‘Appleseed’ shows new toon style

'Toon-shading' gives pic stuning graphics, action settings

TOKYO — Toho’s upcoming release “Appleseed” is not the usual Japanese manga comicbook brought to the screen. None of Japan’s traditional animation talents is involved in the film, a 3-D CGI production about a female warrior and her cyborg lover.

Pic is one of the first to make use of a new technology called “toon-shading” which gives the 3-D characters a cel-anime look.

The result: stunning graphics and action settings with a distinctive cartoon feel. In a market in which animation regularly outperforms local live-action pics, “Appleseed” has one more card to play.

Clearing the way for “Appleseed’s” release, the Toho release of Hayao Miyazaki’s highly anticipated new feature “Howl’s Moving Castle” has been moved from an early-summer date to autumn because of production delays.

“Appleseed’s” 3-D CGI therefore has a good chance to challenge Japan’s master animator Miyazaki’s (“Spirited Away”) traditional toon approach.

“It is our biggest animation project so far,” says Machiko Komatsu, in charge of international business at Micott & Bazara, the principal production company behind “Appleseed.”

The production company is copyright owner of the original manga by Masamune Shirow, which first appeared in 1985 and has gained a worldwide fan base.

First-time director Shinji Aramaki, who specializes in 3-D effects for TV and videogames, has teamed up with creative producer Fumihiko Sori, who scored a local hit with his directorial debut “Ping Pong,” a live-action youth saga using high-definition technology and CGI effects and made $14.5 million at the box office in 2002.

Estimates are that the budget is “about 5% of the usual budget of a Pixar feature,” as one animation producer says.

“It’s a very important project for us,” says producer Daisuke Ooka at TBS. “It’s really something very new thanks to technology developed in Japan.”

Excited reactions of international buyers after the “Appleseed” screenings at the recent AFM seem to prove that.

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