'Vexille' next stop for Shochiku

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TOKYO -- The production team behind the 2004 big-screen version of "Appleseed" has reunited to create "Vexille," which will be released worldwide by Japan's Shochiku in the late summer.

Shochiku said Monday that it has acquired global rights to the CG-animated title, which is being directed by "Appleseed" producer Fumihiko Sori from a script by Haruka Handa.

"Appleseed" began life in 1985 as a manga that went on to spawn four volumes as well as two animated shows before the 2004 theatrical release directed by Shinji Aramaki.

The enormously popular film was released in 30 countries and sold more than 300,000 DVDs in the U.S.

Shochiku has high hopes for the title, which has a budget of about $10 million.

"The success of CG-animated films has definitely opened the market for a new breed of animated films, in terms of technology and concept," said Teruki Matsumoto, managing director of Shochiku's motion picture operations.

Set in Japan in 2067, the story centers on the country's isolation after the United Nations bans further research on robotic technology because of concerns about a threat to mankind. The U.S. has intelligence that Japan is developing the banned technology and dispatches a team led by a female commander named Vexille on a secret mission to determine Tokyo's ambitions.

Sori was a member of the visual effects team for "Titanic" and made his directorial debut in 2002 with "Ping Pong," one of the top-grossing films of the year and winner of best picture and best director accolades at the nation's top film awards.

The main characters will be voiced by Meisa Kuroki ("Who's Camus Anyway?"), Yasuko Matsuyuki ("Hula Girls") and Shosuke Tanihara ("Godzilla: Final Wars").
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