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'Appleseed' Filmmakers Talk Impact of CGI

27 Jul, 2014 By: Chris Tribbey

SAN DIEGO — It was 1988 that the first Appleseed OVA (original video animation) was released, and 26 years later the franchise is still alive and kicking.

Shinji Aramaki (Space Pirate Captain Harlock, Starship Troopers: Invasion) has directed all three modern, CG animated versions in the “Appleseed” franchise, and wants to do more. Why, when so many other anime franchises have died off in recent years, is “Appleseed” still going strong?

“The most important reason may be the original manga (Japanese comics) has everything people want in a cool anime: sci-fi, technology, attractive women, beautiful mechanics, everything you would look for,” Aramaki said July 26 at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con International, speaking through an interpreter. “All the design that goes into it, the storytelling, the characters, it goes back to the original material.”

Aramaki’s latest addition to the “Appleseed” canon, Appleseed Alpha, acts as a prequel for the franchise, following two mercenary soldiers — Deunan and her cyborg partner Briareos — in a post-World War society, where they find themselves suddenly tasked with saving humanity. The film is out on DVD and Blu-ray Disc now from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Appleseed Alpha producer Joseph Chou (Halo Legends) said that while the 1988 OVA has its merits, it was the 2004 CGI Appleseed that changed the game, not only for the franchise, but for anime in general.

“It really opened the door for CGI animation, the first time people saw that CG could be used effectively for anime,” he said. “[2001’s Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within] may have come before, that wasn’t really anime. Appleseed helped redefine anime, mixing interesting visuals with incredible music.”

Appleseed Alpha does the same, bringing together amazing visuals and a top-notch soundtrack, featuring music by everyone from famed Japanese producer Yasutaka Nakata to American DJ Skrillex.

Aramaki did his best to stay true to the original source material (with fans of the original manga recognizing some of the shots), but also balanced that with making Appleseed Alpha stand on its own. That process is detailed in full in the bonus features, which includes a filmmaker commentary and an 11-part making-of documentary.

“We get involved from the start with the bonus features, because we can’t go back and revisit a lot of this stuff when it’s over,” Chou said.

And as for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment's decision to release the film via digital, ahead of disc, Chou said “it’s the sign of the times. That certainly wasn’t the world we lived in just five years ago. Anime’s fan base is very technologically astute, and we need to be ahead of the curve.”

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