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Appleseed is a four volume Cyberpunk/Mecha manga written between 1985 and 1989 by Shirow Masamune, of Ghost in the Shell fame, as well as its OVA and feature film adaptations. Set in post-apocalyptic 22nd century, the story follows the Action Girl Deunan Knute and her cyborg partner and lover Briareos Hecatonchires. The two join the special forces of the Olympus city, an enclave of peaceful life on the planet devastated by the World War III (and recovering from World War IV), whose population consists equally of both normal humans and "bioroids", Artificial Humans with genetically suppressed aggressiveness who act as emotional buffer for the former.

The original manga saw Deunan and Briareos join Olympus's counter-terrorism unit ESWAT after being discovered in the wastelands and offered a life in Utopian city in exchange for their combat skills (both were formerly SWAT operatives). The manga follows them as they protect their new home from enemies, both foreign and domestic. Unfortunately, other projects and the loss of much of his notes in a 1995 earthquake left the manga as an Orphaned Series.

The one-shot OVA was produced in 1988 and has little in common with the original manga except the setting and the characters. The plot concerns a colleague of Deunan and Briareos, who feels that instead of Utopia, Olympus is a Gilded Cage designed to prevent humans from living a fulfilling life. To destroy this cage, he conspires with a professional terrorist and it's up to Deunan and Briareos to stop them.

Sixteen years later, the first feature film was released. Just like the OVA, it shares little with the original manga and diverges even in the premise: instead of joining ESWAT together, Deunan and Briareos are separated by accident long before coming to Olympus and have to regain mutual trust over the course of the film. The main plot centers on the struggle of two equally extremist racist factions in Olympus, each desiring to destroy either the original humanity, or the bioroids to make way for the other. The movie featured a unique for that time style of animation that seamlessly blended traditional anime designs and CGI and which was later reused in the sequel and an unrelated movie Vexille, produced largely by the same people.

Appleseed Ex Machina, the Oddly-Named Sequel 2: Electric Boogaloo to the 2004 movie, is set two years after it and sees the idyllic relationship between the protagonists challenged by the introduction of Tereus, a Super Prototype bioroid who is for all intents and purposes a clone of Briareos minus the fact that he didn't have his entire body replaced with cybernetic prosthetics. The situation is worsened when all cyborgs in Olympus (including Briareos) start getting hijacked by a Knight Templar seeking to unite humanity once and for all... in quite an unsettling manner. The producer of the second movie was John Woo. Yes, that John Woo[1].

It also has a new CGI anime series named Appleseed XIII. The series is produced by Jinni's Animation Studios in association with Production I.G and under the direction of Takayuki Hamana with Junichi Fujisaku as script supervisor.

Not to be confused with Johnny Appleseed, or anything else named after the man.


The Appleseed franchise contains examples of the following tropes:

  • A Mech by Any Other Name: "Landmates".
  • Action Girl: Deunan.
  • After the End
  • All CGI Cartoon: Both movies.
  • Ambiguously Evil: Yoshino, the unctuous Posiedon delegate, and her equally sinister entourage in Ex Machina. It turns out that they're actually trying to hunt down the BigBad, and only too happy to lend our protagonists a hand.
  • Anti Gravity: The Hermes System.
  • Anti-Mutiny: In the manga, Athena launches one of these against the Elders once they propose to expand bioroid behavior modification to humanity (sterilization in the movie). Gaia gets the same idea about bioroids in general.
  • Artificial Human: Bioroids.
  • Badass Army: ESWAT and Olympus Police in general are extremely competent; Deunan and Briareos are just exceptional cogs in an excellent machine.
  • Badass Biker: Deunan.
  • Battle Butler: Nike.
  • Battle Couple: Deunan and Briareos.
  • Beast and Beauty: Deunan and Briareos, though in the OVA they've been a couple since before he had his cybernetic upgrades.
  • BFG: Briareos in Volume 4 uses a gun that resembles a sawn-off M1 Main Battle Tank cannon.
  • Blade Run: Deunan vs. that construction mecha in Ex Machina.
  • Bloodstained-Glass Windows The opening sequence of Ex Machina, in fine John Woo tradition.
  • Bullet Time: Used extensively in the movies, especially Ex Machina.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Averted, Deunan once spells out her ancestry for Hitomi and there is a lot of variety (she's mixed-race African on her mother's side), but no Japanese. Shirow has mentioned that she won the genetic lottery as far as physical skills go, which is why her employers and colleagues put up with her eccentricities.
    • Also subverted in that Shirow Masamune has said in the official databook that he never thought of making Deunan Japanese or partially Japanese
  • Catch a Falling Star
  • Catgirl: Artemis Alpeia from the manga)
  • Cavalry Betrayal: There's a bit near the end of Ex Machina where we're led to believe that the Poseidon special-forces are pulling this. Turns out it just took them a while to spot the protagonists in need of rescue, and they turn up shortly afterwards.
  • Cel Shading: The 2004 movie is entirely in CG with a blend of motion capture and cel shading.
  • Chainsaw Good: Briareos wields a freaking chainsword in Ex Machina.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: The eyes of Briareos and other cyborgs changed in colour from red to green between the first and second movies, so that we could see when they were Brainwashed and Crazy thanks to the ominous red glow.
  • Composite Character: Tereus from Ex Machina has elements of both Briareos and Fang from the manga. Makes sense, seeing as he's a clone of the former.
  • Cowboy Cop: Colonel Hades was one during his LA SWAT days; this factored into his expulsion from the group by Deunan's father, which fueled his ultimately suicidal revenge scheme against the Knutes.
    • Played straight by Deunan, her exceptional combat ability is the only thing that keeps her from getting killed on multiple occasions. And, not surprisingly, she gets chewed out by both Briareos and her ESWAT platoon leader for it several times.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: the cyborg Sokaku, Ex-SAS, Mercenary, EOD specialist... and total tool. While a total genius in his area of expertise, his showboating and comic relief nature trip him up more often than not.
  • Cyber Cyclops: Briareos actually has about five or so eyes, but the massive central one that the others are arranged around definitely gives him this apperance.
    • Actually, he has eight eyes: Four in his face arranged around the big central sensor, two at the bases of his "rabbit ear" sensors, and two at the tips, which allow him to safely look around corners. Oh, and the big central sensor mentioned earlier? That's actually his nose.
  • Da Chief: Athena.
  • Disturbed Doves: Would Ex Machina be a John Woo movie without them? However, there is also an twist to them in this case.
  • The Dog Bites Back: It's implied in the 2004 film that General Uranus ratted out the Elders while surrendering to Athena, who quickly confronts the Elders just as they're about to bring about the gradual extinction of humanity.
  • Empire, The: The American Empire in the manga (they just left it as "USA" in the film, they didn't want to make anyone angry)
    • Which is stupid, because Stand Alone Complex used the term American Empire constantly.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: Subverted hard; as with Ghost in the Shell (which shared a similar Timeline if not outright happening in the same universe), despite two world wars, one of which was nuclear, civilization just kept right on chugging along, without even a die back. That said, the world is still a very chaotic place, and you probably wouldn't want to live there.
  • ESWAT Team
  • The Evils of Free Will: Serves as the villain's primary motivation in Ex Machina.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Deunan gets one after damaging one eye of hers during a training accident in Volume IV. She also gets a much more girly, frilly lace eyepatch for civilian wear when she's off-duty at the end of the book.
  • False Reassurance: In the first movie the Big Bad (well, one of them) says "no human life would be taken", but that does not mean they won't unleash a virus upon the world that causes sterility; rather, it means no human would die immediately as a direct consequence.
  • Fantastic Racism: Humans vs. bioroids, and, to a lesser degree, humans vs. cyborgs. Practically non-existant in the original manga.
  • Gambit Pileup: Even after repeated rereads, it can be difficult to pick out the specifics of Athena vs. the Council.
  • Gentle Giant: Briareos when he's off-duty. Makes his predicament in Ex Machina all the more disturbing.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Argus, the Poseidon officer from Ex Machina, has a long scar covering his permanently-=closed left eye that makes him look rather sinister. It's misdirection, though - he's not that bad a guy, and even helps save the world (and, later, our protagonists) by the end of the movie.
  • Gun Kata: Briareos pulls this off every time he gets more than one gun in Ex Machina. Justified in his insane reflexes and multiple eyes.
  • Guns Akimbo: in fact, Briareos can shoot three guns at once in Ex Machina: two with his mecha's hands and one with his own.
    • Just one with his hands because it's a Landmate sized one. He could theoretically use hundreds of weapon systems wired directly to his "brain".
  • Gunship Rescue: Happens in the beginning of the film for Deunan after she gets trapped.
  • Hand Cannon: Deunan's "Gong" in the manga.
  • Hero-Tracking Failure: Occurs at the start of the first movie, and receives a brief Call Back in the opening fight of Ex Machina.
  • The High Queen: Athena.
  • How Do You Like Them Apples?: Self Explanatory.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Who else? Deunan and Briareos.
  • Humongous Mecha: A 13-foot tall death machine appears in volume 4 of the manga, but is taken apart by just two veteran landmate pilots.
  • Ignored Epiphany: After Briareos delivers a Kirk Summation to the Regular Army, everyone realizes what they had almost gotten themselves into... save for Colonel Hades ("I've heard enough--and I'll be damned if I let some machine tell me what to do!").
  • It's Personal: What blinds Colonel Hades to the fact that his vendetta against Deunan's father for booting him off of LA SWAT, which he hopes will destroy the Bioroids, could actually lead to humanity's extinction.
  • Karma Houdini: Prime Minister Athena in the movie never has to answer for having mercenaries kill all Deunan's comrades in the wasteland, and trying to capture her alive, and later sending outright assassins after her. She was trying to prevent a genocide, that she feared Deunan could unwittingly partake in, but it seems that Deunan never even gets to learn the truth, let alone decide what she decides to do with it.
    • Likewise General Uranus; he was trying a coup and a genocide, but apparently calling off your attempt at the last minute and saying "sorry" is all that it takes to be forgiven. On the other hand, it was implied that the Elders were manipulating him into taking action and that it was his own race that he was unwittingly endangering (and not the Bioroids like he had thought for most of the film), which might have factored into his rather lenient sentence.
  • Knife Nut: Deunan grabs her knife when going for the ubercyborg during the Church Shootout in Ex Machina... and kicks his ass badly. She takes out three guys with a very large knife (she insists it's a sword) in the manga, too.
  • Land of One City: Olympus.
  • Leap and Fire
  • Les Yay: Although there is little even in terms of Subtext to back it up, there are scenes both in the OVA and in the first movie hinting at a mutual attraction between Deunan and Hitomi. Not so much in the manga, with Deunan explicitly saying she's "not into that" when Hitomi drunkenly Glomps her in the shower.
  • Lethal Chef: Deunan in the manga.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Briareos uses (or, more accurately, is built into) the Hecatonchires-class full-body cyborg chassis, a towering juggernaut of a military prototype that is amongst the strongest, toughest rigs ever to exist, and boosts his reflexes to superhuman levels as well.
  • May-December Romance: In addition to the relationship quirks of dating a cyborg, Briareos is a solid nine years older than Deunan.
  • Mecha Expansion Pack: In the fourth volume of the manga, Briareos uses a series of attachments that basically turns him into a Landmate.
  • Mega Corp: Poseidon in Ex Machina..
  • Meganekko: Chiffon, the Dark-Skinned Blond who befriended Deunan, was part of the human insurgency and killed brutally by Deunan unknowingly in the manga's first volume.
    • Unknowingly? Chiffon flat-out recognized Deunan and called her name, and Deunan knew exactly who she just gunned down. This is, also, after Chiffon and company shot the hell out of Briareos too, so you can kind of forgive Deunan for plugging her "friend" like that.
  • Mini-Mecha: Landmates (kinda).
  • Motion Capture Mecha: Landmates.
  • More Dakka Spider Gun Platforms in the manga and OAV, Mobile Fortresses in the first movie.
  • Narm: Ex Machina has lots of mildy narm scenes and dialog lines. Arguably it applies to the whole plot, as all the problems are really the result of Too Dumb to Live by both the main characters and the government.
  • Oddly-Named Sequel 2: Electric Boogaloo
  • Orphaned Series: The manga.
  • The Password Is Always Swordfish: Hitomi.
  • Phlebotinum-Induced Stupidity: In Ex Machina, Briareos would likely have found unearthing the movie's central conspiracy much easier if the lingering nanite poisoning they used to temporarily take him over hadn't compelled him to take the most stupid, pointless, and needlessly violent actions possible whenever his adrenaline levels spiked. Luckily for him, there's a treatment.
  • Powered Armor: Protectors, Landmates (kinda).
  • Precision F-Strike: "You son of a bitch... you betrayed us!"
    • "Don't fuck with me!"
  • Race Lift: Though it's nearly impossible to tell in the manga due to the lack of a... well, a FACE, Briareos is apparently African-American originally, as seen in some artwork Shirow has done (including a very odd-looking beach-scene). In the 2004 film and Ex Machina, Briareos is retconned to be a rather Japanese-looking Bishonen.
    • Word of God is that Briareos was Black Caribbean (where he never specified).
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Implied by way of Fridge Logic in Ex Machina, when Deunan receives a top-of-the-line and very, very pink Landmate from the Poseidon assault team she's working alongside. Meanwhile, the Poseidon commander, Argus, uses the ESWAT model that she turned up in. Now, normally, one would expect him to use his own suit... unless, of course, he'd given it to someone else to pilot instead. Perhaps bubblegum pink is a signifier of rank in Poseidon?
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Athena tries to get Deunan killed at the start of the film; however, in truth she didn't know Deunan's role in what was going on at the time, and when the Regular Army comes close to committing genocide she sends her, along with the rest of Kudo's ESWAT unit, on a mission to retrieve the Appleseed (which can save the Bioroid race and was long thought destroyed by Dr. Gilliam until an Elder revealed its existence at an emergency meeting called by Athena to discuss the implications of a terrorist attack on the Bioroid day care center).
  • Redemption Equals Death: Possibly; it's been theorized that the Elders, realizing that Deunan's determination to preserve the future of humanity came from possibly a purer motive than they had, had entered the last letter of the Mobile Fortress password with the last of their strength, allowing Deunan to save humanity with the push of a button.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: In Ex Machina, a cyborg's eyes turning red is your cue to run away very, very fast.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Kestner's SHODAN-esque cyborg replica of his dead project leader is a particularly creepy example.
  • Scary Black Man: In the original manga, Briareos was black before becoming a full-body cyborg.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Deunan is the only on-screen female in ESWAT, but she is The Hero and leads a team of elite soldiers.
    • Not so much "only" in the manga.
    • Nor is she the only woman in ESWAT in Ex Machina. At least one other woman is shown on the team.
    • At least in the OVA she is the only female Landmate pilot, or at least that's implied.
  • Spider Tank: Spider Gun Platforms, and smaller Spider Drones.
  • Spiritual Successor: Vexille, to the first movie.
  • Super Prototype: Tereus is the first bioroid designed for combat.
  • Super Window Jump: Through a stained glass window in Ex Machina, no less.
  • Theme Naming: Many characters are named after characters from Greek mythology.
  • The World Is Just Awesome: When we're first shown Olympus city.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Deunan and Hitomi.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The whole plot of Ex Machina is solely driven by lots of highly stupid decisions by anyone involved. Possibly hundreds of thousands of deaths could have been avoided if the PSAs not said "might pose a risk to health" but "will turn you into cyber-zombies and might force the police to kill you".
  • Turned Against Their Masters: The master computer Gaia in the second volume of the manga. Ironically, it was trying to protect mankind.
  • Turn in Your Badge: General Uranus in the movie does so without being told to after Briareos warns him that he and the Regular Army were really the Unwitting Pawns to the Elders.
  • Unorthodox Reload: Briareos has spare magazines stored in his forearms.
  • Unwitting Pawn: The Regular Army.
  • We Can Rebuild Him: Briareos in the OVA.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: A large part of the hatred humans in the army have for the bioroids.
  • World War III: And IV, for that matter.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: not exactly, but the Brainwashed and Crazy mob in Ex Machina looked much like it, right down to the Zombie Gait.
    • You can see one on TV in the second volume of the manga, but it was never explained. Presumably people are still making horror movies in the future.

Notes

  1. Which explains the pigeons and the extreme akimbo.
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