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Metropolis on DVD

Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis on DVD

If you're a fan of the Japanese anime style of animation, you'll probably love Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis. If you aren't an anime fan, you might be by the time you finish this disc.

The movie is gorgeous to look at and to hear, a wonderful showcase for your home theater. The story is more than a tad convoluted, but this is apparently a common feature to anime titles and so Metropolis appears consistent with its genre.

Duke Red, the bad guy, has plans to rule the world from his towering Ziggurat. His henchman, Dr. Laughton, has created a new robot designed to control all the machines in the world from one central point: the same Ziggurat. But Laughton is being chased down by the good guys, detective Shunsaku Ban and his nephew Kenichi, who arrive in Metropolis and find themselves drawn into Red's plot to rule the world.

The Duke's adopted son Rock, who's a real whacko, has a hate on for robots and he unleashes an assault on Laughton's lab in an attempt to destroy Tima, the new robot. But young Kenichi and the robot flee into the city's subterranean slums, where they fall in love.

Sounds kind of silly, doesn't it? Well, the story is a tad silly and, as mentioned, convoluted, but the plot somehow seems secondary to the audio visual experience of Metropolis.

The animation isn't the greatest; there are some crowd scenes, for example, where it's very obvious that most of the crowd is just a still picture. Yet for every shot like that there's a gorgeous computer-generated shot that's positively awe-inspiring. Some of the cityscapes are particularly breathtaking.

Then there's the audio. Metropolis uses all of the audio channels almost equally, with plenty of sound directed to the rear surround speakers - and not just effects, either. The music, which blends a lot of jazz with such classics as Ray Charles' "I Can't Stop Loving You" is lovingly recorded and reproduced; the Charles song, which is from the 1960's, sounds almost as if it were recorded yesterday using today's best digital techniques.

Which brings us to the DVD. It's presented in anamorphic widescreen (16x9 TV compatible) and the picture quality is outstanding. It isn't as good as some of the computer-generated movies (Final Fantasy and the Toy Storys come to mind) that are mastered directly from the digital source, but it's still darn good. Colors are bright and the picture is sharp and lovely.

There are plenty of audio choices, too. The original Japanese soundtrack is offered in DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, and the dubbed English track is in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. Audio quality is first rate, with wonderful dynamics and extreme clarity in all channels.

Subtitles are offered in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean and Thai.

The Metropolis DVD also comes with plenty of extras, including a second disc's worth of stuff. That second disc is smaller than the typical DVD, but it fit fine and worked well in our reference player.

Extras include an Animax Special: The Making of Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis, some pretty interesting interviews with the filmmakers, multi-angle animation comparisons and a history of the Metropolis comic book on which the movie is based. There are also biographies of creator Tezuka and director Rintaro and a gallery of conceptual art.

In all, a pretty nifty DVD experience.

Metropolis, from Columbia Tristar Home Video
108 min. anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 TV compatible, Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS (Japanese soundtrack), Dolby Digital 5.1 (dubbed English soundtrack)
Written by Katsuhiro Otomo, Directed by Rintaro


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Updated May 13, 2006