Appleseed Alpha

By Iou Kuroda, based on the manga create by Masamune Shirow. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Morning Two. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics. Translated by Lillian Olsen and Stephen Paul.

It has been an awfully long time since I read Appleseed, even with the recent digital release. And I haven’t seen the 2014 movie that this is apparently a spinoff from, though I understand the manga and anime may only be loosely based off each other anyway. But that’s OK, because Appleseed Alpha is still a perfectly enjoyable, if occasionally too busy for its own good, story. All you really need to know is that the human woman is Deunan Knute, and her lover/companion is Briareos, a former human who is now mostly cyborg. (How far they go as lovers is, as always, left mostly ambiguous.) The main series proper saw them living in, and rebelling against, the utopia of Olympus. The Alpha story is a prequel, so naturally we get to spend it in a dystopia – the remains of New York City, run by a cyborg who is half mayor and half mafia boss.

Shirow is not writing or drawing this, by the way, but the artist is not unknown to North American readers – it’s Iou Kuroda, creator of cult classic Sexy Voice and Robo. That felt like more of an indie comic than a manga, and this feels much the same, which makes sense as it ran in Kodansha’s experimental manga title Morning Two. The art has thick lines and less detailed faces, though trust me, there’s just as much detailed background and cityscapes as you’re used to with this title. The main plot separates our heroes early, as Briareos, by nature of his not only being a cyborg but one of the awesome cyborgs, is lauded by the mayor (whether he likes it or not) and Deunan is left out in the cold. She ends up outside the city, meeting a group of farmers who may have more links to the city than she had expected. Meanwhile, Briareos has, of course, NOT abandoned Deunan, and ends up heading out to see her.

This one-volume omnibus has a few cool battles, though the artist seems more suited to drawing the effects of the fights than the fights themselves. There’s also some amusing humor, the best of which involves several trains filled with cows all heading into the remains of Penn Station with drivers asleep at the wheel. Deunan and Briareos feel in character – both somewhat removed from society, yet still highly involved it it – and Deunan still gets to be a hothead at times. As for the mayor, Two Horns, he is a hoot, a giant parody of all mayors with a sinister side to him as well – and a mysterious past that gets revealed right at the end of the book. I’d definitely recommend this if you’re a fan of Appleseed. For others, even though it’s technically a prequel/alternate universe, I’d recommend starting with the four main Appleseed books themselves.

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