TAF2007 Exclusive Report: EX MACHINA (APPLESEED II)
By Jonah Morgan
Micott & Basara were hyping the John Woo produced anime / CGI sequel to 1994’s Appleseed as part of their presence at The Tokyo International Anime Fair 2007 this year. Similar to how Ghost In The Shell II: Innocence was simply titled “Innocence” in the Japanese market, the film follow up based on Masmune Shirow’s worldwide bestselling manga has dropped the “Appleseed” moniker this time around, in favor of being titled just: “EX MACHINA“. Besides spying the usual decorative fare at their booth, I was among only several foreigners to catch a glimpse of the first publicly screened video footage from the movie, more on that later. M&B were gracious enough to give me a promotional flyer containing more or less the company’s entire international business strategy for the rollout of EX MACHINA. There’s a never before released image and a veritable gold mine of new information on the production to be found in there and I’ll be committing alot of it to English text, to be read for the for the first time anywhere, in this article.Still in production (said to be in an extremely advanced stage), this is expected to wrap in July and sometime closely following that, the world premiere screening will be held. The Japanese public theatrical opening (in 130-150 theaters) is currently scheduled to occur in October. The producer, is of course, internationally acclaimed action maestro, John Woo (Hard Boiled, Mission Impossible 2). The director is Shinji Aramaki, Scenario by Kyoto Takeuchi (Sengoku1549), Project and Production courtesy Micott & Basara, Production by Digital Frontier, Executive Producer Yasuhiko Kinoshita & Sumiji Miyake, Producers Hidenori Ueki & Naoko Watanabe, Based on APPLESEED SEISHINSHA, Distribution by Toei. Other partners include: Sega, Tomy Takara, TYO and Toei Video. Newcomer Axis Entertainment will handle the distribution of the works in North America while mediating various ideas, concepts, staff, and the contents donors in the worldwide market.
Although it uses all new models and updated cell shading and motion capture techniques, the universe setting, character facets and trappings are true to the original. The storyline centers on ESWAT members Deunan and Briareos in 2135, Bri lost most of his body in the great war and was converted into a cyborg. He and Deunan remain in love through the transition. Besides the above summary, newly released promo art shows Bri in his human form prior to becoming a Bioroid, lending credence to the idea that at least some portion of the story will cover these events, before and after.
The big picture Appleseed II 2007 rollout looks like this: In January Sega’s official website went live. The Playstation 2 videogame Appleseed EX released in Japan on February 15th. The storyline therein is expected to connect both films. Sometime in April the EX MACHINA production blog will be added as a feature to the official movie website. Radio and Magazine ad spots start running in Japan in May. In June we enter the 4 heaviest months for activity related to the film. The official website will see a significant content fleshing out then. A global promotional campaign begins at Annecy in France on June 13th, followed by the USA’s Anime Expo on June 29th, San Diego’s Comic-con International in July and wrapping in October at MIPCOM. A campaign on the soundtrack side will kickoff in June with the release of theme song clip, the full CD will follow July or August and special music events will be held in September-October. TV and movie theater promo clips begin in June, and teaser posters appear in cinemas. July-September will see heavy web promotion via portal sites such as Yahoo, OCN and so-net. Merchandising, additional media coverage, features and mass interviews begin being granted in Japan in August.
It goes without saying that the producers of EX MACHINA are aiming at overseas success. According to new figures in the flyer, over 150,000 copies of the original on DVD were sold in Japan and over 420,000 copies have been sold in the USA since the release there in May, 2005. They also mention Geneon Entertainment’s “20 day blitz” statement that “home video sales of Appleseed have exceeded expectations with over 85,000 units sold to-date since the title’s DVD debut May 10, setting a new standard for anime titles released in North America “.
The short trailer footage I saw looked nothing less than Anime Woo, M&B snuck it in right behind their presentation for BLAME rather unexpectedly; the animation quality improvements are very noticeable over Appleseed, the action was over the top, the detail in the guns make me think the artists shoot, disassemble and clean the real things daily, Deunan is as sexy as ever and definitely has that Woo bad girl thing going on now. There even looks to be a hint of a greater love story. This animation has the chance to appeal over so many demographics, the formula is nothing short of brilliance, the original is exceeded many times over.
There still remains a large amount of data to come out on this project, a planned accompanying 26 episode TV series is scheduled to follow the new movie as well.