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Japanese theatrical poster
Directed byKatsuhiro Otomo
Screenplay by
  • Sadayuki Murai
  • Katsuhiro Otomo[1]
Story byKatsuhiro Otomo[1]
Produced by
  • Shinji Komori
  • Hideyuki Tomioka[1]
CinematographyMitsuhiro Satô
Edited byTakeshi Seyama[2]
Music bySteve Jablonsky
Distributed byToho
Release date
  • July 17, 2004 (2004-07-17) (Japan)
Running time
126 minutes[2]
Budget¥2.4 billion ($26 million)
Box office$18.9 million

Steamboy (Japanese: スチームボーイ, Hepburn: Suchīmubōi) is a 2004 Japanese animated steampunk action film produced by Sunrise and directed and co-written by Katsuhiro Otomo, his second major anime release as a director, following Akira (1988). The film was released in Japan by Toho on July 17, 2004.

Steamboy was the most expensive Japanese anime film up until then with a ¥2.4 billion ($26 million) production budget, having been in production for ten years and utilizing more than 180,000 drawings and 440 CG cuts.


In 1863, where an alternate nineteenth century Europe has made tremendous strides in steam-powered technologies, scientist Lloyd Steam and his son, Edward "Eddy" Steam, have succeeded in discovering a pure mineral water in Iceland which they believe can be harnessed as a nearly unlimited power source for steam engines. An experiment in Russian Alaska goes terribly wrong, with Eddy being engulfed in freezing gases, but results in the creation of a spherical device. Three years later, Lloyd sends the device, along with its schematics, to his grandson (and Eddy's son), James Ray Steam, who works as a maintenance boy in Manchester, England, along with instructions to guard it. Members of "The O'Hara Foundation" arrive and attempt to steal the sphere, but Lloyd appears, stating that the device killed Eddy and bids Ray to flee and deliver the device to Robert Stephenson. After fleeing the O'Hara agents on his personal steam-powered monowheel, Ray briefly meets Stephenson on a train headed into Manchester, but Ray, along with the device, are captured by O'Hara agents in a dirigible.

Ray is taken to London, where preparations are being made for the 1866 Great Exhibition, and meets Scarlett O'Hara St Johns, the spoiled granddaughter of the Foundation's head chairman, Charles O'Hara St Johns. He also discovers Eddy, alive but severely scarred and mechanized from his injuries in Alaska, working with O'Hara on the "Steam Castle"; an elaborate facility entirely powered by three devices called "Steam Balls", one of which was the device sent to Ray. The latter is enamored both by the castle, and his father's vision of using it to enlighten mankind, and volunteers to help complete the project. He also begins developing a love/hate friendship with Scarlett, who seems to be attracted to him. Ray encounters Lloyd again, who was captured by O'Hara's henchmen, but has escaped from his cell and is attempting to sabotage the castle, revealing that the Foundation's true intentions for the exhibition is to sell weapons of war. Lloyd shows Ray a hidden armory filled with massive steam-powered war machines built by Eddy, and Ray struggles with the moral dichotomy of being a scientist — of how to contribute to the world without giving into vanity, leaving him conflicted as to whether to side with Lloyd or Edward, who themselves have become estranged.

Lloyd and Ray reach the core of the castle and remove one of the Steam Balls, but Lloyd is shot and recaptured by O'Hara, as Ray escapes with the device. The next morning, the exhibition is underway, and Ray brings the ball to Stephenson, giving him the ball and the knowledge he acquired in captivity. The British military attempts to arrest Eddy, but Eddy unleashes his steam powered weapons on the soldiers, turning the exhibition into a battlefield. When Stephenson uses the Steam Ball to enhance his own company's tanks, Ray realizes that he had no better intentions than the Foundation. Eager to show the world the castle's true power, Eddy orders it to be prematurely activated, causing the structure to rise and shed its decorative outer shell, revealing it to be a monstrous floating fortress. As the Royal Navy and Stephenson attempt to defend London from the floating fortress, Ray steals the Steam Ball back and uses it to create a makeshift aircraft to re-board the fortress. Ray meets Eddy, Scarlett, and Lloyd in the castle's control room, where Lloyd confronts Eddy about his actions, before shooting him in a fit of rage, but Eddy falls into a cloud of steam and disappears.

With the castle steered off course, the structure has become unstable and threatens to explode over the city. As Lloyd and Ray rush to redirect the castle over the Thames, Eddy, whose metal body repelled the gunshot, re-emerges from the steam and assists them, having realized his folly. Ray re-installs the stolen steam ball, and makes his way to the control room to make a final escape with Scarlett on an emergency jetpack, while Eddy and Lloyd reconcile and halt the machine over the river and escape as well. The castle detonates in a spectacular explosion, sparing the city from destruction. The ending montage reveals Ray returning home, and later becoming a global superhero using the jetpack gear from the castle; Lloyd introducing Ray to electricity and finally passing away; Eddy founding a corporate conglomerate; Scarlett maturing and becoming a famous pilot, and a war being fought with paratroopers and zeppelins.


James Ray Steam (ジェームス・レイ・スチム, Jēmusu Rei Suchimu)
The main character, a 13-year-old boy living in Manchester, is an inventor following the paths of his father and grandfather. He possesses a mechanical talent that was inherited from his family, and demonstrates this in at least two instances by building a steam-powered monowheel and a steam-propelled flying device. He has a youthful idealism and sincerely dislikes the employment of technology for harmful purposes. During the film his motivations are alternately swayed by the influences of his father and grandfather.
Scarlett O'Hara St. Johns (スカーレット・オハラ・セントジョーンズ, Sukāretto Ohara Sentojōnzu)
Selfish, spoiled, misguided, yet whimsical and not completely heartless; she is the American 14-year-old granddaughter of the chairman of the O'Hara Foundation. She matures as a result of her encounter with Ray. Her character is based upon the fictional character of the same name, from the novel Gone with the Wind.
Lloyd Steam (ロイド・スチム, Roido Suchimu)
Ray's idealistic grandfather. The original conceiver of the Steamball, which he succeeds in developing with his son Edward. Lloyd's pursuit of progress without much regards to safety and ignorance of Eddy's pleading directly leads to his son's disfigurement. A difference of opinions with his son Edward leads to friction between them. While Edward believes that science is an instrument of power, Lloyd simply wishes to use it to help people. They both develop distinctly different visions for their ultimate invention, the Steam Castle. It is later revealed that Lloyd intended the Steam Castle to be a sort of flying amusement park, but Eddy scoffed at such a premise, denouncing it as a "fairy tale vision". Edward instead built the Steam Castle as a flying military fortress.
Edward Steam (Eddy) (エドワード・スチム(エディ), Edowādo Suchimu (Edi))
Ray's father. The accident that occurred in the development of the Steamball left Edward in a state where he needed to have machinery replace some of his body, including his right arm and parts of his legs. It left him not only physically disfigured, but it severely twisted his morals as well, driving him to believe that science is an expression of mankind's ultimate power. Edward's father calls him Eddy. He uses the Foundation and the Exhibition as a springboard to launch his ultimate invention: a monstrous, flying war machine called the Steam Castle.
Robert Stephenson (ロバート・スチーブンスン, Robāto Suchībunsun)
Edward and Lloyd Steam's friend and rival, a major player in the Industrial Revolution. He claims that he wishes to use the Steam Ball for the good of the British Empire, but exactly how he plans to do it is questionable. Possibly based upon the real-life Robert Stephenson.
David (デイビッド, Deibiddo)
Young, talented engineer and Robert Stephenson's loyal right hand. His kindness does not betray a thirsty ambition.
Archibald Simon (アーチボルド・サイモン, Āchiborudo Saimon)
The O'Hara Foundation's chairman's representative, whose duties also seems to be Miss Scarlett's caretaker and personal servant; he is overweight and wears glasses. Grossly obsessed with money, he continues to market his wares even when his life is in danger, with comical results.
Alfred Smith (アルフレッド・スミス, Arufureddo Sumisu)
The smarter of the two O'Hara thugs, Alfred works with Jason in trying to steal the Steamball. He outlives his oafish companion, and seems to hate Ray even more. He, along with Jason, performs much of Simon's dirty work. The two of them capture Ray and bring him to London, and later attempt to kill him. Alfred does so by trying to smash him with a construction crane, but Ray deftly avoids it, causing it to slam into Alfred instead.
Jason (ジェイソン, Jeison)
  • Voiced by: Tetsu Inada (Japanese); David S. Lee (English)
One of the men working in the O'Hara Foundation in the United States of America. Jason and Alfred were the ones that want to get the Steamball. However, Ray Steam is kidnapped. He represents the more brutish half of the two O'Hara thugs, and engages in a vicious aerial battle with Ray toward the end of the movie.
Ray's Mother (レイの母親, Rei no Hahaoya)
Ray's mother who volunteers as a teacher for the neighbouring children (as seen at the beginning of the movie).
Emma (エマ, Ema)
A friend of Ray's.
Thomas (トーマス, Tōmasu)
Emma's brother.
The Admiral
Highly decorated and a Knight of the Order of the Garter, the Admiral is Robert Stephenson's main point of contact with the British Government. The Admiral is rather set in his ways, believing that men, not machines, fight wars. He displays a stereotypically British style of composure, calmly taking afternoon tea on the deck of his flagship while a battle rages nearby.


Katsuhiro Otomo first completed a proposal of Steamboy as an original video animation of three 40-minute episodes on June 30, 1994. The pilot storyboard was completed in July of the following year.[3] The film was in production for ten years and utilized more than 180,000 drawings and 440 CG cuts.[4] It had a production budget of ¥2.4 billion,[5] then equivalent to $26,000,000 (equivalent to $42,000,000 in 2023).[6] This made it the most expensive Japanese anime film up until then,[7][8] surpassing Otomo's Metropolis (2001).[7]


The Japanese release of Steamboy featured the voices of Anne Suzuki, Manami Konishi and Masane Tsukayama. The United States release, held in a limited number of U.S. theaters on March 18, 2005, and expanded to additional theaters on March 25, was released in two formats: a subtitled release featured in fewer cinemas, and an English dubbed version cut down by 15 minutes that featured the voices of Anna Paquin, Alfred Molina, and Patrick Stewart.

Steamboy was distributed across Japan by Toho and English regions by Sony's Triumph Films subsidiary. The VHS and DVD was released in Japan on April 15, 2005, in Australia on June 22, 2005, the USA on July 26, 2005, and the UK on March 27, 2006. Both the edited English version and the original Japanese version were made available on DVD, with the longer version being sold as the Director's Cut. The UK Blu-ray/DVD combo version of the film is the original, full length version. However, it has been misprinted as the cut down version of the film. The trailer and DVD menu both make use of the song "Full Force" by John Powell.

Video game[edit]

Steamboy was later adapted into a video game for the PlayStation 2 in Japan by Bandai. (Development by Cavia and SIMS)


Steamboy was released in Japan on July 17, 2004, alongside Pokémon: Destiny Deoxys where it was distributed by Toho.[2] The film was released in the United States by Triumph Films with an English-language dub on March 18, 2005, prior to this, TriStar Pictures was going to release the movie.[2] The film was released to home video in the United States by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (via Triumph Films and Destination Films) with an English-language dub and the original Japanese version with English subtitles on July 26, 2005.[2]


Box office[edit]

In Japan, the film grossed ¥1.16 billion, making it the 18th highest-grossing domestic film of 2004.[9] The film was not a box office success in the United States, where it grossed $468,867 in 2005.[10][11]

According to the reviewer KJB at IGN this could be due to the marketing methods used in the United States. Steamboy could have had a larger Western audience, but due to the limited release, that was not able to happen. "Steamboy is one of those few anime films that would be able to play to a wide audience in the United States. Instead, the film is getting a limited release through Sony's smaller label, skipping some cities entirely and only playing in smaller art houses in many of the cities that are getting the film."[12]

Critical response[edit]

Steamboy was the 2004 recipient of Best Animated Feature Film at the Sitges - Catalan International Film Festival.[13] The film received overall positive reviews from reviewers.[14][15][16][12][17][18] Stephen Hunter of The Washington Post states, "the movie turns out to be one of those science-fiction pieces that is drawn from a peculiar moment in science, so the fiction has a historical sense to it. Steamboy clearly means to be a critique of Western culture: It uses issues such as industrialism, domination, mass destruction, ambition and despotism as a background to what feels like a boys' book adventure".[19]

Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gave Steamboy a rating of 60% based on 93 reviews, and an average rating of 6.1/10, with the site's consensus "The story isn't the greatest, but there's an abundance of sci-fi eye candy to compensate."[20] Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 66 out of 100, based on 32 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Galbraith IV 2008, p. 432.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Galbraith IV 2008, p. 433.
  3. ^ "History". Steamboy (official site). Toho. Retrieved September 25, 2021.
  4. ^ "Steamboy Sony Pictures Home Entertainment page". Sonypictures.com. Archived from the original on January 25, 2010. Retrieved September 25, 2021.
  5. ^ "Introduction". Steamboy (official site). Toho. Retrieved February 25, 2020.
  6. ^ "Steamboy". THEM Anime Reviews. 2005. Retrieved September 25, 2021.
  7. ^ a b Isao Taniguchi; Hajime Asō (June 2017). 図解入門業界研究最新アニメ業界の動向とカラクリがよ〜くわかる本 [Introductory Illustrated Industry Research A book that gives a good understanding of the latest trends and karakuri in the animation industry] (in Japanese) (2nd ed.). Japan: 秀和システム (Shuwa System). p. 75. ISBN 978-4-7980-5038-6.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  8. ^ Leyland, Matthew (November 26, 2005). "Steamboy". BBC. Retrieved September 25, 2021.
  9. ^ "MOVIES WITH BOX OFFICE GROSS RECEIOPTS EXCEEDING 1 BILLION YEN". Eiren. Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan. 2004. Retrieved February 28, 2020.
  10. ^ "The Anime Biz". Bloomberg. June 26, 2005. Retrieved February 28, 2020.
  11. ^ "Steamboy (2005)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. April 21, 2005. Retrieved February 28, 2020.
  12. ^ a b KJB (March 17, 2005). "Steamboy". IGN. Archived from the original on February 26, 2012. Retrieved March 17, 2005.
  13. ^ Awards for Steamboy, IMDB
  14. ^ Bertschy, Zac (July 21, 2004). "Steamboy - Review". Anime News Network. Retrieved July 21, 2004.
  15. ^ "Steamboy :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews". Rogerebert.suntimes.com. March 18, 2005. Retrieved March 18, 2005.
  16. ^ "Another STEAMBOY Review Comes Rolling In!! - Ain't It Cool News: The best in movie, TV, DVD, and comic book news". Aintitcool. October 19, 2004. Retrieved October 19, 2004.
  17. ^ Martel, Ned (March 18, 2005). "Machine-Age Gadgets in a Space-Age Tale". The New York Times. Retrieved March 18, 2005.
  18. ^ "Steamboy Movie Review (2004) from Channel 4 Film". Channel4. Retrieved March 18, 2005.
  19. ^ Hunter, Stephen (March 25, 2005). "'Steamboy': Anime Powered By Hot Air". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 25, 2005.
  20. ^ Steamboy, Rotten Tomatoes, retrieved January 23, 2023
  21. ^ "Steamboy". Metacritic.


External links[edit]