Owen Gleiberman
January 12, 2005 AT 05:00 AM EST

Appleseed

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
runtime
103 minutes
Limited Release Date
01/14/05
performer
Mia Bradly, James Lyon, Jennifer Proud
distributor
Geneon
genre
Animation

We gave it a C

Appleseed, the latest Japanese punk-action-sci-fi-pulp anime, offers one tactile and dazzling image after another. The surfaces of a futuristic metropolis — not just buildings but highways — gleam as if the city were a Shanghai made of mirrors. The liquid in a martini glass isn’t just clear, it’s slightly syrupy, like real cold gin. When combat helicopters land in a rainstorm at night, the sensuous dense murk of shadow seduces you, for a moment, into thinking that you’re watching live action.

You’ll forget that feeling the moment that one of the big-eyed, Botox-mannequin characters opens his or her mouth. Based on a comic book by Masamune Shirow (Ghost in the Shell), Appleseed is a postapocalyptic parable that has something to do with a fascist plot to eliminate the city’s race of synthetic ”Bioroids.” How can we tell who’s human and who’s a Bioroid? The humans are chirpy, the Bioroids chirpier. It’s worth noting that even in a cartoon this technically astounding, most of the characters appear to have sprung from the DNA of Astro Boy. At this point, there’s something almost masochistic about the way animators in Japan use cheesy ”Westernized” heroes to fuel their fantasies.

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