Hot Toys, Appleseed Saga, Ex Machina
Deunan Knute and Briareos Hecatonchires


"The following is a guest review.  The review and photos do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Michael Crawford or Michael's Review of the Week, and are the opinion and work of the guest author."

Jeff Parker checks in tonight with a terrific guest review of the new Hot Toys Appleseed figures - what's the scoop, Jeff!

I freely admit that though I’d heard of Appleseed and seen a few small-scale figures from the story years ago, the traditional Anime and Manga had both slipped under my radar.

Then in 2004 a new CG version of the story was released, having seen clips online I went ahead and ordered it on DVD from overseas. It arrived in a nice shiny tin covered sleeve and just happened to coincide with me fitting a home cinema surround sound system, it turned out to be the perfect movie to Christen it.

I was blown away, though not the most original story in the world (and some of the dialogue hadn’t exactly survived translation) it was good enough, but the animation, sound and soundtrack all merged into one very entertaining visual piece of movie making.

At the time I really hoped a Far East manufacturer would pick up the license to give us some 1/6 figures, but it never happened.  I did manage to track down two smaller scale figures by Yamato, of the two main characters, but they proved so hard to get hold of that I’m ashamed to say I’ve kept them mint in their clamshell boxes ever since.

Fast-forward nearly three years and a sequel is announced, penned by Masamune Shirow its creator, directed by Shinji Aramaki and produced by the legendary John Woo. If you’ve never watched any Honk Kong shoot'em up actioneers directed by Woo, can I recommend you do so. ‘Hard Boiled’ in which he directs Chow Yun Fat is as good a place to start as any, he’s the guy that practically invented diving sideways in slo-mo while firing two guns.

For the completely uninitiated the first CG Appleseed movie is set in a dystopian future society (ain’t they always); Deunan was a soldier fighting on the North African front who’s comrade and lover Briareos was lost in combat and believed to be dead.

Two years later she is picked up and recruited as a member of E.S.W.A.T a special army/police force built to protect Olympus (the last free, peaceful city left) where she once again finds herself fighting alongside Briareos, but he’s different, in this future world, they have the technology, they can rebuild him, and indeed they have!

So you guessed it, among many other plot devices including one that involves the Bioroids (genetically engineered sentient individuals) taking over the running of Olympus from the humans (we can’t be trusted to keep the peace), this is again Masamune Shirow pondering as he did in ‘Ghost in the Shell’, just what our relationship with technology and cybernetics is, and ultimately where will it take us? Deunan must decide if she can love someone for who they are, rather than what, and if she’s fighting for the right side after all?

I can’t tell you much about the new movie ‘Ex-Machina’ as it didn’t get a UK theatrical release, and it doesn’t get a DVD release till March 08.   All I can say with a few snippets of info gleaned from the Net, is a renegade group of mad scientists (not those pesky mad scientists AGAIN!) try to enslave the human and Bioroid races to one ‘peaceful’ consciousness, yeah, like that’s gonna work!

And a new Bioroid constructed from Briareos DNA called Terus is unveiled, but with human features (love triangle anyone… anyone!) the trailer looks freakin great though!

I’m hoping these sell well enough for HT to consider revisiting the first CG movie, I’d love to see the electro-whip wielding Bioroid assassins that Briareos dispatches in the first film, maybe even an Hitomi figure and Breareos re-done in his more fabric orientated outfit, it’d certainly make him more pose-able, as would Deunan in the mercenary gear we see her in right at the beginning of the original, well, I can hope!

Packaging - ****
These are both part of the Movie Masterpiece Series (MMS), and come in two very nice boxes, and I suppose somewhat obviously, Brearios’s is bigger than Deunan’s, but not by as much as you might think. It’s the same height and width but is about half an inch deeper. Both of them have a foil sleeve with an illustration from the movie poster on the front, Deunan’s has a green-tinted background and Briareos has an orange flame/explosion background, the rest of the boxes carry photos of the actual figures.

Inside the sleeve, Deunans is flap-fronted, where as Brearios’ is a velcroed two trayed box, both of these are in model kit form like the Predator and Aliens lines, so you can see the various bits through die-cut windows.

Once you slide there various trays out you’ll see it’s construction time. These are a sinch compared to the predators though, as the basic bodies come pre-dressed in their rubber body gloves. They are both rubber-dressed fully functioning figures and not the ‘muscle’ type many feared. So they both have a limited amount of movement but they have a ton more than I originally feared, and they can be posed pretty well.

Sculpting - ****
Both Hot Toys and Takara are making versions of Deunan Knute, I’ve always had a soft spot for the Takara, Cool-Girl series but their propensity for always giving their female figures rooted hair put me off on this occasion, and while from the neck down theirs looks good, this one looks great from any angle.

And the Anime facial sculpt and angular hair make this a spot-on rendition of Deunan as she appears in the movie. I guess sculpting an Anime character should be in principal easier than a ‘real’ person, but don’t let me detract from this great sculpt. I might be slightly biased as I have wanted to see this figure done well since I saw the first CG movie three years ago, and this far outstrips anything I could have wished for at that time.

The quality of 1/6 scale figures has taken leaps and bounds in that period, with many manufacturers improving time and again on their previous releases, but HT seems to have defined what can be done and they have the balls to just go ahead and do it.

Pretty much every piece of this figure, like her partner, is sculpted, as they both wear snug fitting rubber/silicone body suits with a lot of intrinsic details moulded into it, but I’ll cover this in ‘Outfit’.

Deunan’s face is a solid, clean, unfussy sculpt, the hair is a separate piece permanently attached over her headband, phones and mouthpiece. Her mouth and nose are spot on, in both profile and from the front as are the oversized Manga eyes, but it’s the paint that really brings the eyes to life. My kids fell in love with her, she’s certainly more beautiful than Barbie, and could kick her ass into the middle of the next millennium! If you love cool Anime babes this is just a must have!

Briareos is a big guy, 13 1/2” to the top of his head and 14 “ to the top of his partially pose-able sensors (no, they are not ears, he is not the Robo Bugs Bunny Terminator or Mecha-Frank from Donnie Darko), so he dwarfs Deunan, but that’s just as it should be, he’s a freakin huge Bioroid!

His head seems to be an exact copy of the on-screen version, making me wonder if HT were privy to some of the actual 3D models created for the character, if not then full respect for pulling off such a great rendition. They’ve even given him green lenses in his robotic eyes rather than painting them, though he must have had an upgrade as in the first movie his lenses were red in that.

Paint - Deunan ****, Briareos ***1/2
Unlike a lot of recent HT, MMS figures, on this occasion they didn’t have to make the skin tones ultra realistic, as Deunan is an Anime character and Briareos is an oversized metal-headed cyborg. But this hasn’t stopped them pulling off a great job, lovely clean skin tones, glossy lips and super sharp grey eyes on Deunan, in fact there is some beautiful clean work on her irises and lashes, along-side some nice subtle hues applied to her hair.
This is Deunan as I remember her in the movie, beautiful, cute but with an edge that says she’d ice you soon as look at’ya!

Because of the nature of these figures they demanded totally new hand sculpts, both to hold their specific accessories but also to tie in with the rest of their body armour.

Briareos has no skin tones to worry about; instead he has a cybernetic steel-shelled head, with five green lenses for eyes, one large central with four smaller ones. A speaker slit to approximate a mouth and two long sensors on his head that help him ‘amongst other things’ look round corners. But the stainless steel effect works wonderfully on the head and neck; it works OK on the arms as well, but because it’s painted onto a matt rubber surface it has more the look of brushed steel than the stainless of the head. He even has two tiny decals one on the front and one on the back of his head, that read ‘HECATONSHIRES SYSTEM’.

Articulation - ***
I was expecting these to have pretty limited articulation, but they’re actually not nearly as bad as I feared after seeing the very impressive, but less than dynamic prototype photos. They are both rubber-dressed figures and not the ‘muscle’ type of bodies many feared. So they both have a limited amount of movement but they have a ton more than I originally thought, and they can be posed pretty well.

Though the armour is restrictive, it’s more how it looks when posed rather than it’s mechanical limitations, that leads me to believe most will want to display theirs in a reasonably relaxed pose. I’ve also read a couple of posts on various forums about the figures’ suits ripping and the paint coming off. Well I put mine through their paces for the photos under pretty hot studio lights and both of mine are still absolutely fine. I even tried scratching the grey paint with my fingernail and the paint is solid.

Deunan seems to have the standard female body underneath, while Briareos has a Predator’s body (though obviously all aspects of it are completely hidden by the body glove and armour).

So all in all these are far better than I expected and in my opinion HT has hit just the right note between accuracy and pose-ability, I’ll be interested to see if the Takara version is any more pose-able when it finally comes out.

Accessories - Deunan ***1/2, Briareos ****
Both these figures come with enough firepower to stop an elephant; in fact Briareos probably has enough to stop a whole herd.

Deunan has a wrist-watch, a HECATE P-08 pistol, HECATE stg 1002 futuristic assault rifle and knife, well knife is probably too small a word as it’s more of a small sword, she also has a utility belt from which hang a number of pouches and a large sheath for the knife that hangs at the back. Her pistol holster is strapped to her right thigh and she has armour on her shins, forearms and shoulders and a targeting scope that fits over her left eye.

She comes with five hands, right and left gun grip, right and left relaxed and a right knife grip.

Briareos also comes with a wrist-watch, two PROMETEUS M-08 Cyborg pistols (like futuristic sub machine guns) and a very large ENIGMA M-117 anti-material rifle, well actually more of a cannon/bazooka. He has a holster strapped to each thigh, a utility belt again like Deunan’s with pouches. He also sports the shin and forearm guards and has shoulder armour on his left shoulder. He also comes with four hands, two in a trigger grip and two in a more relaxed pose, his trigger posed hands hold the ENIGMA cannon fine, but the PROMETEUS pistols aren’t quite as tight so I put a little Blu-Tac to hold them in place. I also had a slight problem with the ‘pistols’ staying in their holsters, you have to remove the scope and re-attach it when the gun is in position, but because of the bar for the cocking mechanism (all the guns have articulated elements and remove-able magazines) I couldn’t get the holes for the scopes to line up with the pegs without a lot of fiddling.

Both also have a figure stand with their character name and Ex- Machina logo, though I managed to get both to stand fine if you’re planning a lengthy display Briareos might come in handy as he’s pretty hefty.

Outfit - ****
Both figures come in a close fitting rubber body suit with armour panels, and there in lies the rub: when it comes to articulation and pose-ability this type of suit will always restrict a little, but as I said above, it’s nowhere near as limited as I thought it would be.

And the trade-off to get the outfits this screen accurate is totally justifiable, in short they look absolutely frickin amazing, the attention to detail is nothing short’ of astounding. Although in different scales the suits are virtually identical and consist of a rubber body suit, rigid waistcoat armour, rigid shoulder protection, rigid shin and forearm protectors, utility belts with pouches, Deunan’s has her knife and sheath hanging at the back of hers and she also has her holster strapped to her right leg. Briareos has two holsters one on each thigh, so when fully kitted up and stood next to each other the size difference really makes these two look cool.

The movie also features Deunan in a couple of outfits designed by the fashin house ‘Prada’, so hopefully we might get to see them further down the line as well.

Fun Factor - For most ***, For me ****
As you can probably tell, I loved the first movie and really wanted someone to pick this licence up second time around, the fact that HT did is kind of a double whammy for me.

I still have concerns for the longevity of all my figures that incorporate rubber and silicone body suits but for the time being these have even shifted my Medicom Ep VI Vader and DiD Samurai from my bookcase to take centre stage, absolutely outstanding.

Value - Deunan ***, Briareos **1/2
These are two expensive figures, sure they are pretty cutting edge, but I’ve also heard of a couple of people having issues with the rubber suits, all I can say is mine are absolutely fine and both of them seem very well constructed and the paint jobs are well applied and robust enough for posing. I think it’s fair to say that HT never intended these to be ‘played’ with, as they are squarely aimed at your serious collector.

Overall - ***1/2
Even though expensive, these are, as I said pretty cutting edge for 1/6 figures, putting them at the high end of high end, I think they are a brave and bold release that I hope might lead to more figures from this movie and maybe even it’s predecessor. Could they provide a small insight of what we can expect from HT should they be giving us a Batman Dark Knight figure?

I hope so, and maybe this release will pave the way for an even better product when they get to him.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ****
Sculpt - ****
Paint - Deunan ****, Briareos ***1/2
Articulation - ***
Accessories - Deunan ***1/2, Briareos ****
Outfit - ****
Fun Factor - For Most ***; For Me ****
Value - Deunan ***, Briareos **1/2
Overall - ***1/2

Where to Buy -
Side Show Toys are still the official US importer on these and they have them on pre-order for-
Deunan- $149.99
Briareos- $199.99

Some of Michaels other sponsors also have them-
Amazing Toyz-
Deunan- $134.99
Briareos- $179.99

Dark Shadow-
Deunan- $135.00
Briareos- $170.00

Corner Store-
Deunan- $134.99
Briareos- $179.99



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Figure from the collection of Jeff Parker.

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