APPLESEED EX MACHINA
While Appleseed 2004 was a modern classic, Appleseed Ex Machina is somewhat the lesser. Perhaps the reason for this is that the sequel has an original story whereas the predecessor was adapting the manga and attempting to define the original story and mythos with more depth. The effect here is less of exploring new original territory than there is in say a weekly action/crime oriented tv series where we have the same characters and same venue but a different self-contained adventure.
Possibly in that the material here is not adapted from the manga, it is also less interesting. A story about human-machine fusion and zombies is not on the same level as the first films depiction of a complex future society and these plot elements feel formulaic. The story about the Connexus system is a thin metaphor for cellphones and one that Appleseed Ex Machina delivers about the level of a luddhite warning. Indeed, the idea of cellphone signals turning people into zombies was beaten to the punch by the Stephen King novel Cell (2006). Plotting tends to be vague and is never always clear why some things are happening like why Dr Kestner, the apparent mastermind behind Halcon, kills himself? What causes Briareos to go rogue and abruptly hack into what looks like an ATM outlet and disrupt the satellite link? Or why Halcon and everybody are trying to unite people into a single consciousness and exactly what turning people into zombies through the Connexus system is meant to do with this? It does coalesce into an explanation at the end but the lead-up up until then proves confusing in the numerous running subplots and apparently random things all happening.
Nor does Shinji Aramaki deliver Appleseed Ex Machina with the same depth and three-dimensionality that he did Appleseed 2004. The action one of the big aspects of the first film is surprisingly low key for the most part. Indeed, aside from the opening battle with the rogue cyborgs in the church, it is some time before there are any further action scenes. Also the amazingly detailed cityscapes that Shinji Aramaki created for the first film have faded into the background the city is detailed but it now seems more part of the environment than it did in the first film where it was so rich in detail that it was almost its own character. However, Aramaki does eventually get it together. There is a fine sequence with Briareos fighting with the rogue Acaeus over the skies above the conference centre. The climactic scenes where Deunan, Briareos and Tereus venture into the zero gravity plant and take on swarms of robotic insects and giant mecha in a massively scaled battle is one point where Shinji Aramaki finally starts to compete with the climax of Appleseed 2004.
Director Shinji Aramaki subsequently went onto make the prequel Appleseed Alpha (2014). Aramaki has also directed one of the episodes of the anthology Halo Legends (2010), Starship Troopers: Invasion (2012), Space Pirate Captain Harlock (2013) and Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars (2017).