“The Big City” – Metropolis (anime) – 7/10 Snowballs

All cities are mad:  but the madness is gallant.  All cities are beautiful:  but the beauty is grim.  ~Christopher Morley

Genre: Action/Adventure/Sci-fi/Romance

Review Status: Complete (1 Movie/1 Movie)

Licensed: Yes, this anime is licensed in the US.

Art/Animation: This is very much Tezuka’s style. The characters look fairly cartoon-y, with roundish faces and bodies. Tima’s character design is brilliant. Everyone else’s looks somewhat lackluster, but still works. Most of this is done in CG and it’s pretty obvious. It looks grand, but doesn’t blend well with the more traditionally drawn characters. The animation is very smooth, but can look odd in a few places because of what they do with the CG.

Dub Vs. Sub: I only listened to the sub, which is quite nice.

Summary: In the industrial, tri-level world of Metropolis, Duke Red is a powerful leader with plans to unveil a highly advanced robot named Tima. But Duke Red’s violent son, Rock distrusts robots, and intends to find and destroy Tima. Lost in the confusing labyrinth beneath Metropolis, Tima is beginning a friendship with the young nephew of a Japanese detective. But when Duke Red separates the two innocents, Tima’s life- and the fate of a universe- is dangerously at stake. (back of DVD cover)

Review: Tezuka often did dark, involved stories, and Metropolis was one of them. I always wondered whether those richly detailed stories would transfer over to the big screen. Unlike his more uplifting anime Astro Boy, or even Black Jack, this delves into a dark world of politics and world domination, which two Japanese visitors fall into during their search for a black-market scientist. This is both the strength and the weakness of the movie.

What really drives the story are the characters of Tima, an android that believes she’s human, and Kenichi, a boy that is desperately trying to save her from Rock and a fate worse than death. They try time and again to escape death, first from a fire, then from the massacre of Metropolis workers. There are various characters that round this out. Rock, an anti-robot assassin, tries time and again to destroy Tima and protect his father and the world from mechanical dominion. Duke Red, Rock’s father, desperately desires Tima to rule the world, and is darkly charismatic. And, of course, there’s Detective Ban, who’s on the case and discovering what’s up from a completely different angle than his nephew Kenichi.

These characters are thrown into two concurrent plots- Kenichi and Tima trying to find out what Duke Red wants, and Detective Ban who’s trying to figure out how much of a hand Duke Red has in the murder of the black-market scientist, and why he wanted the scientist dead in the first place. Kenichi and Tima must deal with the homicidal hatred Rock has towards Tima, the detective must navigate politics and the violent takeover of the city. Unfortunately, focusing on these two plots in the time span of a movie means that there’s a lot of half-baked ideas and plot holes. A throwaway line about the Duke’s dead daughter does bring light to his obsession with Tima, but not why she is ideal for ruling. The political underpinnings of revolution are only superficially gone over, and end up cluttering the plot. It could have been left out and the story wouldn’t have suffered at all. The main plot is still quite solid, though, and manages to make for an engaging movie.

To back that up are are a number of scenes that are powerful and evocative. My favorite had to be a scene set to the song “I Can’t Stop Loving You” that was simply amazing. My only wish is that it fit better with the rest of the soundtrack. As lovely as it was, the sound was completely out of place with the rest of the soundtrack, which had consisted of a number of jazz and similar insert songs.

Overall, while not the best movie out there, it was a decent watch.

Recommended: 13+. There is some death onscreen, though no real gore and very little blood. No language that I can recall.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Ghost in the Shell (anime and manga)

Akira (manga)

Tree of Palme (anime)


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