Anime in America continues its uphill battle to capture the imagination of the western audiences with a limited theatrical release of Metropolis, a feature length adaptation of Osamu Tezuka classic Manga from half a century ago. "Metropolis" is brought to the screen by anime legends Katsuhiro Otomo (of "Akira" fame) and Rintaro who once worked with Tezuka on the anime TV series "Astro Boy". While "Metropolis" is an artistic marvel to behold, and is sure to satisfy fans of the genre, it is marred by a predictable plot line that fails to break any new ground for anime.
Elements of the Fritz Lang's classic "Metropolis" from 1926 have provided obvious inspiration for this Japanese animated tale. Beyond the connection to the tale of the Tower of Babel and of the fall of Babylon, the visionaries of this modern animated "Metropolis" took most of their cues from the twenties era...
The soundtrack, which sounds like records from the swinging hey day of Jazz in the 1920's has been faithfully recorded by an all new, all Japanese jazz band. The art deco skyline, beautifully rendered with the latest 3D computer graphics takes your breath away, especially on the big screen. However the crisp and clean lens of the computer, awkwardly blends with the flat cel animated characters that story unfolds around.
Despite all of this, "Metropolis" still boils down to a story about heroes and villains who struggle to rescue or control a waif-ish looking girl whose existence will either save the world or destroy it. And while this isn't an inherently bad story, it's just so overdone, especially in anime. It is possible to deliver other kinds of story using the anime technique as seen in the Miyazake classic like "Kiki's Delivery Service" and the catalog of works fron Studio Ghilbi but, "Metropolis" keeps itself well within the safe haven of sci-fi anime conventions and storyline.
As an animation and fantasy fan, I long for the day when Disney loses its monopoly on feature length animated films. And I know that over time, anime will find its rightful place with audiences in suburban multiplexes everywhere, however with efforts like "Metropolis", it seems that anime will continue to maintain its cult status, filling art house theatres with its dedicated following of fans, but not bring some of the rest of us into the fold. For Movie Magazine this is Purple.
© 2002 - Purple - Air Date: 1/30/02
Metropolis - Anime
Japan - 2001