Metropolis shares its title with Fritz Langs silent classic Metropolis (1927), although is actually based on Osamu Tezukas manga written back in 1949 (which was written when Tezuka had only seen a single still from the still). Nevertheless, the film has definitely been construed as a modern version of Langs Metropolis in both films, there is a city master who lives in a tower far above the masses toiling in the citys bowels. There is an android girl constructed by a mad scientist on orders from the master of the city and a hero from the upper echelons who falls in love with the girl. And the masses naturally rise up in rebellion against the robots and the city comes falling down at the climax. Rintaros Metropolis even retains the symbolic comparison Fritz Lang made between the towers of the city and the Tower of Babel. Of course, this is also a post-Blade Runner (1982), post-Akira, post-William Gibson Metropolis that has been updated to the world of the internet, anime-styled transcendental mass destruction and the densely crowded future cityscapes of Cyberpunk imagery.
What is utterly stunning about Metropolis is its backgrounds. The film constructs a unique retro look for the future, as though the clock had been wound back and it was a vision of Cyberpunk/Blade Runner that had been made in the grand era of Art Deco. It is a film where the background is almost a character in itself. The artistic detail that has gone into this is amazing teeming street scenes, terraces filled with dozens of tiny individually milling characters. Or how each building or section of the background seems to come lit and painted a different colour, or the scenes of the ruined city in the aftermath of the climax where it seems as though the animation artists were determined to use every colour of the rainbow all at once within each frame. There are times the density of the visual design almost becomes overwhelming like where the Japanese detective arrives at the police office and the giant window behind the desk is filled by a stunningly detailed whale swimming past, followed by an equally exquisitely detailed dirigible, images that have such crystalline clarity that the pure awe of them distracts from what the actual exchange in the foreground is about.
Somewhat at odds with such densely beautiful backgrounds comes the depiction of the characters with classically anime-styled large over-exaggerated eyes. The effect is akin to an episode of Sailor Moon (1995-2000) having been crossbred with Blade Runner the detective hero Kenichi, for example, looks as though he is in his pre-teens. Consummate with the stylized 40s era retro-future look, Metropolis also has a swing score (which features director Rintaro on bass clarinet). This is none the more effective than at the climax where the requisite mass destruction comes eccentrically yet hauntingly scored to Don Gibsons I Cant Stop Loving You (1957). The plot is complex with numerous different factions running about where it is not always clear what is happening. Nevertheless, Metropolis is an extraordinary film, one where Rintaros work has made an extraordinary leap from his previous middle-of-the-road light anime pop films to create a genre landmark.
Rintaros other films are:- Galaxy Express 999 (1979), Adieu, Galaxy Express 999 (1981), Harmageddon (1983), one episode of the anthology Neo-Tokyo (1987), Doomed Megalopolis (1991), X (1996), the 13-part OVA mini-series Space Pirate Captain Harlock: The Endless Odyssey (2002) and Yona Yona Penguin (2009).
(Winner for Best Production Design at this sites Best of 2001 Awards).