Metropolis is a grand high-tech city-state populated by humans and robots alike. It is in these streets that Detective Shunsaku Ban and his sidekick Kenichi search for the rebel scientist Dr. Laughton who unbeknownst to them, is developing a super android named Tima as a tool for the Duke of Metropolis. What starts out as a normal case turns into mayhem as the scientist is murdered, and the true plans of the Duke are finally revealed...
StoryPerhaps the saddest thing about Metropolis is that, despite having the necessary elements to make a great movie, it lacks the guts to deliver; each part is predictable, not explored in enough depth, and somehow doesn't tie in very well with the rest. In essence, a robot girl called Tima is the key to a mighty weapon; she goes missing, meets up with Kenichi the protagonist, and a chase through the city's underbelly ensues. Chuck in a hasty revolution by the oppressed underclass, some straight-forward political intrigue, omit any tackling of gritty questions and you pretty much have it. At its most involving, the story veers into Pinocchio territory, whereby Tima learns to experience emotions and form relationships until she believes she is human. Where the plot lets itself down is in the way it does not bother to connect us with the human suffering in Metropolis. For example, Tima and Kenichi briefly come into contact with the leaders of the underclass uprising, but they don't get involved, stay long enough or get to know anybody well enough to help the viewer understand why, somewhat undermining the movie's message about how sad it is that humanity is giving way to progress. A little internet research reveals the original manga by Osamu Tezuka as full of twists and quirks which tells me the anime polished a lot of the wow factor away. Despite that, the setting is masterful, especially the paradoxical nature of Metropolis' society; it is very technology-heavy whilst maintaining a strong hostility towards the robots that run it. For example, Pero the robot guide explains that robots are not given human names because that would infringe upon ‘human rights'. In my opinion, this reflects the human irony of proximity breeding hatred as well as the sad fact that we can't help but ‘improve' upon ourselves when we know we don't like where that progress takes us. However, that's about as eye-opening as Metropolis gets; to a large extent it is predictable and simplistic.AnimationThe story may not be jaw-dropping but the animation certainly is; in terms of style, this movie lives up to its name. Firstly, CG is almost seamlessly integrated with the rest of the animation, making for breathtaking panned shots of tall, colourful blocks, spiralling staircases, flocking birds and milling crowds. The attention to detail is delightful and generous helpings of wide shots help us appreciate that fact. My favourite scene animation-wise is when the protagonists first descend to Zone 1 of Metropolis and we are met with an atmospheric, dirty and depressed world reminiscent of 1930s New York. A few simple shots provide an instantaneous sense of hopelessness. Just fabulous. Metropolis also stands out from a lot of its contemporaries due to the way the cute, old-style character designs contrast with the mature and disturbing subject matter. Think Kimba the White Lion with a serious budget and you're on the right track; heads, feet and hands are big and rounded, with exaggerated facial features and no real detail in hair or clothes.SoundThe soundtrack is based on early to mid 20th century jazz; bluesy sax sounds, up-beat jazz music, and smooth swing numbers meld perfectly with the look of the movie to deliver a potent manipulation of your viewing experience. I love the slow-mo chase involving Tima, Kenichi and Rock, when the music takes on a catchy beat that actually makes me want to leap up and bop. Not to mention the poignant use of Ray Charles' ‘I can't stop loving you' during one of the most climactic parts of the film, which is, once again, eccentric genius.CharactersMetropolis is a moral tale and as such its characters are convenient cardboard representations: Kenichi and his uncle are guests to Metropolis and so the viewer's eyes and ears, Tima is the sacrificial lamb of innocence, Duke Red represents the unbridled ambition of science, Rock represents ideology, and the political antagonists such as the mayor are the vultures of the conflict. Needless to say, you come to understand the roles and views of the characters within seconds of meeting them. Arguably the most interesting character is Rock because his cute character design masks a psychopathic, trigger-happy personality. I found that both in English and in Japanese, his voice had the most drama, and his parallel motivations of love for Duke Red and hate for robots were a car crash waiting to happen (the waiting being half the fun). Still, while it's great to watch an unstable character let loose on the screen, it's disappointing when the reason for his behaviour is never explained. Why does Rock love Duke Red and show such loyalty to him when Duke Red never seems to show love or even gratitude in return? And why does Rock hate robots so much when he was brought up by a father who seems to have no problem with them? Similar questions arise and remain unanswered in the case of other characters too, and in the end it is difficult to care about any of them much.OverallMetropolis harks back to the days when sci-fi explored possibilities and used those possibilities to glean an understanding of human nature. It is the kind of tale we don't really see much anymore because our era belongs to the cynic and, let's face it, morals are kinda passé. However, despite its flaws, there is a fanciful flair to Metropolis' approach which still makes it enjoyable.
StoryHaving an introspective story and stunning animation, Metropolis is a film with much ambition. Unfortunately, it only has one hundred minutes to fulfill its goals; hence, the movie comes off as hurried and remote. Contrary to appearances, this is not a character piece; Tima and Ken-ichi are used here as pawns to carry out the basis of the plot. As great as it could have been, there's much to be said that Metropolis leaves only a blue print of its potential. There are two primary approaches a robot anime can take: the machines may occasionally clash with humans, but on the most part their existence is appreciated (i.e., Saber Marionette J, Chobits) or the machines are resented and feared (i.e., Armitage III). Metropolis takes the latter approach; it was fairly interesting to see men complaining that robots are taking their jobs. What Metropolis does different from the aforementioned anime is that the robots really do not have the upper hand. Indeed, it was a refreshing touch to see that the machines have to follow certain rules and are sometimes cruelly punished if they step out of bounds. To take the idea further, someone decided to get creative...the robots bleed. Unfortunately, this really isn't grounds for sympathy but it's something to take note of....the movie begins slowly. It wasn't until twenty minutes have passed that I was even remotely interested in what was going on. Metropolis definitely suffers from pacing issues and this is only exacerbated by the fact that the point of view shifts too often. One minute the focus is on the uncle. The next on Rock. Then the camera's on Duke Red. Ah, now it's time to spend time on Tima and Ken-ichi! Considering the premise of the movie, it would have been best to spend a good deal of time on Tima and Ken-ichi, but to my surprise, their screen time is minimal. The pair really only have two good scenes together and nothing memorable happens when the two are by themselves. The pacing picks up in the last fifteen minutes or so. This is the part where the average viewer will stop snoring and snap to attention. The climax and ending are worth the journey. AnimationMetropolis's animation is a paradox: It's excellent, but although made only four years ago, it has a retro polish that makes it appear older than it actually is. The characters often move a bit too slowly; their movements are certainly not fluid at all. I think this was intentional because (being a Tezuka work) the creators were trying to get an "old school" feel of the show. Last but certainly not least, the Cgi blends seamlessly with the surroundings save for a few close-up shots (i.e., the close up of a gigantic fish in a tank). I have a few issues with the character designs: Why does Duke Red have a nose like a vulture? SoundThe background music is full of jazzy instrumental tunes. The song that plays near the end sounds like a Christmas carol and didn't match what was going on at the time. Voice acting gets the job done, but I take issue with Rock's voice. He looks like a young boy; as a result, it was very strange to hear that deep voice coming from such a scrawny ...CharactersBecause the story is worthwhile, I was able to somewhat ignore the mediocre characterization. There were some minor characters that were fun to watch (Ken-ichi's uncle), but Rock is probably the best. Although his "true" motivations (I refuse to believe that's all there is to it) are never revealed; viewers are given enough to fill in the holes themselves. He seems to have a sick obsession with "the man he calls father" and refuses to believe that this man could let a robot become the world's leader. His misguided love is very clearly one-sided and one could probably draw the conclusion that he's just hurt that he was passed up for the throne. But this is only mere speculation and there's really nothing in the film that says we shouldn't take Rock's actions at face value. In other anime where technology goes head to head with mankind, humans are almost always the victor. The trick is that the anime succeeds in humanizing their robots so when the end is near we can find it in ourselves to shed a tear or two. Considering this, then, it's probably not very commendable that the movie's villain outshines everyone. The unspoken rule says that Tima is supposed to be the one to look out for and Metropolis sadly breaks that rule. Tima is a robot and this movie made sure I didn't forget it. She learns nothing (save that her name is not "who") and expresses very little emotion save for the requisite clinging to the first person she laid eyes on. Gee, I've seen this somewhere else very recently, but that other show will remain nameless. In the same way I feel no personal affection for my computer, I couldn't have cared less about Tima. Even when insisting she's human, she does so without passion. A robot can never be civilized without interaction with humans so of course Ken-ichi must take a few minutes to fulfill his role. Admittedly he's hard not to like, but this is solely because of his lovable and endearing character design. OverallMetropolis is definitely one of the better anime movies and it gets my recommendation. It's full of style and has the substance to back it up. It's also one of those movies that may get better with subsequent viewings. I watched it twice because I fell asleep for about twenty minutes the first time (which is why I held out the review for so long). The second time I didn't clonk out until near the climax which I saw on the first go anyway. If I were to watch it a third time, maybe I wouldn't snooze at all!
Only from time to time does one receive the chance to meander across one of the game changers in anime or manga- quite literally in this case. The manga upon which this is based was made by Tezuka, the author of Astroboy and the father of manga and anime. That being said, the artwork may seem "old school" and the story may seem "clichéd," but that is because it is an old series upon which many newer series have drawn from. Anyways, onto the series. Story: 8/10 The story takes place in a somewhat dystopian future with several political factors moving at once. Although some what would be considered cliché events happen throughout the show, if you remember that this was originally written long before any of these series were around, you can realize just how good the story is without having to worry about originality. Animation: 7/10 The character designs are, obviously, all based upon the older artwork styles, but I am personally a fan of this. The art style is a welcome change from most of the current art styles. The movement all seems to be very fluid even within action scenes. Sound: 7/10 The sound in this title is good, but nothing spectacular. The music fits well at all times. Characters: 8/10 There is a very wide range of characters throughout this title, many of which are rather interesting. There are no "pre-fit" characters that are quite common in many series these days. Several of the characters develop fairly well, too. If you are ever in the mood to see where it all started, of feeling a bit of nostalgia, this would be a good watch. I enjoyed the show, and would say it is worth the time.
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