Appleseed Ex Machina

Anime can be a tough nut to crack. Tightly clung to favorites are defended to a degree that can make newcomers both confused and more than a little turned off by the level of zest fanatics of a particular series will engage newbie's with. Harsh criticism is also abundant and quick to be heaped upon anything not resembling a particular person's cadre of favorite works. Keeping that in mind I can say that Appleseed Ex Machina will change the way modern anime is done and turn traditionalists off at the same time. No joke.

Traditional Japanese cell animation is what many anime fans have come to expect in a serious film style piece. However the newest Appleseed blows right by it with some of the most stunning and inventive uses for 3D I've witnessed yet. The heavy use of Toon Shading - which is just a form of non-photorealistic rendering designed to make CGI look like hand drawings - gives the universe and characters a great deal of life they wouldn't normally have. Coupled with the superior textures and beautiful movement it's hard to fathom other producers not opting for the style in the coming years.

Shinji Aramaki who is responsible for the look of top line anime like Wolf's Rain, and Robotech and John Woo who has some of the best slow-mo and fight style in the movie business make an odd but very potent team. You can see Woo's influence in some of the "stunts" and camera angles and the very Woo signature-like bullet casings hitting the ground. And of course Aramaki is largely considered the father of modern mecha so the giant robots are nothing short of spectacularly detailed.

Ex Machina also sports a first rate story and the entire film (yes I'm calling it that) has a flavor and vibe all its own that will grab you from the word go. It takes a second or two to adjust to how much is really going down on the screen but what you see when looking at this work is the future of anime. Even if you don't like it - one day the pages of artistic history will mark it as significant.

Oh yeah I almost forgot, check it out if you get the chance.

4 Responses to "Appleseed Ex Machina"
  1. L33tG33k says:

    I have to say Sean, you are quite correct and wrong at the same time. For die hard fans ( I include my self in this, having been into anime since 1986 and before that w/ Speed Racer and Starblazers. I was watching Anime when it was known as Japanimation and there were no subtitles…)This might put them off. We once again have the “Digital v Analog” fight. There is a Warmth to Handdrawn anime. Look at some of the Earlier works of H.Miyazaki ( Castle in the Sky ( “laupta”) and Porco Rosso. What he achieved w/ Hand drawn Cells ( of which I have 2!) I defy Modern CG to duplicate. BUT!( index finger firmly in the air) you are Correct in that it might be a Genre all to it’s self. The Cg in The Appleseed movies ( Appleseed and Appleseed Ex Machina) were ground breaking , using MoCap and free design to create a vision that the Original Artist , Masamune Shirow, has commented feels like it should . Having seen the 1980′s Appleseed movie ( in ’85…) I have to say that The modern ones are much better in story and visual presentation.

    But if you want truly GREAT CG anime, try The Ghost In the Shell series (GiTS stand alone complex,GiTS Second Gig and Gits Solid State Society). Once again an M Shirow story that benefits from a Digital media.

    I think you guys should do an Anime retrospective. Maybe take a Representative sampling of Genres and styles to help introduce the novice to what was once the exclusive purview of mouth breathing Otaku ( Also Me!).

  2. joeedh says:

    I watched the trailer for this film. I have to admit, it did look interesting. . .but not outstanding. It looked like a cheap CG film with an overabundance of mocap. Of course this is the trailer, but usually if a trailer overall has bad animation, the movie does too. Of course, it’s possible to have a good movie without good animation if the creators find some way to breath life into the characters. I don’t know if that happened here; the trailer was too short for me figure that out.

    Toon shading and mocap are both somewhat tricky, dangerous things to use in animation. Toon shading tries to mimic cell drawings, but looks subtly wrong and cheezy if done wrong (from what I saw they managed to avoid this). Mocap is even worse; getting mocap to perform as well as animation is massively expensive and difficult, and hasn’t quite been achieved yet (as an animation student I take some solace in that :) ). The movie suffers from quite a bit of bad animation because of that (I’ll have to disagree with the “beautiful movements” bits).

    I also noticed a bit of bad deformations. And the facial animation was pretty horrendous. Personally, I think cheaper-produced films should spend more, not less, effort on the faces (or else work out a way to do them cheaply that *works*, like traditional anime). The facial expressions here just seemed to contribute to a general sense of deadness all the characters seemed to have.

  3. Boxytheboxed says:

    I saw the original. Sorry, it was pretty terrible. But Ill watch this one, just for Sean ;)

  4. fastcart says:

    I thought Appleseed Ex Machina was great for the first 5 minutes (if you’ve seen it, you’ll know what I’m talking about). Then, the pace dipped and was unable to re-attain what originally grabbed me.

    I thought the animation style was subpar, but you may be right about my bias. To me, it just looked unpolished or cheap compared to traditional styles. But, maybe that’s just on me and not an attribute of the film itself.

    But, if you like Appleseed Ex Machina, maybe you should try Vexillle. They look similar in style to me. Vexille’s plot didn’t grab me, but neither did Appleseed Ex Machina. So, who knows?

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