Appleseed Ex Machina : 4 of 5
The first Appleseed movie was one of the most unexpectedly cool anime movies I had seen in a long time, so I didn't expect to enjoy this sequel as much (but of course, I had to buy it). But director Shinji Aramaki (known for his detailed mecha designs) and producer John Woo (who collaborated on the staging and awesome gunplay action) completely surprised me by creating something even more spectacular! This time they're calling their animation technique "HD Animation", since it uses the motion capture technology from the first Appleseed, but they really enhanced the level of detail and subtle movements, which allows for full 3D modeled faces, rather than the "cels on top of CG" look from before. Thankfully, they still take care to give the characters a cartoon look (gotta avoid that uncanny valley), while at the same time bringing incredible detail to the screen in the form of beautiful cityscapes and fantastic computer displays. The plot concerns an entity called Halcon who wants to bring the world together as one machine (nothing too original there), but there is some wonderful character development as Briareos' DNA is used to make a kind of clone Bioroid, which brings up lots of emotions in Deunan (who looks totally cool and beautiful in her updated character design and designer outfits). I was amazed to hear animation expert Jerry Beck doing the commentary track, but unfortunately it wasn't super-interesting (too many silent moments). The second DVD in this set has a couple of documentaries on manga in general and Japanese culture, which are actually pretty lame, but the brief background on Appleseed's creator was fascinating (and now I definitely want to check out the manga!). I really had fun geeking out and watching this awesome movie with all the lights out - Appleseed Ex Machina really satisfied my recent craving for cool futuristic anime!