Metropolis (メトロポリス Metoroporisu?) is a 2001 anime film and loosely based on the 1949 Metropolis manga created by the late Osamu Tezuka, The Anime is based on the 1927 german silent film Metropolis. The 2 films do not share plot elements and some scenes are also shown in the film. The anime, however, does draw aspects of its storyline directly from the 1927 film. The anime had an all-star production team, including renowned anime director Rintaro, Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo as script writer, and animation by Madhouse Studios with conceptual support from Tezuka Productions. In the United States, the anime was given a PG-13 rating by the MPAA for "violence and images of destruction" and TV-14-LV rating when it aired on Adult Swim.
Metropolis is a futuristic city-state where humans and robots coexist. Robots are discriminated against, and segregated to the city's lowest level. Much of the city's human population is unemployed and impoverished; many blame the robots for taking their jobs. Duke Red, the de facto ruler of Metropolis, has overseen the construction of a massive skyscraper called the Ziggurat, which he claims will allow mankind to further extend its power across the planet. A wayward robot disrupts the Ziggurat's opening ceremony, only to be shot down by Rock, Duke Red's adoptive son and the head of the Marduk Party, a vigilante group that destroys rogue robots to calm anti-robot sentiments.
Private detective Shunsaku Ban and his nephew, Kenichi, travel to Metropolis from Japan with an arrest warrant for Dr. Laughton, a mad scientist wanted for illegally trafficking in human organs. Unbeknown to Shunsaku, Laughton has been secretly hired by Duke Red to construct a highly advanced robot modeled and named after Red's deceased daughter, Tima. Red intends for Tima to sit on the 'throne' within the Ziggurat and 'complete it', functioning as the central control unit for the structure's secret superweapon. Rock, however, learning of Tima's existence and not wanting a robot to overshadow his adoptive father, shoots Dr. Laughton and sets fire to his laboratory. Investigating the fire, Shunsaku enters the burning factory and discovers the dying Laughton, who gives him his notebook. Kenichi, meanwhile, finds the activated Tima. The two fall into the sewers and are separated from Shunsaku.
While Shunsaku searches for his nephew, Kenichi and Tima search for a way back the street level. They grow close as Kenichi teaches Tima the basics of language and grammar. Neither are aware that she is a robot. The two are hunted relentlessly by Rock and his subordinates. They encounter a group of unemployed human laborers who attempt to stage a revolution against Duke Red. The president of Metropolis tries to use the revolution to justify arresting Duke Red for treason and get control of Metropolis. However, he is assassinated by his top military commander, who has sided with Duke Red. Duke Red imposes martial law to suppress the revolution.
In the aftermath of the failed revolt, Kenichi reunites with Shunsaku, only to be wounded by Rock, who also reveals Tima to be a robot. However, Rock is disowned by Duke Red and stripped of his command of the Marduks for trying to kill Tima. Duke Red takes Tima away to the Ziggurat. Still determined to dispose of Tima and regain his father's affections, Rock kidnaps and deactivates Tima, who is now confused about her identity. Shunsaku rescues her, and after following instructions from Laughton's notebook, reactivates Tima. The two discover that Kenichi is being held within the Ziggurat, and are captured by Duke Red and the Marduks on their way to save him.
Brought to the pinnacle of the Ziggurat, Tima confronts Duke Red about whether she is a human or robot; Duke Red tells her she is a "superhuman", destined to rule the world from her throne. However, Rock, disguised as a maid, shoots Tima, exposing her circuitry. The sudden shock of realizing she is a robot causes Tima to go insane. Sitting on the throne, she orders a biological and nuclear attack on humanity as revenge. While the others flee, Kenichi tries to reason with Tima. Robots drawn by Tima's command, attack Duke Red. Rock, not wanting his father to die at the hands of a 'filthy robot', kills himself and Duke Red in a massive explosion.
As the fortress starts to collapse around them, Kenichi reaches Tima and separates her from the throne. However, Tima, seemingly lost, attempts to kill Kenichi. In the struggle, Tima falls off the tower. Kenichi tries to pull her up using one of the cables still grafted to her. As the cable begins to fray, Tima remembers the time Kenichi taught her grammar and asks Kenichi, "Who am I?" before she slips and falls to her death. The Ziggurat collapses, destroying a large part of Metropolis. The next morning, Kenichi searches the ruins and encounters a group of robots that have salvaged some of Tima's parts in an attempt to rebuild her. While Shunsaku and many other human survivors are evacuated, Kenichi chooses to remain behind and rebuild the city. Kenichi wants to create a place where humans and robots can coexist peacefully. Later, deep within the rubble of the city, a speaker plays Tima's voice saying, "Who am I?"
In a post credits image Kenichi can be seen infront of he and Tima's Robot repair shop, where a repaired Tima can be seen through the front window.
While many of the characters of Tezuka's original manga appear in the film (with a few exceptions including Dr. Yorkshire Bell), many more characters from Osamu Tezuka's Star System appear in both minor roles (Ham Egg, President Boone, and Acetylene Lamp) and major (Rock).
- Voiced by: Kei Kobayashi (Japanese), Brianne Siddall (English)
- A young boy who comes to Metropolis to aid his uncle in catching the internationally wanted criminal: Dr. Laughton. When he and his uncle find Laughton's laboratory, Kenichi helps save the mysterious Tima who emerges from the burning wreckage. Innocent and a bit naive, he tries to help Tima learn and understand the world around her, and herself as well. Kenichi is based on a character who featured in the early adventures of Tezuka's Astro Boy.
- Voiced by: Yuka Imoto (Japanese), Rebecca Forstadt (English)
- A robot modeled and named after Duke Red's deceased daughter. She is unique in that she appears human, a trait that no other robot shares. However, after she is activated, she has no memory or knowledge about who or what she is. With the help of Kenichi, she hopes to be able to find the answers to these questions. Unfortunately for her, the answers she finds are not very pleasant (the concept of a robot replacing a deceased human child had also been the original basis of Tezuka's Astro Boy). In the original manga, Tima was known as Michi, and had the ability to switch genders from a button in his/her throat.
- Voiced by: Kōki Okada (Japanese), Michael Reisz (English)
- An orphan, he was adopted by Duke Red to help fill the empty void of Duke Red's broken heart when his only child, Tima, died. However, with the notion that Tima can be brought back by building a robotic duplicate, Duke Red has since refused to acknowledge Rock as his son or return his love. Obsessed with regaining his father's affection and infuriated that Duke Red wants to give a robot the "throne" of the Ziggurat, Rock intends to kill Tima so that Duke Red will sit on the throne instead. However, his assassination attempts are foiled by Kenichi who protects Tima. Driven by his need to be accepted by Duke Red, Rock is willing to murder anyone that gets in his way. (While Rock did not feature in the original manga, Duke Red's comments about adopting him after "the last war" allude to another Tezuka manga from the same period, Nextworld, although this manga was actually released after Metropolis.)
- Duke Red
- The plutocrat who founded the Marduk, an organization with which he secretly hopes to take over Metropolis. He builds the Ziggurat with claims that it will be a modern masterpiece for the city of Metropolis. However, the Ziggurat is actually a massive weapon with which he intends to use for world domination. As part of his plan, he hopes that Tima, a robotic duplicate of his deceased daughter, will control the Ziggurat and follow along with his master plan.
- Shunsaku Ban
- A Japanese private detective who has come to Metropolis with a warrant for Dr. Laughton. He is accompanied to Metropolis by his nephew Kenichi and is assigned a robot assistant by Superintendent Notarlin. While he appears clumsy and somewhat carefree, he is actually a brilliant detective and knows more about what is going on around him than he lets on. He spends a good portion of the movie searching for Kenichi when they get separated at Laughton's laboratory.
- Makeru Butamo/Dr. Laughton
- A mad scientist who is on the run from the law for his illegal experiments and the charge of human organ trafficking. A scientific genius, he is commissioned by Duke Red to build Tima in a secret lab within Metropolis. However, Dr. Laughton has other ideas and does not want to hand his greatest creation over to Duke Red. When Rock finds his lab, he shoots Laughton and attempts to destroy everything in the lab. Trapped in the burning wreckage, Dr. Laughton is found by Detective Shunsaku Ban right before he dies. Unlike in the original manga, the film version of Laughton is a cyborg, possibly as a reference to the Fritz Lang version's Rotwang and his mechanical arm.
- Superintendent Notaarin/Notarlin
- Superintendent of the Metropolis police force, Superintendent Notarlin spends most of his time handling paperwork behind his desk in the police department. When Shunsaku Ban and Kenichi come to him with their request for the Metropolis Police's cooperation in apprehending Dr. Laughton, he unfortunately is only able to give them a robotic assistant. With the recent activity in Metropolis, he cannot spare any officers to Detective Ban's search. He simply gives them the paperwork needed to be assigned a trench-coat wearing robot to guide them around Metropolis. In the original manga, Notarlin has a much larger role, serving as a rival/comic foil to Duke Red, a role which he would later reprise in several other Tezuka manga featuring both characters including Nextworld. Notarlin's name is a joke based on the Japanese slang term "nôtarin" ("idiot," literally: "brain is insufficient").
- A robot assigned to Shunsaku Ban by Superintendent Notarlin to aid in his investigation. Amazed at the advanced technology of Metropolis, Shunsaku Ban often asks the robot questions to try and understand him a bit better. However, as robot protocol forbids him to have a human name, Shunsaku Ban addressed him as "Pero" instead of his more formal identification number 803-D-RP-DM-497-3-C (he accepts this name as it is a name more associated for pets and not humans). He eventually sacrfices himself for Shunsaku Ban later in the movie. Pero first appeared in the Astroboy manga story "The Hot Dog Corps" as a cyborg created from a dog of the same name that was once owned by Ban.
- Ham and Egg
- Ham Egg is a police officer who guards the entrance to Zone 3, a section of Metropolis that is used for power production. Entrance to Zone 3 is restricted to robots and authorized personnel only due to its dangerous factory-like atmosphere. However, when Rock insists that he gain entrance to Zone 3, Ham Egg escorts him in personally. When he witnesses Rock's attempt to assassinate Tima, he tries to stop him, only to be shot and killed intentionally by Rock. In the manga, Ham Egg is one of Duke Red's henchmen and appears more frequently.
- The leader of resentful unemployed laborers who reside in the slums of Zone 1. He and his rebel organization have a strong hatred for robots, blaming them for putting them out of work. Since Duke Red and his companies are primarily responsible for the construction and manufacturing of most, if not all, robots, Atlas hopes to lead his group to victory in displacing Duke Red and restoring jobs to the people and not the robots. Note that this Atlas has little to nothing to do with the Atlas of Astroboy, although his distinctive dreadlocks appear to have been inspired by the original manga Atlas' bizarre "headplugs".
- President Boone Marukubi
- Voiced by: Masaru Ikeda (Japanese), Richard Plantagenet (English)
- Acetylene Lamp
- General Skunk Kusai
- A military general who is in charge of the Metropolis army. While he appears to be loyal to President Boone, he is secretly working for Duke Red and the Marduk. When Duke Red begins the Coup to overthrow President Boone, Skunk shoots and kills Acetylene Lamp when he tries to stop Duke Red. After killing him, Skunk envisions a future of war and destruction, showing that his deepest desire is constant and everlasting war and death.
- Mayor Lyon
- Dr. Ponkotsu
A scientist who works within the Ziggurat and monitors its functions and operations. He is responsible for the testing and working functions of the weapon that is the true Ziggurat and reports directly to Duke Red. Dr. Ponkotsu also knows that the weapon can not be fully controlled unless Tima is able to take the "throne". He originally appeared in the same Astroboy story as Pero. Ponkotsu (literally meaning "punch-crumble") is the Japanese word for a "lemon" (a defective automobile).
A maid within Duke Red's home who is assigned the task of watching over Tima when Duke Red finds her and discovers that she is still alive. While disturbed at Tima's obsession of finding this "Kenichi", she tricks Tima into meeting a disbarred Rock after he bribes her to bring Tima to him. Like Notarlin, Emmy is also a major character from the manga who only has a brief cameo in the anime version.
In Tezuka's original manga, the story revolves around a humanoid named Mitchi, who has the ability to fly and change gender. Mitchi is pursued by Duke Red and his "Red Party" who intend to use Mitchi for destructive purposes. However, Shunsaku Ban and his nephew Kenichi find Mitchi after her creator, Dr. Charles Laughton, is killed and protect her as they search for her parents.
However, this cinematic adaptation of Tezuka's story integrates far more elements from the Fritz Lang film Metropolis. When making the original Metropolis manga, Tezuka said that the only real inspiration he got from Fritz Lang's Metropolis was a still image from the movie where a female robot was being born. In addition to adopting set designs of the original film, this version has more emphasis on a strong and pervasive theme of class struggle in a dystopian, plutocratic society and expands it to examine the relationship of robots with their human masters. (This relationship was explored by Tezuka in great detail with his popular series Astro Boy.) The anime adaptation also removes many of the more fanciful elements out of Tezuka's manga, such as a flying, gender swapping humanoid. Here, Mitchi is replaced by "Tima", who is permanently female and cannot fly.
The Japanese release of the film shows a picture after the credits depicting a shop named "Kenichi & Tima Robot Company," with Tima visible in the window (or possibly driving the truck as the person looks similar to Tima). This implies that Kenichi succeeded in rebuilding Tima and they set up the shop together. This picture was included in the English theatrical release and Blu-ray printing, though not on the DVD release.
The Metropolis soundtrack consists mainly of New Orleans-style jazz music composed by Toshiyuki Honda and features Atsushi Kimura's cover of "St. James Infirmary Blues" and the ending theme "There'll Never Be Good-Bye" by Minako "Mooki" Obata. The soundtrack album is available on King Records.
During the film's climactic scene, the song "I Can't Stop Loving You" performed by Ray Charles was used as most of the audio when the Ziggurat was destroyed, with sound effects only audible later on in the scene. The song is not included on the soundtrack album.
Metropolis is available in North America as a two disc DVD, with the second disc being a MiniDVD (called a "Pocket DVD").
Metropolis received highly positive reviews, based on 60 reviews from Rotten Tomatoes, Metropolis received an overall 87% Certified Fresh approval and Top Critics gave the movie an 82% approval rating. The site' critical consensus states that "Even though the storyline is nothing new, Metropolis is an eye-popping visual treat."