Metropolis

Dir: Rintaro
2001
A strange amalgam of Fritz Lang and anime,
this adaptation of Osamu Tezuka’s manga comes on like a giant amusement park as seen by a four year old child jonesing for some ritalin. The metropolis of the title is a similar-to-Lang mega-city, with a street level surrounded by skyscrapers and elevated trams, while underneath the city, runs a poorer level populated by proto-revolutionaries and service robots. Everything on both levels looks great–I can’t think of a more self-consciously colorful anime. If anyone bothered anymore, this is a great film to toke up to.
The film has taken on Tezuka’s manga (written in 1948, I believe) and, instead of just focusing on Tima, the girl humanoid robot who searches for her identity, throws in a lot of characters. I’m not too sure whose story we’re really watching. Boy-hero Ken-ichi never fully develops as a character–while he does rescue Tima at the beginning, he is easily taken out by the bad guys who want her back. Tima is too helpless, the detective uncle is too cagey.
A lot of “Metropolis” is given over to either chase scenes or rescue scenes and the end if very much like Castle in the Sky. Released in pre-9/11 2001, its sequence of crumbling and toppling skyscrapers with a Ray Charles tune playing over the top might have worked once.
Still, it’s lovely to look at, and I particularly liked Kiki, the three-legged trashcan robot who briefly became Ken-ichi and Tima’s friend. Making sounds like an affectionate puppy, I was sad to see him/her fall sacrificial to the bad guys’ bullets.
The DVD’s 5.1 mix really worked my speakers, with echoes receding far in the back and gunshots zipping past. This is a great disc to show off a home theater, and the bigger your screen the better.

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