple of extra sessions in a day, I should be able to really chip away at my word deficit.

            Liked by 1 person

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