Yes I’m still doing this OVA splurge, even if this is a very slow splurge. But sometimes a slow splurge is more satisfying and does splurge sound like a sexual word to you? Is it getting hot in here? I should just move on…
Appleseed is an adaptation of a manga by Mr Ghost in the Shell Masamune Shirow. In my time as an anime fan I’ve been slowly but surely watching every adaptation of his works, and they have a few things in common. Those things being cyberpunk, cyberpunk, hot chicks kicking ass, and cyberpunk. His work is the cyberpunkiest of cyberpunk to cyberpunk round the cyberpunk anime scene. They are very representative of what made up a lot of the 90s OVA scene. Futuristic mega cities with slightly dreary atmospheres and dingy alleyways with a focus on robotics and humanity, with the story centring on a police force. I like Shirow’s work more than most of those other cyberpunk OVAs because they have depth. They understand what makes cyberpunk interesting is not the aesthetic but the moral quandaries that futuristic settings force you to face. It’s why I hold even something as silly as Dominion Tank Police, a fucking great Shirow OVA, much higher than something like Cyber City Oedo because the latter has some surprising amount of depth behind the silly while the latter is shallow and forgettable once you leave the aesthetics behind.
This all said, Appleseed isn’t that great. It’s about a police force (surprise number 1) in a cyberpunk future (surprise number 2) with a hot girl kicking ass with her cyborg buddy (surprises everywhere). The story is about a terrorist, who may or may not have a just cause, trying to fight the cyberpunk system as it controls our lives and our futures. It’s pretty similar to the plot of Psycho Pass in that regard, another cyberpunky cyberpunk, but Appleseed doesn’t really have the time to properly explore everything. Roll your eyes as you may at the lengthy dialogue sessions in Stand Alone Complex or Psycho Pass, but it’s through those lengthy conversations that the most interesting parts of the background were laid out which would in turn make the action sequences feel more exciting. You understand more what drives this strange world and why certain events are significant on many different levels.
Appleseed doesn’t have that. Nor does it have the writing sharp enough to convey these complex issues in a short few lines. The writing is ultimately why it doesn’t succeed as my favourite cyberpunk anime do. The back and forth between the buddy cop duo isn’t that engaging and its depth is fully explored. There is depth there and it is mildly interesting, but perhaps I’ve just been ruined by what came after it. Applesed isn’t great, but what would eventually come from Shirow’s manga started with Appleseed. Maybe the manga does it all better. I should try giving that a read.
Gunsmith Cats is Japan making an anime about MURICA! Specifically the buddy cop type TV shows where two cops go in and fuck them baddies up with their obscenely large collection of firearms. It’s actually quite amusing how much MURICA is put into Gunsmith Cats. The villain is an evil politician trying to take away everyone’s guns but it turns out this is just so the baddies can have all the guns. Heck even the villain is an absurdly evil, seemingly indestructible, giant Russian. The story follows two cops (some things never change about 90s OVAs I guess) as they get roped into tracking down a gun trafficking ring because they have massive stockpiles of guns of their own so clearly they are the people to bring in.
There is some quite witty and neat pieces of writing and storyboarding in Gunsmith Cats. One part I liked was when the Russian lady hung up her coat, it was so loaded down with weaponry that it ripped the coat hook off the wall. There’s lots of little tricks and scenes that elevate Gunsmith Cats above its station to make it a little more memorable than your average 90s OVA. That, and the incredibly stylish OP which was supposedly the inspiration for the Cowboy Bebop OP. With all these things coming together, Gunsmith Cats does come off as feeling quite western. If I was feeling cynical, I would say that if you think there should be more anime like Gunsmith Cats then maybe you’re not watching the right medium, but I’m a lovely fluffy bunny of a man and would never be that cynical.
The thing is, despite having some little neat bits in it, Gunsmith Cats feels quite staid overall. For example, a lot of people die in Gunsmith Cats quite horribly, but nobody ever seems that bothered. The main girl has someone vomit blood over her face and collapse in a miserable pile on the ground and yet the main girl just goes “lol Chicago amirite”. Everyone is so totally unfazed by bloody murder that it just makes everyone come off as psychopaths. There’s a serious disconnect between what I’m seeing and what the tone is. Not that I’m asking for it to be deadly serious, but at least be aware in a darkly humourous way the levels of bloody murder that are being committed. There are a few token fanservice scenes per episode of the girls in their underwear, but they feel distinctly un-sexy. Something to do with the 90s character designs where nothing has curves, but the un-sexiness of it, despite it seemingly trying to be, adds to the overall staid feeling. Same with the action scenes. It’s not terribly well directed and, while I enjoyed it at the start, it ultimately left me feeling cold.