The prequel to the famous long-standing series is a great manga with many colorful characters.
Cyborgs and humans barely coexist in a post apocalyptic future where aliens threaten to destroy everything. Society lives off butter and recycled blood. Things aren’t great. No matter what, Briareos and Deunan have each other, even though one is human and the other a cyborg. It might sound weird, but if you allow it, Appleseed Alpha will draw you into a lush and complicated drama.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Before the events of Appleseed, Deunan, a human woman and former SWAT officer, along with her combat-cyborg lover, Briareos, arrive in war-torn New York City. The city’s mayor is a dapper but delusional cyborg, preparing for the UFO invasion he’s convinced is right around the corner. Briareos’s powerful abilities earn the pair refuge, but there are few human comforts to be found in a city catered to cyborgs… After the couple parts ways, the mayor’s nightmare takes a turn for the worse. Deunan’s group of outcast humans may be just the extra manpower the mayor needs–but can the two factions put aside their differences in time to save the world?
Why does this matter?
This is a prequel to the series Appleseed which is a franchise which started back in 1985. Created by Shirow Masamune (Ghost in the Shell), this series has reached not only manga but anime, which is why it’s deserving a prequel treatment at all. It’s also illustrated in a highly textured and rough style that allows the grit and destruction of New York to bleed right into your lap.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
You’ll love how arrogant this robot is.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this volume getting it on a whim due to the interesting premise. The style of art is rather rough, so much so I could see folks turning this down on sight, but if you give it a chance you’ll be surprised to find a robust set of characters that are comical, intriguing, and fun. Iou Kuroda writes and draws this manga with thick ink work that’s somewhat cartoony (at least when he draws Deunan) and yet very angular and detailed when it comes to backgrounds and cyborgs. It’s at once simple, but complex if you give the page a chance and linger a bit. The style might have performed better in a larger format, as the smaller pages can reduce the page to near smudges if you glance at it quickly. There’s great use of perspective throughout though and at times there’s a thinner line (maybe ballpoint pen?) that adds more texture.
As far as characters, the mayor is a riot as he’s all ego and very little brains. Deunan encounters a plethora of characters like a littler girl who seems to be inspired by Little Lulu though her desire to chop off her own limbs is of a much darker sense of humor. No matter what occurs there always seems to be a strange character to the side or background that inflicts a unique personality. This helps layer the manga with a world that’s believable and interesting.
The length of this manga is also appreciated, giving off a Walking Dead vibe since plots end, new ones start, and the world is explored in a robust way. Running at 456 pages this isn’t a manga you’ll read in one sitting, but that’s okay because you’ll want to keep enjoying these characters’ experiences.
It can’t be perfect can it?
While the art stopped distracting me at a certain point it’s still a very rough style most won’t be into. Proportions are off at times to the point where you’ll reread previous panels to be sure the scene hadn’t changed and the same characters are talking. This style certainly isn’t attempting to be hyper realistic by any means, but it’s too wonky throughout and it’ll throw you off.
The only other gripe I had was the romance between Briareos and Deunan. It’s mentioned that they’re lovers, but you never really believe it. Sure they’re put in a sultry position or two and there’s presumably an off page sex scene alluded to, but for the most part I didn’t get the feeling these two loved each other like that. Maybe friends, but still. I’ve never read the series that proceeded it so maybe it’s always like this, but this element was lost in the volume, especially since they’re split up for a large portion of the book.
Is It Good?
Appleseed Alpha is a fantastic science fiction drama that’ll draw you in with humor, action, and interesting characters. Call me crazy, but it just might be The Walking Dead of manga.