BitSnark

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Anime Review: Metropolis (2001)

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Metropolis

Genre: Sci-fi Dystopia
Director: Rintaro
Distributor: Columbia TriStar
Duration: One movie – 109 minutes approx
Production Creation: 2001

Plot Synopsis

Based on Osamu Tesuka’s Metropolis manga, which in turn, is an interpretation of Fritz Lang’s original 1926 production Metropolis, this newest adaption takes the golden tale interpreted by Osamu Tesuka and brings it to life in a tour de force of cutting edge computer graphics married to old style Japanese animation and art.

In the vast industrialised world of Metropolis, it’s powerful leader Duke Red has plans to unveil a highly advanced robot by the name of Tima, who will take over the throne as the most powerful being in existence. His aggressive and violent son Rock, detests robots however and will do anything to destroy Tima and regain the attention of his father. All the while Tima is in the midst of friendship with the young nephew of a Japanese detective, none of them are to know that the fate of their lives and that of the entire universe is at stake….

The Review

I had heard a lot of hyperbole regarding this title in the months before it made it’s release. Is all the hyperbole justified? Not really, but it boasts some of the best production values i’ve ever seen in anime.

First things first, Metropolis is probably hands down the most aesthetically impressive anime i’ve seen so far. The seamless blend of CG backgrounds and computer assisted animation really does create a vivid world that is teeming with activity and detailed splendour. From the dark, murky city depths, to the mind boggingly complex industrial cityscapes and the monstrous Ziggurat itself, all of the locales featured in this movie are mind blowing to say the least.

I mean there’s just so much detail packed into each and every scene. Whether it’s a massive group of labour robots all doing individual activities in the background of an industrial complex, or simply a sunkissed makeshift group of houses all displaying different designs and other little details, Metropolis never fails to impress. The animation also never skips a beat and is consistently smooth and fluid with not a jerky frame or movement in sight.

The Tezuka style of character designs has also carried over very well as director Rintaro has allowed them to shine to their fullest extent. Whilst adhering to that unique look first pioneered in Tezuka’s magnum opus Astro Boy, thankfully all the characters manage to look significantly different from one another. The characters are made all the more striking by the fact that the wide spectrum of emotion and mannerisms that the excellent animation techniques allow, make the characters, visually at least, some of the most detailed ever seen in anime.

The soundtrack which is largely a homage to 50’s jazz comes across really well and unexpectedly, complements the movie really well. Those of you with high-powered audio systems are going to get a real kick from this one.

Unfortunately, beneath the impressive audiovisual facade of this movie, lies an anime with a somewhat substandard plot and uninspiring cast of characters. At it’s core, the plot of Metropolis plays out like a chase movie of sorts, but in doing so, seems strangely plodding. When Shunsaku and Kenichi discover the truth about the robot Tima, Duke Red’s son, Rock, gives chase and aims to destroy Tima once and for all for replacing his place in his Father’s heart.

Rock practically never lets up his pursuit throughout the movie and does a bring a sense of intensity to the proceedings, however, that’s practically all there is. Sure there are some themes of discrimination, introspection and things like that, but they are never really explored and as such make the film feel soulless. I actually found myself admiring the visuals and soaking up the music rather than paying attention to the storyline on my first viewing.

The characters also lack depth. None of them have any real kind of substance that makes me like them or despise them and that’s the worst thing that you can feel toward characters in anime – indifference. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what I felt with Metropolis’ cast of characters. They all appear to serve the events of the storyline, rather than their own personalities. For example, Rock is there to provide the vendetta and to chase Tima, Kenichi is her protector, Shunsaku is their guardian and pops up whenever they are in trouble.

Ironically the only characters I really felt anything for, were the insidious Rock because of the way his father abandoned him for a machine and as such this caused his subsequent vendetta against Tima, and the robots who helped Tima and Kenichi escape the underbelly of the city. And then, I only liked those robots because I felt a sense of pity for them because of the way they were treated.

It’s not very good when you find the minor characters more engaging than the major characters.

At the end of the day, Metropolis isn’t a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination and it’s certainly a movie you have to see at least once, if only for the incredible audiovisual experience. Being a fan of Tezuka’s works, I really wanted to like Metropolis for its interesting characters and involving plot. When the credits rolled and I discovered that neither were in abundance, I realised that Metropolis was simply a case of style over substance and that the hype for it simply came from it’s awesome visuals.

What a crying shame.

Ratings Summary

Animation: A+
Art: A+
Music: A-
Content: C

Overall: B-

Review by: John-Paul Jones

Suitability for children

There are some scenes of violence (mostly against the robots) and a few bits of blood here and there, but it’s mostly quite tame. There’s very little profanity also and with that, I would say that is okay for those aged 11+.

If you liked this why not try…

Astro Boy – Manga Entertainment

Written by bitsnark

January 8, 2009 at 7:47 am

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