Metropolis is based off of the Metropolis manga created by Osamu Tezuka. The film was directed by long-time Mushi Productions staff member Rintaro, and the script was written by Katsuhiro Otomo. Metropolis was animated by Madhouse Studios, and was released to Japanese theaters on May 26, 2001. The film was released in the United States on January 25, 2002.

Directed by: Rintaro
Written by: Katsuhiro Otomo
Starring: Yuka Imoto, Kei Kobayashi, Kōsei Tomita, Norio Wakamoto, Junpei Takiguchi, Masaru Ikeda, Takaya Hashi, Toshio Furukawa, Shigeru Chiba, Masashi Ebara, Takeshi Aono, Shun Yashiro, Norihiro Inoue, Kōki Okada, and Taro Ishida
Run Time: 113 minutes

The film opens with the celebration of the completion of the Ziggurat, a towering governmental tower built by Duke Red, the most influential citizen of Metropolis. He overshadows the president, the mayor, the heads of state, and the government of Metropolis.

Metropolis is a very industrialized and futuristic world, and artificial intelligence has advanced tremendously. Robots are seen everywhere and are performing many tasks. They do not have any of the rights that are granted to human beings, and they are not allowed to have human names or travel between the four Zones that Metropolis is divided into without special permission. The Marduk is a political party that evolved into vigilantes who destroy robots as they please. It’s a public secret that Duke Red founded the Marduk, and that his adopted son Rock is a leading figure in the organization.

A Japanese private detective named Shunsaku Ban and his nephew Kenichi arrive in Metropolis, looking for a man named Dr. Laughton. The doctor is suspected of human rights violations and the trading of human organs. Shunsaku and Kenichi are assigned a police robot to assist them, and Shunsaku nicknames him “Pero.”

Unbeknownst to Shunsaku, Laughton has been hired by Duke Red to build an extremely intelligent robot in the shape of Duke Red’s deceased daughter, Tima. Tima is to sit on a specially designed throne at the top of the Ziggurat, where she will help him take over the Earth. Without consulting the military, Duke Red tested the Ziggurat’s weapon of mass destruction and compromised national security. President Boon and others in the government plan to arrest Duke Red for treason once enough resentment has built up against him.

Duke Red is already looking at the robot as Tima, and has started to reject Rock. Rock discovers Tima and what her purpose is, and he goes to Laughton’s lab. There, he mortally wounds Laughton and sets the lab on fire to destroy all traces of Tima and the project. Shunsaku, Pero, and Kenichi arrive at the fire, and Shunsaku finds Laughton. Unfortunately, Laughton dies before being arrested.

Tima wakes up from her suspended animation, and Kenichi finds her. Tima and Kenichi fall down a sewage drain and become separated from Shunsaku. This starts a chain of events that lead to the climax of the film.

Tezuka seems to enjoy using the idea of robots being created to replace dead children. There’s Tima in Metropolis, and there’s Astro Boy in Astro Boy who was created to replace a scientist’s son. Some of the character designs in Metropolis also look rather similar to some of the characters in Astro Boy.

If you look past that little bit of recycling, though, there’s still a good film here with a story that kept me interested in what was going on. The friendship that develops between Kenichi and Tima is very touching, so it makes what happens at the end even worse because of how much Kenichi came to care for Tima.

Metropolis blends traditional animation with 3D animation, and the filmmakers did a fantastic job at melding the two animation styles. I believe this is a case where the combination of the two animation styles really helped to define the futuristic world that is portrayed in the film. Also, when I watched the film, I could tell that Fritz Lang’s classic science fiction film Metropolis had an influence on this film.

Metropolis is a very well-done film, and you can tell that the animators went to great lengths to preserve Osamu Tezuka’s original character designs. The soundtrack for the film, which sounds a lot like New Orleans jazz, really helps evoke a certain ambience to the film. While the city itself may look futuristic, the score and the character design evoke the “Roaring 20s.” And I think this melding of the past with the future really adds a layer to this film.

When it comes to the DVD itself, there are several subtitle options available: two English options (original Japanese translation and U.S. theatrical), French, Spanish, Portugese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai. Audio selections include Japanese Dolby Digital, Japanese DTS, English Dolby Digital, and French Dolby Surround. Four trailers are also included on the main disc.

The DVD pressing I watched of Metropolis came with a second 3″ DVD that contained all the special features. The first special feature on the 3″ DVD is a photo gallery, which includes model sheets split into three sections: Tima & Kenichi, Supporting Cast, and Art Direction. Next, there is a 33-minute special about the making of Metropolis. Filmographies for Rintaro and Osamu Tezuka, as well as a text-only history of Metropolis are included. The “Animation Comparisons” uses a multi-angle feature to select various stages of the animation proves for the Wheel Room and a City View. The final extra is an eight-minute interview with Rintaro and Katsuhiro Otomo. Overall, the bonus features were good for what they are.

I enjoyed Metropolis, and I think fans of Osamu Tezuka’s work will also enjoy it. Even if you aren’t familiar with Tezuka’s work, you should still check it out if you’re a fan of science fiction anime. This is a film that really should be in the DVD library of almost any anime fan.

Additional post about anime based on Osamu Tezuka’s manga: