Promotional poster for the Japanese release
|Directed by||Katsuhiro Otomo|
|Story by||Katsuhiro Otomo|
|Music by||Steve Jablonsky|
|Edited by||Takeshi Seyama|
|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, directed and co-written by Katsuhiro Otomo, his second major anime release, following Akira. The film was released in Japan on July 17, 2004. Steamboy is one of the most expensive Japanese animated movies made to date. Additionally, the film was in production for ten years and utilized more than 180,000 drawings and 440 CG cuts.
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In 1863, where an alternate nineteenth century Europe has made tremendous strides in steam-powered technologies, scientist Lloyd Steam and his son Edward have succeeded in discovering a pure mineral water in Iceland which believe can be harnessed as a nearly unlimited power source for steam engines. An experiment in Russian Alaska goes terribly wrong, with Edward being engulfed in freezing gases, but results in the creation of a spherical device.
Three years later, back in England, Edward's son, Ray Steam, is an avid young inventor who works at a textile mill in Manchester as a maintenance boy, often working on a personal steam-powered monowheel at home. While he usually lives alone with his mother, his friend Emma and her brother Thomas have recently been sent over to stay until their mother returns from a business trip.
Ray's life is suddenly disrupted by the arrival of a package from his grandfather Lloyd; the spherical device, along with its schematics and a letter instructing him to guard it. Then, Alfred and Jason, two members of a company called "The O'Hara Foundation" arrive and attempt to steal the sphere, but Lloyd appears, stating that the device killed Ray's father and bids Ray to flee from the men and deliver the device to Robert Stephenson.
Ray flees, pursued by O'Hara agents in a large steam automotive, eventually thwarting it on a railway line by putting it in the way of an incoming train. By coincidence, Ray encounters Stephenson on the train, who was on his way to Manchester to meet with the elder Dr. Steam. However, as the train approaches the station, an O'Hara zeppelin attacks the train and kidnaps Ray, taking the device with them.
The zeppelin takes Ray to London, where preparations are being made for the 1866 Great Exhibition. Ray encounters Scarlett O'Hara, the spoiled granddaughter of the Foundation's head chairman, and Edward, who is revealed to be alive but severely scarred and mechanized from his injuries in Alaska. He takes Ray and Scarlett on a tour of the "Steam Castle"; an elaborate facility entirely powered by the compressed gas in three devices called "Steam Balls," one of which was the device sent to Ray. Ray is enamored both by the castle, and his father's vision of using it to enlighten mankind, and quickly recruited to help complete the castle. He also begins developing a love/hate friendship with Scarlett, who has become attracted to him.
While helping to finish the castle, Ray encounters Lloyd again, who was captured by O'Hara 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 to Britain's enemies. Lloyd shows him the collection of weapons, and Ray struggles with the moral dichotomy of being a scientist - of how to contribute to the world without giving into vanity, conveying his conflict towards his father, and the conflict brewing between Edward and Lloyd.
The two eventually reach the core section of the castle, and manage to pry away one of the Steam Balls before security surrounds them. Lloyd is shot by Alfred and recaptured, while Ray makes another elaborate escape with the ball. The next morning, the exhibition is underway, and Ray has reunited with Robert Stephenson, giving him the ball and the knowledge he acquired in captivity. An assault on the castle is then met with a demonstration by the Foundation of its new steam-powered weapons, which turn the exhibition into a war zone. Ray becomes aware of his folly when Stephenson uses the ball to enhance his own company's battle tanks (which resemble the real-life Hornsby Chain Tractor of 1905), leading him to realize that he had no better intentions than the Foundation's.
Edward, eager to show the world the castle, enters the observation/control room and orders the engineers to "launch" it, causing the structure to rise and shed its decorative outer shell, revealing a monstrous floating fortress, the steam generated by the structure's gigantic propulsion jets flooding the city and freezing everything in its path.
Ray steals the ball again to create a makeshift rocket vehicle, and attempts to gain entry as the British Royal Navy and Stephenson attempt to battle the floating fortress. Scarlett, who has since become worried about Ray, searches for him, but ends up lost in the depths of the castle before eventually finding her way to the control room. After defeating Jason, who flies a steam-powered flying machine, Ray makes entry as well, and Lloyd (having escaped again) confronts Edward about his actions before shooting him with a stolen gun, and having his body disappear in a cloud of steam.
With the castle steered off course from the battle, the structure has become unstable and threatens to explode over the city. Lloyd and Ray rush to redirect the castle over the Thames, defeating Alfred, who is controlling a pair of gigantic construction claws in the process. At the last minute Edward, whose metal body repelled the gunshot, re-emerges from the steam and assists them. 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 jet pack, while Edward and Lloyd halt the machine over the Thames and escape as well. The castle eventually detonates in a spectacular explosion, sparing the city of most of the destruction.
The ending montage reveals Ray returning home, and later becoming a global superhero (aka Steamboy) using the jet pack gear from the castle; his grandfather Lloyd introducing Ray to electricity and finally passing away; the Great War being fought with paratroopers and zeppelins; his father Eddie founding a corporate conglomerate; and Scarlett maturing and becoming a famous pilot.
- 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. Jones (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)
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Steamboy was released in Japan on July 17, 2004 where it was distributed by Toho. 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. The film was released to home video with the original Japanese version with English subtitles.
In Japan, the film grossed ¥1.16 billion, making it the 18th highest-grossing domestic film of 2004. The film was not a box office success in the United States, where it grossed $468,867 in 2005.
According to the reviewer KJB at IGN.com, 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."
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Stephen Hunter of The Washington Post states, "The movie never transcended its elaborate production work to achieve an independent reality. It's simply pictures of what could have happened."
Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gave Steamboy a rating of 59% based on 91 reviews, with the site's consensus "The story isn't the greatest, but there's an abundance of sci-fi eye candy to compensate." 
- Galbraith IV 2008, p. 432.
- Galbraith IV 2008, p. 433.
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