Review: Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis [Blu-ray]

Release Date
16th January 2017, 13th March 2017 (Standard Edition)
Dual Format
Studio / Publisher
Madhouse / Eureka Entertainment
Language / Subtitles
English, Japanese / English
2 (1xBD, 1xDVD)
Run Time
110 Minutes

Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis comes to the UK on Blu-ray for the first time courtesy of Eureka Entertainment. Last year was a great year for anime making its way onto Blu-ray for the first time and this year looks set to continue this trend. While there is still much work to be done on that front we can now cross Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis off that list. I am truly glad that I had waited this long to watch Metropolis as I got to experience it in as best a form as possible outside of a theatrical screening and it was awe-inspiring, now let’s get into the details.

Based on the classic manga by “the Godfather of Manga” Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis was adapted into a feature-length animated movie by studio Madhouse. To direct this project there is Rintaro (Galaxy Express 999) who was influenced by and worked with Tezuka. Writing the screenplay Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira) a legend in his own right. The two have created a feature that is adapted from Tezuka’s manga but features some differences which actually make it closer in its story to that of the original Fritz Lang 1927 silent movie.

“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 Reds 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, Timas life – and the fate of the universe – is dangerously at stake.”Eureka Entertainment

One of the major differences between the movie and the Tezuka manga is in the character Tima. In the manga, a character called Mitchi is in a similar role and the story is more or less very parallel. Tima in the movie, however, comes to consider herself human and has no reason to believe otherwise until the harsh truth is finally revealed later on. This is an interesting theme that we as an audience and as human beings like to see. A non-human being trying so hard or believing so much that they are human. I wonder what this says about us as a collective. Even in the movie, the robots are treated a little more than slaves or lesser beings. It’s interesting then that some of the robots we see within the movie act more human than some of the people do. The evil and greed of humans are not mirrored in the robots but kindness is. Perhaps the robots are only programmed to act that way but we like to see there be a little more to them than just metal slaves.

While not perfect and far from the quality or level we see today the CG in Metropolis is clearly way ahead of its time. The grand and often expansive scale of CG on display is impressive and commendable. It’s funny to see that an anime feature from 2001 manages to blend traditional cell animation and CG better than a lot of its modern-day contemporaries. As for the traditional cell animation, well, they’re just as grand and vibrant and more importantly straight-up awe-inspiring. Never before have I wanted, no, need an art book so badly. The background art in this movie is probably some of the best I have ever seen in anime period. In a lot of scenes, the camera will zoom out leaving you to take in the breathtaking visuals for a moment before moving on. The scenes laid out for us the viewer become more and more impressive as the movie goes on.

I can honestly say I can’t think of another instance where I have been so mesmerised throughout an entire movie for its artist achievements. I wish that they had gone completely traditional in animation, but that’s just my own personal tastes. The CG animation is impressive for its time though it definitely has to be said, when CG animation used today still manages to look wildly out of place, what Metropolis managed to do is something to be learned from. That said the CG does serve a purpose with regards to the story itself. The lower world where the poorer class live, which we spend most of our time in, makes great use of the traditional cell animation while the upper world full of the wealthy is displayed in this grand CG cityscape. I think that it’s very important when it comes to using CG within anime that it has a reason for being there and isn’t just used because it’s cheap.

The Metropolis soundtrack features New Orleans-style jazz music as well as an orchestral score composed by Toshiyuki Honda. Throughout the movie, the soundtrack is always apparent and only serves to heighten the emotion or tension that is being shown on screen. In combination with the sound effects, certain scenes become living beings unto themselves the fire scene early in the movie is a prime example of this. There are so many moving parts from sound to visuals and action that this scene literally pulls you in and doesn’t let go. The rest of the movie is by and large the same and features some great tracks.

Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis comes in two forms one is the Limited Edition SteelBook and the other a Standard Edition release. Both are dual-format including both Blu-ray and DVD. The on-disc extras include “The Making of Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis”, “Filmmaker Interviews”, “Animation Comparisons” and “Trailer” and “Promotional Trailer”. The Standard Edition release will also include a reversible sleeve.

What Rintaro and Katsuhiro Otomo have created here is not only an adaptation of Osamu Tezuka’s work which in turn is inspired by Fritz Lang’s but rather a spectacle of the senses. The visual artistry, the mastery with which the soundtrack is employed, all works together in harmony alongside a story very fitting of our time. This is a piece of anime history and to witness it in high definition is a privilege and I urge every anime fan to support this release, of course, enjoy this great piece of work.