One of the aspects of older anime that makes them so appealing, is their plain lack of popularity (at least in mainstream culture). When you delve into the world of cult classics, you can't quite know what to expect - You might be in for something high quality but lacking in mainstream appeal, but then you may also be in for something which time has justifiably forgotten. Unfortunately I think it was the latter for both Appleseed and M.D. Geist. I will review both at the same time, in the first of a series of Dual Reviews. Hope you enjoy the read.
Let's start with the surface level details - neither of these anime is a fantastic looker overall. Appleseed in particular is very "no frills". The visuals do the job. M.D. Geist has a lot more detail and complexity, but it is also very wooden and dated. The best of Appleseed is its landscape shots (see screenshot #3). The best of M.D. Geist is its machinery and armour. M.D. Geist is actually very good looking in some shots but I feel it is let down by the colouring and detail in the characters, which is also where it shows its age the most. It's one of those anime where the colour choices can become jarring. Character's skin colour is inconsistent, and sometimes they blend so much with the surrounding colours that the whole image just looks muddy.
Speaking of characters, I didn't think much of them in either movie. M.D. Geist has interesting ideas but very little depth here - It centers around Geist, a killing-machine soldier. That's pretty much his character. Then there's a mercenary lady who decides he's her new man after he kills her old boss. There could have been something more interesting here but if you start with a character that's deliberately shallow, you can't expect much. Shallow is how I would describe the overall story of M.D. Geist. It's very of-its-time in that events happen in it, but too little is shown to us to make it feel like more than a teaser for a story we're not really getting. Appleseed on the other hand, I genuinely forgot. I wasn't even going to write a review for it until I found the video file sitting on my computer and had to skip through most of it again to remind myself of whether I had watched it or not. The problem is not that it has a bad story, it's just so run-of-the mill for cyberpunk police anime that my brain didn't bother to remember any of it. Appleseed was released in 1988, within a few years of Bubblegum Crisis, Patlabor (the manga), and Cybercity OEDO 808 to name a few. These all have some strong similarities in their stories so maybe the issue here is not quite an issue with Appleseed on its own. To oversimplify - The story involves two cops following a cyborg criminal who wants to take control of a prototype military weapon. Nothing new there. It's not bad though, maybe even bordering on fun, just very plain.
Overall, do I recommend either? Not really. M.D. Geist is scattered with some cool visuals but is otherwise unremarkable. Appleseed is an anime, not bad, just forgettable. They're both plain, but Appleseed is the more watchable of the two.