Metropolis (2001 film)

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Metropolisanime poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRintaro
Produced by
Screenplay byKatsuhiro Otomo
Based onMetropolis
by Osamu Tezuka
Music byToshiyuki Honda
CinematographyHitoshi Yamaguchi
Distributed byToho
Release date
  • May 26, 2001 (2001-05-26)
Running time
113 minutes
Budget$15 million (¥1 billion)[1][2]
Box office¥750 million (Japan)
$4 million (North America)[3]

Metropolis (メトロポリス, Metoroporisu) is a 2001 Japanese animated science fiction drama film based upon Osamu Tezuka's 1949 manga of the same name. The film was directed by Rintaro, written by Katsuhiro Otomo, and produced by Madhouse, with conceptual support from Tezuka Productions.


Humans and robots coexist in the futuristic city of Metropolis, although robots are discriminated against and segregated to the city's lower levels. A lot of Metropolis' human population are unemployed and deprived, and many people blame the robots for taking their jobs.

Duke Red, the unofficial ruler of Metropolis, has overseen the construction of a massive skyscraper called the Ziggurat, which he claims will allow mankind to 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 adopted son and the head of the Marduk Party, a paramilitary organization whose aim is to promote anti-robot sentiments. Private detective Shunsaku Ban and his nephew Kenichi travel to Metropolis to arrest Dr. Laughton, a mad scientist wanted for organ trafficking. Unknown to Shunsaku, Duke Red has hired Laughton to build an advanced robot modeled and named after Red's deceased daughter Tima. Red intends for Tima to function as a central control unit for a powerful secret weapon hidden in the Ziggurat. However, Rock learns of Tima's existence and, not wanting a robot to overshadow Red, shoots Laughton and sets fire to his laboratory.

Shunsaku comes across the burning laboratory and discovers the dying Laughton, who gives Shunsaku his notebook. Meanwhile, Kenichi 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 how to speak. Neither are aware she is a robot. The two are hunted relentlessly by Rock and his subordinates, and encounter a group of unemployed human laborers who stage a revolution against Red.

The president and the mayor of Metropolis try to use the revolution to overthrow Red and gain control of Metropolis, but they are assassinated by the president's top military commander, General Kusai Skunk, who has sided with Red. The duke then 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 reveals Tima to be a robot. Rock, however, is disowned by Red and stripped of his command of the Marduks for attempting to kill Tima. Duke Red takes Tima away to the Ziggurat.

Still determined to dispose of Tima and regain his father's affection, 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 Kenichi is being held in the Ziggurat, but are then captured by Duke Red and the Marduks on their way to save him. Brought to the top of the Ziggurat, Tima confronts Duke Red about whether she is a human or robot. Duke Red tells her she is a "superhuman" and destined to rule the world from her throne. Disguised as a maid, Rock then shoots Tima, exposing her circuitry.

The sudden shock of realizing she is a robot causes Tima to go insane. She proceeds to sit on the throne, where she orders a biological and nuclear attack on humanity. While the others flee, Kenichi tries to reason with Tima. Robots drawn by Tima's command attack Duke Red. Not wanting his father to die at the hands of "filthy robots", Rock kills himself and Duke Red in a massive explosion. As the Ziggurat starts to collapse around them, Kenichi finally reaches Tima and separates her from the throne. Seemingly lost, Tima tries to kill Kenichi, but falls off the tower in the struggle. Out of love for her, Kenichi tries to save Tima and 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 language and asks Kenichi, "Who am I?", before she loses her grip and falls to her presumed death. The Ziggurat collapses, destroying a large part of Metropolis.

In the aftermath, Kenichi searches the ruins and discovers a group of robots have salvaged some of Tima's parts in an effort to rebuild her. While Shunsaku and many other human survivors are evacuated, Kenichi chooses to remain behind; he eventually rebuilds Tima and opens a robot workshop.

Divergence between manga and anime[edit]

Tezuka's original manga centers around the artificial humanoid Mitchi, who has the ability to fly and change sex and who is pursued by Duke Red and his Red Party who intend to use Mitchi for destructive purposes. 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. Unlike Tima's desire to be human, the cause for Mitchi's destructive rampage in the manga's climax is the revelation that, as a robot, she does not have parents.

The 2001 film incorporates more elements from the Fritz Lang film Metropolis.[4] When making the original Metropolis manga, Tezuka said that the only inspiration he got from Fritz Lang's Metropolis was a still image from the film where a female robot was being born.[5] In addition to adopting set designs of the original film, the 2001 film 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. In this version Kenichi is an assistant to his uncle, and he forms a very strong friendship with Tima even though neither know she's a robot. Tima and Kenichi seem to care for each other deeply, as seen when Tima is worried about Kenichi when he's unconscious. Kenichi even goes so far as to remove Tima from the throne in an effort to save her and not allow her to become a weapon of evil. Tima was taught language by Kenichi and that she was someone unique. She also considered him her only family because he was kind to her and protected her; it seems that she loved Kenichi very much. It can be assumed that Kenichi fell in love with Tima, shown in many scenes when he blushes when he sees her writing his name so she wouldn't forget him. Kenichi didn't seem to care if Tima was robot or not, showing that he was willing to rescue her because of how much he cared for Tima. Tima only remembered Kenichi when he tried to save her because of everything he taught her. Tima's relationship with Kenichi ends, however, when Tima accepts her identity as a robot over that of a female human, triggering a robot revolution.[6]

Duke Red is shown to be a cruel and evil man both as a leader and father; it is shown many times that he does not care about Rock or consider him his son even though he adopted him; the character Rock is also a deviation from the manga.[7] He only sees Tima as a weapon to destroy humanity and even considers Tima and Rock inferior to him and anyone who is loyal to him. While his real daughter died and was also named Tima, he only rebuilt her humanoid self just to use her, and has no regard or affection for what she needs and ignores her questions about her being human or not, showing that he does not care if Tima feels emotions or not.

Rock wasn't in the original manga, and according to the writer of the film, he was added to "keep Tezuka's science fiction adventure style in the movie, while also adding depth to the story at the same time." Rock is meant to represent the dark side of humanity, and the negative emotions associated with those aspects [8]

The film's Ziggurat is a combination of the New Tower of Babel from Lang's original film and the Cathedral of the manga.[9]

Portrayal of robots[edit]

The Shinto religion has a delineation between the animate and inanimate. Shinto kami can be spirits, humans, objects, or in this case, robots. Therefore, robots are viewed with a favorable view both in the manga and in the film, but especially in the film, where there is a nearly equal number of robot and human characters. Most humans, like Kenichi and Shinsaku Ban, tend to be sympathetic to robots, causing the Marduks and their hostile attitude toward robots to be viewed as antagonistic by the audience.[7]


Character name Japanese voice actor English dubbing actor
Kenichi (ケンイチ) Kei Kobayashi Brianne Siddall[10][self-published source]
Tima (ティマ) Yuka Imoto Rebecca Forstadt[10]
Shinsaku Ban (伴俊作) Kōsei Tomita Tony Pope
Rock (ロック) Hiroaki Okada Michael Reisz[10]
Duke Red (レッド公) Tarô Ishida Jamieson Price[10]
Pero (ペロ) Norio Wakamoto Dave Mallow
Atlas (アトラス) Norihiro Inoue Scott Weinger
President Boone (ブーン大統領) Masaru Ikeda Richard Plantagenet[10]
Announcement Voice Mary Elizabeth McGlynn
Kusai Skunk (スカンク) Toshio Furukawa Dan Woren
Doctor Ponkotsu (ポンコッツ博士) Takeshi Aono Doug Stone
Doctor Laughton (ロートン博士) Junpei Takiguchi Simon Prescott[10]
Supt. Notarlin (ノタアリン) Shun Yashiro William Frederick Knight
Acetylene Lamp (アセチレン・ランプ) Shigeru Chiba Steven Blum
Fifi (フィフィ) Rikako Aikawa
Emmy (エンミィ) Mami Koyama Barbara Goodson
Mayor Lyon (リヨン) Takaya Hashi Peter Spellos
Ham Egg (ハムエッグ) Masashi Ebara Robert Axelrod


Osamu Tezuka had originally derived inspiration from Fritz Lang's 1927 German silent science fiction film of the same name, despite his not actually having seen it. The manga and the Lang film do not share plot elements. The 2001 film borrowed from Lang's 1927 original motion picture more directly and incorporated plot elements from it.

During the days of Mushi Productions, Hayashi asked Tezuka if he wanted to let him make a feature based on the manga, but immediately rejected the idea.[8]

The film took five years to create.[8]


Metropolis – Original Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedMay 23, 2001 (2001-05-23)
GenreFilm score
LabelKing Records
ProducerToshiyuki Honda

The Metropolis soundtrack consists mainly of New Orleans-style jazz music and orchestral score composed by Toshiyuki Honda and features Atsuki 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 was not included on the soundtrack album.


The film was first released in Japan on May 26, 2001. When it was released in the US and other foreign countries by TriStar Pictures and Destination Films it made a total of $4,035,192. In the United States, the film 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. It was also one of the first anime films to be submitted for consideration for Best Animated Film at the Academy Awards.

Metropolis was first released on VHS, and is now available in North America as both a 2-disc DVD, with the second disc being a MiniDVD (called a "Pocket DVD"), and a Blu-ray.

In both the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, Eureka Entertainment acquired the film's distribution rights[11] as a means to release the film on Blu-ray in both countries. The UK & Ireland Blu-ray was released on January 16, 2017.

Toho-Towa Distribution, the foreign film distribution division of the film's original Japanese distributor, Toho, has handled Japanese distribution of the 1927 version of Metropolis.[12]


Metropolis received highly positive reviews: based on 65 reviews from Rotten Tomatoes, Metropolis received an overall 86% Certified Fresh approval rating. The site's critical consensus states that "A remarkable technical achievement, Metropolis' eye-popping visuals more than compensate for its relatively routine story."[13][14][15] Film critic Roger Ebert, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, gave Metropolis a 4/4, calling it "one of the best animated films I have ever seen."[16]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Appellate Judge Mike Pinsky (April 23, 2002). "DVD Verdict Review - Metropolis (2001)". DVD Verdict. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
  2. ^ Sharp, Jasper (May 13, 2014). "10 great anime films". British Film Institute. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
  3. ^ "Metropolis (2002) (2002)". Box Office Mojo. August 28, 2002. Retrieved May 25, 2013.
  4. ^ A. O. Scott (January 25, 2002). "FILM REVIEW; Dark Doings Proliferate In a World of Vivid Colors". New York Times. Retrieved September 1, 2012.
  5. ^ Explanation section on the Metropolis manga section of TezukaOsamu@World Accessed on June 5, 2007. Archived March 12, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Park, Jane Chi Hyun (2005). "Stylistic Crossings: Cyberpunk Impulses in Anime". World Literature Today. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma. 79 (3/4): 63. doi:10.2307/40158943. JSTOR 40158943.
  7. ^ a b Lee, Makela (2008). From Metropolis to Metoroporisu: The Changing Role of the Robot in Japanese and Western Cinema, in Japanese Visual Culture by Mark MacWilliams.. M.E. Sharpe. pp. 105–110. ISBN 978-0-7656-1601-2.
  8. ^ a b c Animax Special- The Making of Metropolis (DVD bonus feature). 2002.
  9. ^ Bird, Lawrence (2008). "States of Emergency: Urban Space and the Robotic Body in the "Metropolis" Tales". Mechademia. University of Minnesota Press. 3, Limits of The Human: 22. JSTOR 41510907.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Bolam, Sarah Miles (2011). Fictional Presidential Films: A Comprehensive Filmography of Portrayals from 1930 to 2011. Xlibris Corporation. p. 249. ISBN 9781462893195.
  11. ^ "Eureka Entertainment Acquires British & Irish Distribution Rights to Rintaro's Metropolis". Fandom Post. Retrieved August 22, 2016.
  12. ^ "Profile". Toho-towa.
  13. ^ "Metropolis (Metoroporisu)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 1, 2012.
  14. ^ "Metropolis : DVD Talk Review of the DVD Video". Retrieved September 1, 2012.
  15. ^ A. O. Scott (January 25, 2002). "Movie Review - Metropolis - FILM REVIEW; Dark Doings Proliferate In a World of Vivid Colors -". Retrieved September 1, 2012.
  16. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Metropolis Movie Review & Film Summary".

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