Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS (1926) is the primary inspiration for this stunningly beautiful anime, whose story about a futuristic city where human beings and robots live in uneasy accord also strongly echoes BLADE RUNNER and the robot stories of Isaac Asimov. Metropolis is a futuristic city-state divided into four vertical zones: The crème de la crème inhabit the surface, while underground Zones 1 through 3 are increasingly distasteful. The opening of the ziggurat, a skyscraper built by rapacious businessman Duke Red (Taro Ishida), is being feted when Japanese detective Shunsaku Ban (Kousei Tomita) and his young nephew, Kenichi (Kobayashi), arrive, hot on the trail of mad scientist Dr. Laughton (Junpei Takiguchi). They witness the killing of a rogue robot by Rock (Kohki Okada), Duke Red's protégé and a member of an anti-robot vigilante group called the Malduks; though Metropolis depends on robot labor, the increasingly humanoid automata are both feared and resented. With the human police busy overseeing ziggurat hoopla, Shunsaku Ban is assigned robot guide 803-D-RP-DM-497-3-C (Norio Wakamoto) robots can't have real names whom he dubs "Pero." Meanwhile, Laughton is working on a top-secret project for Duke Red, creating a near-human android in the image of his dead daughter but even Laughton doesn't know the magnitude of the Duke's ambitions for Tima (Yuka Imoto), as the waifish 'bot is called. As Metropolis's corrupt president (Masaru Ikeda) plots to quash a worker's revolution and Duke Red schemes to undermine him, Kenichi is stranded in Zone 3 with Tima, who has no idea who or what she is. Based on a 1949 manga by Osamu Tezuka (1928-1989), who created Astro Boy and defined the look of contemporary manga and anime, this sci-fi thriller was scripted by Katsuhiro Otomo (AKIRA, 1988), and directed by distinguished Tezuka protégé Rintaro. The film's music is an unusual and evocative mix of ragtime, jazz and country-western. But some viewers will have trouble reconciling its ambitious story and the oddly mismatched animation styles: Machines, buildings and backgrounds are intricately and realistically rendered, while the character design is disconcertingly kawaii (cute), all Walter Keane eyes and chubby legs (though the "Albert"-series robots' slight resemblance to The Jetsons's mechanical maid is charming). The look is utterly faithful to Tezuka's aesthetic he loved classic Disney animation, especially BAMBI (1942) but it's hard to empathize with the angst of a character who looks like a Super Mario Brother.
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- Released: 2001
- Rating: NR
- Review: Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS (1926) is the primary inspiration for this stunningly beautiful anime, whose story about a futuristic city where human beings and robots live in uneasy accord also strongly echoes BLADE RUNNER and the robot stories of Isaac Asimov.… (more)