Film review: Steamboy (2004) by Katsuhiro Otomo

“Akira” – repeatedly claimed as one of many biggest anime movies of all time – has accomplished little to assist the gross sales of its followup movie, “Steamboy.” Katsuhiro Otomo’s equally monumental second characteristic doubly hit the books as one of the crucial costly animated motion pictures made to this point. With a finances of two.4 billion Yen ($26 million USD), this bold manufacturing value over 180,000 drawings, 440 CG cuts, and round ten years of manufacturing for a 2-hour manufacturing. 

Evidently, it was epic

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Like “Akira,” “Steamboy” tells one other cautionary story of mass destruction. This time, nevertheless, the movie takes place in Britain on the peak of the Victorian period. Right here, the movie begins on the coronary heart of the Industrial Revolution: Manchester. The movie opens when the 13-year-old James Ray Steam (Anne Suzuki) receives a mysterious bundle from his grandfather. Apparently, an accompanying letter says, this unwieldy contraption is a “steam ball” — a highly-pressurized vitality supply that would change the course of producing historical past. The steam ball can’t fall into the incorrect fingers, the letter warns, or else it may very well be used for excellent evil… because the members of the O’Hara Basis, a global weapons distributor, have already found out. Over the course of per week, Ray finds himself thrown into the guts of the fray within the nation’s capital. He should conquer a transferring steam fort, struggle off big robots, and navigate the 1851 Nice Exhibition to save lots of London from its demise.   

The straightforward comparability is, after all, Studio Ghibli’s “Howl’s Transferring Fort” — one other English steampunk fiction launched in the identical yr. Whereas Hayao Miyazaki relishes in a contact of fantasy and wizardry, nevertheless, Otomo sticks to the magic of engineering. Like in “Howl,” every little thing within this automated beast feels alive: the gears churn and the pipes whistle, and it nearly appears to maneuver autonomously. In “Steamboy,” nevertheless, all of that is due to its human overseers quite than trickery. People, not machines, form world historical past. 

On this observe, Otomo is extraordinarily beneficiant together with his coloration scheme. In comparison with “Howl’s” extra pastel and pure coloration palette, Otomo polishes and shines every of his metal-plated machines. The sheer magnitude of steel, as such, doesn’t bore the attention with a boring palette of greys and blacks. Every knob appears to twinkle within the cameralight; every combating robot-body exudes deliberate terror. On this re-imagined England that feels some components “Terminator,” some components “Animatrix,” and nonetheless different components “Frankenstein,” Otomo efficiently builds a horror out of sheer innovation. 

The movie is equally spectacular due to Otomo’s stereoscopic imaginative and prescient, as properly. He doesn’t shrink back from drawing out the whole lot of London metropolis; in truth, he appears to take pleasure in it. Along with photorealistic renderings of postcard places — like Tower Bridge, Massive Ben, and naturally, the Crystal Palace itself — Otomo adorns the display screen with total maps of the metropolis. This, along with the movie’s cautious consideration to every individually transferring layer, contributes to the deep depth of subject. The camerawork nearly delivers an impact much like that of “Assault on Titan” – the place, due to its sheer 360 scope, the added CG elements don’t look unnatural in any respect. 

Steve Jablonsky’s rating solely provides to Otomo’s steampunk saga. It swells and trumpets, sidestepping the piano rating extra typical to lower-budget anime movies. On this magnificent sound design, Jablonsky follows Otomo’s lead: that is as a lot a live-action movie as anything.

Admittedly, I watched “Steamboy” on AppleTV+, the place solely English voice-over was out there. Surprisingly, the dubs go well with the movie as properly. Whoever selected the English solid did a beautiful job, accounting for regional and sophistication accents. Kari Wahlgren’s Scarlett O’Hara St. Jones strikes the proper pitch of being simply as snooty and posh without delay. Different mega-stars, together with Patrick Stewart and Alfred Molina, carry out naturally as properly of their respective paternal roles. 

All issues thought-about, “Steamboy” is simply as a lot a masterwork as “Akira” — solely with higher know-how and a stronger sense of morality. It’s really a disgrace to think about how this characteristic has in some way eluded the eye of Western viewers for thus lengthy. Go watch this movie (on a giant display screen) in case you haven’t already! 

“Steamboy” can now be discovered on AppleTV+ for $3.99. This assessment is a part of the month-to-month anime tribute at Asian Film Pulse. 

TagsAkira Howl’s Transferring Fort Kari Wahlgren Katsuhiro Otomo Steamboy Steve Jablonsky



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