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Friday, 11 January, 2002, 16:36 GMT
Manga mania in the city
A cityscape reminiscent of the Fritz Lang classic
By BBC News Online's Andrew Webster

Based on the classic Japanese manga comic by anime godfather Osamu Tezuka, Metropolis is a tale of science versus humanity - boy meets robot-girl, robot develops emotions but will her feelings blossom into true love and save the world?

The setting is the city state of Metropolis. Soaring buildings house a population of humans who have become dependent on an army of subservient, semi-intelligent robots.

Tima is a machine with a difference. She is a beautiful girl-like creation, secretly built with the power to plug into the entire city and give evil Duke Red complete control over Metropolis.

The plan is almost complete, the city is unsuspecting, then along comes detective Shunsaku Ban and his young apprentice Kenichi on the trail of Tima's creator, rebel scientist Dr Laughton.

Shunsaku Ban
Detective Shunsaku Ban aims to save the day
When the pair corner Laughton, his laboratory is destroyed but Kenichi escapes with Tima. As they flee with Duke Red's psychotic robot-killer son on their trail, Tima slowly awakens and, unaware that she is not human, begins to acquire feelings for Kenichi.

The climax comes when Duke Red recaptures Tima and reveals that not only is she not human, the fate of the world is held in her circuits.

With Katsuhiro Otomo and Rintaro, two of Japan's most respected animators, behind the action, Metropolis looks fantastic and moves along at a great pace.

The storyline and marvellous cityscapes borrow subtly from the 1926 Fritz Lang classic of the same name - spot the statue homage to Hel, the original female robot.

The imagery is a classic mix of 1930s style meets 22nd Century technology, creating a world populated by Tin Tin-esque characters with extravagant moustaches.

Robot in Metropolis
The acting can be robotic with little emotion
The soundtrack is fun too with ragtime, jazz and country-and-western punctuations.

The one missing ingredient is convincing "acting", which prevents the film from developing any emotional depth.

Characters gasp to indicate surprise; pain is accompanied by a loud groan "Nnnng!"; and you know when Duke Red is angry because he clenches his teeth - "Grrrrr".

So, instead of stimulating a sense of dampness in the eye, the non-too-surprising ending adds more thoughts along the lines of "Wow! That looks fantastic. I wonder how long it took to draw?"

If you are a fan of animation or manga comics, then this is for you, but don't worry if you forget your hanky.

Metropolis is on at the ICA in London from 11 January.

See also:

10 Sep 01 | dot life
Adventures in animation
05 Nov 01 | Film
Monster hit at box office
29 Jun 01 | Film
Bringing Shrek to life
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