Classic Sci-Fi: APPLESEED - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Classic Sci-Fi: APPLESEED

Alexander Wallace visits the experimental city of Olympus.
All too often those with power or with imagination tend to see the future as something to be meticulously sculpted and then to be meticulously managed. That is the doom of all utopia, be it Rapture of Bioshock or any number of regimes in our world, such as the Soviet Union. Human civilization is something that simply can never be managed to the exacting standards of the high-ranking bureaucrat, for human beings are simply far more imaginative than any pencil-pusher.

Such is the core conceit of 1988’s anime film Appleseed, a loose adaptation of the manga of the same name by Shirow Masamune, which I will admit to not actually having read. I simply saw this film on Amazon Prime and gave it a spin.
Appleseed is set at some point in the future after yet another devastating world war that leads to a world government and the construction of a new global capital city of Olympus, an alleged utopia run by Gaia, the supercomputer that controls the city in a situation strongly reminiscent of Isaac Asimov’s story The Evitable Conflict in I, Robot. The plot is a manhunt by two Olympus police officers to apprehend A. J. Sebastian, a terrorist whose organization seeks to destroy Gaia and to restore humankind to a natural state before rule by machines.

This is a plot that kicks off with a bang, involving a hostage situation in a skyscraper that is spectacularly done. The action in this rather short film (only seventy minutes) is tense; that beginning scene in the skyscraper is reminiscent of Die Hard, and I mean that in a very positive way; there is a good balance of tension and raw force. Equally strong is the rest of the combat, much of it involving mechas or other vehicles, culminating in a fight that evokes in the modern viewer the final battle in The Legend of Korra.
I watched the dubbed English version of Appleseed, as that was available on Prime; I cannot speak for the original Japanese, but the dub was well done. The two main characters, Deunan Knute (Larissa Murray) and Briareos Hecatonchires (William Roberts) compliment each other well, the former a human woman and the latter a man who was grievously injured and put in a cybernetic body whose head, in my mind at least, looked much like a rabbit. Strange design aside, both are well performed and play off each other well; Deunan is the all-business one with her eyes always on Sebastian’s tail, with Briareos the snarkier one with a somewhat incongruous Brooklyn accent (although I am aware of the convention of translating Kansai dialect as either a Southern drawl or aforementioned Brooklyn accent).

But it is another character who I think is ultimately the most interesting and most profound one: Charon Mautholos, voiced by Alan Marriot in the English dub. He is a pure human with no augmentation, and one that rages against the controlled nature of life in Olympus. He points out, with no small amount of truth, that the people in this constructed city were designed for it from birth, going against what is truly good for humanity in the process. It is this that leads Charon to do some of the things he does in this film (not to spoil anything), and it is here that Appleseed reaches its philosophical heights.
We live in a world that is dominated by massive bureaucracies who find it easier to reduce human beings to mere data points, like cells on Excel spreadsheets. It is the nature of something of such huge scale to whittle down people into something that is more easily managed; it is that tendency that Sebastian rebels against, killing many innocents in the process. Appleseed, then, is a cautionary tale about how squelching humanity can lead to it lashing out violently and wreaking a great deal of harm.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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