Metropolis

Metropolis

Directed by Rintaro

Featuring the voices of Yuka Imoto, Kei Kobayashi, Kouki Okada, Jamieson Price

Welcome to the future, located somewhere between 1927 and 2727. The giant city of Metropolis completes its most glorious icon — an immense structure known as “The Ziggurat.” Besides a point of pride and a center of political power for Duke Red and the Marduke party, it houses a secret military mission. All that’s needed to complete the structure is the mysterious and beautiful half-robot/half-human Tami, built by Dr. Loughton. Arriving in the city is detective Shunsuki Ban and his boy Kenichi, sent in search of Dr. Loughton. In a society divided between the well-to-do, working class humans, and enslaved robots (can you really enslave a robot? Isn’t that like enslaving a Chevy?), revolution is in the air and Dr. Houghton’s laboratory is destroyed. Kenichi and Tami escape into the worst part of the city, leaving Shunsuki Ban and Rock, Duke Red’s adopted son and enforcer to fight. Eventually, the epic anime battle plays out, and the Ziggurat collapses in a scene eerily reminiscent of the World Trade Center collapse. Tami is destroyed, and the world is saved; yet the “Robot Question” still hangs over society.

Standard anime plot, certainly, but it’s the execution that sets this film apart. Every frame is lovingly animated, with tons and tons of peripheral detail — random English words, odd little movies and advertisements playing in the periphery of your vision, and the city of Metropolis appears as a psychedelic dream on the top and a psychotic nightmare underneath. It’s hard to look at the detail, as the dialog is snappy and if you miss a subtitle you can easily drop the thread of the movie. I recommend you get this on DVD so you can slo-mo through the details and really understand the work that went into this gem of animation.

The story (adapted from Osamu Tezuka’s 1949 manga) is only loosely related to the Fritz Lang film of the same name (an item still worth seeing for any real film buff), and while bits and pieces of backgrounds are familiar, most of the classic stuff in the original, such as the art deco robot transformation scene, is gone. No matter, it’s technique that matters here, not story telling, but the story is strong enough and presented clearly enough that it never becomes an impediment. This Metropolis is a city worth visiting.

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