Review: Metropolis (2001) Anime | My Reviews 17 JAN 2014

metropolis anime 1Metropolis: A future society, where humans and robots co-exist. A giant city-state, atop of which rests what could be termed a symbol of the advanced civilisation, the newly completed skyscraper Ziggurat, where an opening ceremony is underway…

During the middle of a florid speech by Duke Red, the prime mover and shaker of Metropolis, a disruptive party crasher is shot and killed by a young security guard. But after it turns out the gatecrasher was just a robot, the young guard goes nonchalantly on his way. Two of the bystanders at the scene watch with great interest. They are Private Detective Shunsaku Ban and his travelling companion, his young brilliant nephew, Kenichi, both of whom have just arrived in Metropolis on the trail of a case.

Their investigation leads them to a laboratory, where a fire breaks out after they break in. Escaping by the skin of his teeth, Kenichi has a fateful encounter with a girl, Tima, who is actually the robotic double of Duke Red’s deceased daughter. Tima has no idea that she is a robot, nor is she aware of the fact that she was secretly imbued with enough power to control the world.

In the midst of the madness surrouning them, the human Kenichi and the robot Tima open their hearts to each other, even as they’re stalked by a persistent killer.

Rock, the young leader of the vigilante Marduk party and adopted child of Duke Red, has no plans to allow Tima to become Duke Red’s successor. He instead plots to remove her as an obstacle. But Tima is eventually abducted and imprisoned by her ‘father’, Duke Red, who reveals her robotic origin to her and his plan to place her on the seat of world power. Though she doesn’t know it yet, the fate of Metropolis and all human-robot relations lies in Tima’s hands.

Metropolis is one of those awe-inspiring large-scale movies. Using classic Tezuka animation and writing style, Metropolis manages to instill a feeling that you are watching a classic in the making. The storyline is well plotted, building slowly until it erupts with a huge crescendo. The dark and gloomy locations and animation lends to the dark and brooding tale that unfolds, adding mystery and spice to the plot. The characters are well rounded and grounded in their world, making it easy to draw the viewer into the story.

As mentioned, the animation employs the classic Tezuka style, which means its cartoonish look may detract some viewers. Indeed, this style, although famous in its own right, is hardly ever associated with anime nowadays, especially to the younger generation of anime watchers. The backgrounds are lavish and the amount of cleverness and detail put into the design of the characters, robots and objects that interact with one another is a wonder to behold.

A film of this scale would be lost without a great soundtrack to match the story, and the sound of Metropolis does not disappoint. Employing the grand sound of the orchestra, the music and melody changes and flows to help boost the film to new and even greater heights.

But all this praise aside, I find myself hard-pressed to give this film a good rating. Perhaps I’m a jaded anime-watcher, but something about this film didn’t deliver all that it should. It is a highly polished production and a good story, but there is something lacking. At least that’s what I felt. Perhaps it was the pace at which the story would speed up and then slow down, I just don’t know. But it is this something I fear that will mean that this movie will not become the classic it was so meant to be.

metropolis anime 2

(Historical Note: This was written back in October 2003. Thankfully my writing has improved greatly since then.)

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About Craig Lotter

South African software architect and developer at Touchwork. Husband to a cupcake baker and father to two little girls. I don't have time for myself any more.