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Anime / Metropolis (2001)

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"Every epoch dreams its successor."

The 2001 Animated film by Tristar Pictures, directed by Rintaro, and animated by Madhouse. It draws as much from the classic German film Metropolis as it does from Osamu Tezuka's 1949 manga of the same name, and does not attempt to be faithful to either. However, it was rated on one film site's all-time best animated films list.

In a Zeerust future, an elderly Japanese detective and his young nephew arrive in Metropolis, the most advanced and wealthiest city in the world, on the trail of a wanted Mad Scientist and organ trafficker. Assigned a robot detective as a guide, they track the man down to a lab in the undercity just to see it destroyed by a Knight Templar with an anti-robot agenda. Out of the wreckage crawls the doctor's greatest achievement, a naked and inhumanly beautiful young girl with apparently no idea who she is, what she is, how she got there or what clothes are. The nephew and the girl then get separated from his uncle when the floor gives way.

As the film unfolds, the detective attempts to find his nephew, the nephew attempts to find out both the nature of the girl and how to escape from the undercity, the city politics take a turn for the worse, and the city's most powerful man seeks the girl as a prop in a somewhat messianic agenda.

Metropolis provides examples of:

  • 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: Makes extensive use of this for the backgrounds and scenery while keeping the characters traditionally animated.
  • Accidental Pervert: Very noticeably avoided. Tima goes without pants for a fair part of the movie, keeps sitting facing Kenichi, and he doesn't flinch or say anything. Given that he's dressed like a boy scout and seems to be something of a "boy adventurer" in the style of Tintin and his ilk, his extreme politeness doesn't feel all that weird.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: While still the Big Bad, the film's version of Duke Red has some noble aspects as opposed to his manga counterpart.
  • Adaptational Villainy: In the original manga, Dr. Laughton was a respected scientist who was protecting his robotic creation, Michi from Duke Red. In the film however, Laughton is a wanted criminal who Duke Red hired to create a robot version of his deceased daughter, Tima.
  • A God Am I: Or rather, "A Goddess I'll make!" courtesy of Duke Red who despises how humans are ruled by emotions and inferior robots, so he has Tima created as a supreme creation to rule over the world as a computer weapon with Red in charge. Doesn't turn out well.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Both in the usual sense, and in the sense that some robots are obviously sentient while others of the same model aren't.
  • Androids and Detectives: Pero and Shinsaku Ban end up forming this pair once Kenitchi goes missing. It's one of the few rare cases in which the human detective holds no prejudice towards the robotic Hypercompetent Sidekick.
  • Animation Bump: The animation of the movie is generally very smooth, but it gets even smoother with Tima's hair in that one scene where she looks up and her hair gets all floaty when it is hit by sunlight.
  • Anti-Hero: Everything Rock does is for his father's sake, whose heart he believes has been stolen away by machines and robots, even when disobeying his direct orders.
    "O ye Gods, give me courage, and strength to guard my father from machines!"
  • Anyone Can Die: Of all the major characters, only Kenichi and his uncle make it to the end credits.
  • Apocalypse How: Class 0. The destruction of the Ziggurat completely wrecks Metropolis, but there's still survivors and they will rebuild. The rest of the world is definitely in a comparatively better shape.
  • Apocalypse Maiden: If Tima would've gone through with it, the probability of humanity's survival would've been only 30%.
  • Apocalypse Wow: It's only some districts of the city including the ziggurat, but it looks awesome.
  • Artistic Age
  • Big Blackout: Tima's hack into the Ziggurat causes a blackout in the city district they're currently in, after the hack, the jerry-rigged steampunk computer exploded, for bonus points.
  • Big "NO!": As Tima falls to her death, Kenichi does this. However, in the original Japanese version, he just yells out her name.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Shinsaku Ban decides to name his Robot Buddy detective "Pero" explaining that he once had a very good dog with that same name. "Perro" is Spanish for dog.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Played straight and possibly averted, depending on the version you watch. The Ziggurat falls, Duke Red and Rock are explicitly shown dead, the city is devastated in the fallout, and poor sweet Tima slips from Kenichi's grasp right as her sense of self is returning, falling into the burning abyss. The final scene hints that Tima's parts can be reclaimed, and her spirit is still somehow broadcasting through a radio. However, there's also a final image after the credits that full-on reveals that Kenichi was somehow able to rebuild Tima, and they've opened their own robot company together. Unfortunately, despite being in the original Japanese and English theatrical releases, the image was cut from the English DVD release, for whatever stupid reason. Luckily, the image is restored in the streamed Hulu version (it was also there in the 2005 [adult swim] showing).
  • Blasphemous Boast: The boasting that the Tower of Babel in the middle of the city will be better than the original one.
  • Bloodless Carnage: There quite a few people shown to be shot, but blood is (almost) never seen and often enough they wouldn't even show bullet holes.
  • Boom, Headshot!:
    • How a robot gets finished off by Rock during his Establishing Character Moment and how Fifi is destroyed by him to allow Kenichi and Tima's escape.
    • Pero gets it from Atlas.
  • Canon Immigrant: Rock wasn't actually in the original manga. His characterization here is largely taken from his appearance in Tezuka's next major sci-fi manga after Metropolis, Nextworld.
  • Chekhov's Gun: While Laughton is dying after Rock shot him, he motions Shunsaku towards a notebook. Just before the climax, far enough along in the movie that you've probably forgotten about it, Shunsaku pulls it out of his coat after revealing the true purpose of the Ziggurat, which he figured out from Laughton's notes.
  • Circling Monologue: Rock circles Tima before knocking her out.
  • Composite Character: Tima is based on both the robot child Michi and Emmy from the original manga, though physically she looks more like Nuka from the 1980s Astro Boy anime.
  • Cool, but Impractical: The firefighting robot thingies. Of course, given how extremely cramped the streets are, a bunch of slowly-assembling but small, easy-to-transport units may actually be more efficient than an instantly-ready but cumbersome piece of equipment.
  • Cool Old Guy: While Kenichi's uncle is mostly presented as source of humor, he proves he's no pushover and even beats down Rock, even after he was injured.
  • Cosy Catastrophe: After the Ziggurat explodes, Metropolitans seem to take their new pile of rubble in stride.
  • Crapsaccharine World: A colorful, pastel city of equally plush robots who are willing to do your bidding, not to mention trustworthy people in charge. Oooh, and look, someone built a huge tower. Perfect vacation landmark, right? Until you realize what the huge tower is really for, and how corrupt the officials really are. Not to mention the massive degree of discrimination towards lower class workers who are forced to work and live in slums while also hating robots who are similarly discriminated against for taking their jobs.
  • Creator Cameo: In the score, oddly enough. There's one bit of music that features a prominent part for bass clarinet; according to the liner notes of the soundtrack, one of the bass clarinetists is Rintaro himself.
  • Death by Adaptation: As mentioned elsewhere, Tima is shown to survive in a scene not in the American version.
  • Determinator: Rock.
  • Disguised in Drag: Rock combines this with Latex Perfection in order to sneak into the Ziggurat.
  • Disney Villain Death:
    • Tima, unless you're watching a version with the post-credits picture that suggests she got rebuilt.
    • Dr. Ponkotsu indubitably dies after being thrown down a bottomless shaft by the robots invading the Ziggurat.
  • Diesel Punk: With Cyberpunk.
  • Doomsday Device: The Ziggurat is meant as a way for Metropolis to extend its military power, but in the wrong hands...
  • The Dragon: Averted. Rock appears to be set up as Duke Red's Dragon and right-hand man for the first two minutes, then they have a chilly conversation and work at cross-purposes for the rest of the movie.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Rock and one of the city officials (portrayed by Hamegg) discover Kenichi and Tima in Zone-3 and Rock starts shooting at them. Hamegg is surprised at him trying to murder children and tries to stop him as gunfire in such a necessary area like Zone-3 could potentially ruin the infrastructure of Metropolis. Rock shoots him for his troubles.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: The Zuggurat is the biggest and most imposing building in all Metropolis, on top of concealing a sunspots Super Weapon.
  • Expy: Appropriate considering the characters stem from the designs of Osamu Tezuka, each of the main characters is an expy of those featured in AstroBoy:
    • Duke Red is a blatant expy of Dr. Umataro Tenma/Dr. Boynton/Dr. Balthus from his views on his robotic ward to control mankind to his birdlike nose.
    • Tima is a blatant expy of Astro given her identity as a humanoid robot built in the image of deceased child and destined for grand schemes by the villain.
    • Rock is a blatant expy of Rock Holmes and even shares his appearance from the hairstyle and shades to his usage of firearms.
  • Fantastic Racism: In Metropolis, robots are popularly discriminated against to the point they must have special clearance to leave their designated work zones or be shot on sight by members of the the anti-robot disciplinary party funded by Duke Red known as The Marduk, like Rock.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: When Kenichi, the detective and the robot descend to the lower levels of the city, the come by a graffito that says "fuck robots!"
  • Gender Flip: The main robot of the original manga was technically able to be either male or female with the flip of a switch on their neck but spends most of the story as a boy, whereas Tima is 100% female.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Fifi takes the bullets Rock fires for Kenichi and Tima. Fifi gets better later.
    • To ensure Shunsaku's safety, Pero talks him into getting away before Atlas destroys him to begin the riot.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: Guess who had no involvement in the production of this film? At all? Of course, he was dead at the time, but... if you're gonna put Tezuka's name on the production, it should have more in common with his manga. Then again, seeing how he came to feel about his manga...
  • Job-Stealing Robot: In Metropolis, robots have become such commodity that they have replaced most human workers, who now are unemployed and living in the subterranean Zone 1, where they very much loathe robots for causing this misery.
  • Kill All Humans: Tima goes into this mode when she discovers that she's a robot, especially after she sits on the throne of power.
  • Knight Templar: Rock plays his anti-robot agenda to the end. Good thing too. Also a Jerkass and Psychotic Smirker.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • Atlas pays for shooting Pero VERY quickly, after he takes out the robot his rebellion completely flops and is himself killed off with little fanfare.
    • Duke Red is ultimately done in by both of this "children" thanks to his negligence and blind ambition: Rock constantly sabotages Duke Red's plans throughout the movie and when Tima goes berserk she obliterates any hope Duke Red had for salvaging his goals.
    • Rock himself pays for his deplorable actions and desperate attempts at pleasing Duke Red by not only dying himself but, as mentioned above, unintentionally causing the death of his father. Of course it could be subverted in this case, as Rock was well aware what manually overriding the Ziggurat would do, but deduced it was better for his father to die at his hands, than be slain by machines whom he hated.
  • Layered Metropolis: Beneath the city of Metropolis lies Zone 1, a subterranean colony where the humans that lost their job to the robots live in poverty. Beneath that there's Zone 2 which houses the power plants of Metropolis and finally Zone 3 is the sewage-handling facility.
  • Mythology Gag: Several to Fritz Lang's Metropolis:
    • Metropolis being divided in subterranean levels with impoverished people living underground is similar to the relegated working class from Lang's movie. In both films the poor are inspired to riot against the rulers of Metropolis, and both revolutions have disastrous results.
    • Rock, Duke Red, Dr. Laughton and Tima can be seen as stand-ins for Freder, Fredersen, Dr. Rotwang and Robot-Maria, with varying degrees of Adaptational Villainy for the first two and Heroism for the latter.
    • Tima awakening during the destruction of Laughton's lab is a Homage Shot to Robot-Maria opening her eyes after being given Maria's likeness.
    • In both works the Tower of Babel is brought up; Atlas compares it to the Ziggurat and in the original movie Fredersen's Evil Tower of Ominousness (which the Ziggurat is clearly inspired by) is also referred to as the "New Tower of Babel".
    • Both films see the city of Metropolis undergoing a great destruction, in the original by a great flood caused by the rebellious workers, in the anime the Ziggurat crumbling down causes a lot of property damage in the surrounding area, forcing many to flee in the ending.
  • MacGyvering: Shunsaku jerry-rigs an old television set, a rotary phone and some loose wiring. Using Tima, he's able to hack into a government power grid and pinpoint the location of his nephew Kenichi.
  • The Morlocks: Not deformed yet, but things are going badly wrong for the lower-class Metropolitans.
  • Mr. Exposition: Pero and Atlas both take this one.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Rock is essentially responsible for saving mankind by setting the Ziggurat to self-destruct and essentially frees Tima from her destructive mindset inadvertently.
  • No Communities Were Harmed: It's implied that the coastal region of Windsor, Ontario is the setting of Metropolis. This can be seen in various structures and maps of the area spread throughout the film. Then again, the high-orbit shot of Earth as the Ziggurat is test-fired clearly shows it coming from the Crimean Peninsula.
  • Oh, My Gods!: Some characters make references to "the gods", implying people in Metropolis follow a polytheistic religion. Averted with Shunsaku, who is implied to be Christian.
  • One-Word Title: Also an example of The Place, given it's named after the city that the film takes place in.
  • The Place: Also an example of One-Word Title, given it's named after the city that the film takes place in.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Doctor Lawton doesn't use human organs in his robots, because he claims they don't last very long.
  • Psycho Supporter: Rock makes some very counterproductive attempts at protecting Duke Red. He refuses to let a robot have the power which he thinks can only be used by his "father", even it means completely going against his orders.
  • Putting on the Reich: The Marduk, a party specialized in destroying robots that go outside of their Zones. Shinsaku Ban even says that they look like Fascists when asking Pero who they are.
  • Red/Green Contrast: When Rock ambushes Tima and Kenichi near Zone 1's exit, the characters are drenched in red light while the industrial background is starkly green. Kenitchi is also a heroic character who has green hair and wears a checkered green jacket, which contrasts Rock as a villain wearing red and black.
  • Reused Character Design: Tezuka's "actors" reprise their original roles from the manga, while Rock (who wasn't in the original manga) comes in to provide conflict and shoot stuff.
  • Robot Buddy: Fifi and Pero.
  • Robot Clown: Despite not doing anything harmful unlike the other robots in Metropolis that went berserk during the test of the Ziggurat's solar spots weapon, the Marduk mercilessly gun down a malfunctioning robot clown that was carrying balloons.
  • Robot Girl: Tima. She also counts as Ridiculously Human Robots, seeing as even Rock said you can't tell the difference between her and a human, also, as she thought she WAS human through most of the movie.
  • Room Full of Kenichi.
  • Scenery Gorn: The Ziggurat crumbling down and the look of the city in the aftermath the next morning.
  • Scenery Porn: In some scenes the characters are just tiny figures at the bottom of the screen, with the backgrounds given pride of place. It's not uncommon to find the backgrounds consistently more interesting than the characters and/or plot.
  • Shout-Out: The ending sequence is a pretty obvious shout-out to Dr. Strangelove.
  • Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Played With. Ray Charles' version of "I Can't Stop Loving You" plays beautifully during the destructive climax, making for an odd juxtaposition. However, when listening to the song's lyrics, it fits the sadness of the scene.
  • Stock Sound Effects: The Ziggurat weapon winding down sounds the same as the Millennium Falcon failing to make a hyperspace jump. The first shot of the robots in Metropolis going crazy in response to the test-firing is of a traffic controller ripping apart its console as it makes a stock monster roar which fans of Metroid will recognize as also being used by Kraid.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: In a very impressive sequence, Rock manually activates the Ziggurat superweapon while its still in cool-down (the equivalent of a ICBM exploding while still in its own silo), triggering the destruction of the superstructure and surrounding district. It inadvertently saves Kenichi from Tima, as she's disconnected from the systems that have taken control of her.
  • Sunglasses at Night: Rock in most of the film. This is never brought up in the movie. (It makes sense if you know the rest of Tezuka's manga works...)
  • Sympathetic Sentient Weapon: Tima is most definitely this.
  • Take My Hand!: Kenichi to Tima as he's trying to pull her to safety near the end. She doesn't.
  • Tears from a Stone: Tima starts to cry when she realizes that she's not human.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: The first thing Atlas and his worker rebellion does to fight against city corruption is shoot Pero who previously pleads to handle matters peacefully and questions the human tendency to settle disputes with mass violence before leading the revolution which leaves Metropolis and the worker class in tatters and ashes. Before his death, Atlas laments the entire revolution was a trap set by Duke Red to get rid of human opposition.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified: Subverted. While it's clear that the government here needs to be toppled, Atlas' murder of Pero and the subsequent wanton violence by the riot/rebellion shows that the "revolution" isn't all that good either and leave the city a complete mess where everyone except the top city officials are left homeless.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: While Rock is certainly a bastard and simply felt a robot didn't deserve to be in power simply due to prejudice, Tina's actions after sitting upon the throne was a case in point of why it was a bad idea in the first place. Though its justified, since Rock had made an assassination attempt against her seconds before she did.
  • Tower of Babel: The government spokesman in the intro specifically compares the Ziggurat to the Tower of Babel, stating that while the original was built in defiance of God, this one us built to honour Him instead. He's lying. It's a Super Weapon that only Tima can control.
  • Unobtainium: At the beginning of the climax, Dr. Ponkotsu is told that the generator of the "Omotanium" is going wild due to Tima taking over.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Atlas and President Boone, who are both killed down the line once their usefulness ends.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means:
    • Duke Red's motivation. He gets no Kick the Dog moments but does some rather nasty things to get on top.
    • Also applied to Atlas and his revolutionaries, who kill Pero and tear ass through Metropolis in order to topple Duke Red.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Although Rock is only Duke Red's (sort of) adopted son, his entire motivation for trying to kill Tima is to get him to love him, and only him, as his own, while hating Tima for being an artificial daughter surrogate made in the image of Duke Red's already deceased daughter.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Atlas may be violent and needlessly bigoted against robots over the problems Duke Red caused, but he's justified in wanting to overthrow him and the Marduk Party.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: After Skunk has President Boone assassinated, he grins as he imagines the future conflicts that will ensue... and then he is never seen or mentioned again.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Duke Red doesn't even care that his artificial goddess is dressed like a street person. That's a subtle bit. Also the non-protagonists treat the robots as cattle and all the sentient robots in the film end up dead—unless you count the apparently-recovered Fifi and not-totally-gone Tima. The Japanese protagonists (and possibly Atlas, despite viewing harsh treatment of the robots as necessary) are the only people that relate to the robots as sentient entities.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Tima. After getting shot and realizing that she's a robot, she takes control of immeasurably powerful technology and orders the extinction of humanity.
  • Would Hurt a Child: His psychotic hunt to destroy the young girl-looking Tima aside, Rock doesn't care about Kenichi's safety as he shoots towards him during the chase. Later Kenichi even gets a knee to the stomach from Rock.
  • Yandere: Depending on what you think Tima was trying to do at the very end.
  • You Are a Credit to Your Race:
    "From now on, your name is Pero!"
    "Wasn't that your dog's name?
    "So? That was a great dog!"
    • Probably unintentional, as this is actually a Mythology Gag. The character first appeared in an Astro Boy story, where instead of being a straight robot he was a cyborg created from the nervous system of a dog due to his creators wanting an army of killer robots but were unable to get their hands on AI that wasn't Three Laws-Compliant.

Alternative Title(s): Metropolis