The steampunk genre presents a cool and distinctive aesthetic based mostly on a fairly necessary second in time for humanity, however an issue many steampunk tales find yourself falling to is that they glamorize the Victorian Era that impressed them. Within the course of, these films ignore the imperialism and racism of the time to easily take a look at all of the cool expertise.
That is not the case with Steamboy.
Steamboy is Katsuhiro Otomo’s second characteristic movie, and the follow-up to his masterpiece, Akira. At first look, the 2 films could not be extra totally different. Gone are the neon-lit streets of Neo Tokyo, the hyper-violence, the federal government distrust, and the themes of rise up and authoritarianism. As an alternative, we get muted earth colours that mirror the restricted expertise of the time, a brighter and extra upbeat tone, and an optimism for the longer term aided by fantastic expertise.
The movie follows Nineteenth-century boy inventor Ray Steam, who’s entrusted along with his grandfather’s best invention, a “steamball” able to producing nice energy. The steamball is the goal of a sinister company that desires to make use of its energy to earn a living and promote warfare machines — within the title of advancing science, after all.
There is a sense of accessibility to Steamboy that Akira lacks at instances. This steampunk journey is much extra easy than the gargantuan story of Tetsuo and Kaneda. (There’s additionally the truth that that is an authentic script fairly than an adaptation of a 2000-page-long manga.)
Steamboy is extra akin to the form of blockbuster we get within the West, fairly than most anime movies that make it stateside. The villains are clearly outlined, the hero would not have any large flaws, the tip purpose is spelled out from the get-go, and the philosophical conundrum on the core of the movie is straightforward sufficient to understand, but advanced in its repercussions.
The result’s a movie that feels accessible for audiences who will not be conversant in anime past the works of Studio Ghibli. Steamboy is crammed with blockbuster-style motion, but it surely’s additionally thought-provoking in a manner you solely get in Japanese anime.
This dilemma on the heart of the movie is all in regards to the function science and expertise ought to have in society, which completely suits the steampunk style’s setting of the Industrial Revolution, but is seldom explored within the style. Is progress for the sake of progress sufficient? Or ought to we ensure science serves the betterment of humanity? Steamboy has a transparent reply in thoughts that feels proper at house with different anti-war, pro-nature anime movies like Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and The Wind Rises.
The tip credit make this clear by showcasing the technological wonders that got here out of the late Nineteenth century (tweaked a bit with some steampunk aesthetic) just like the Eiffel Tower, the lightbulb, and finally the airplane, solely to observe these up with pictures of the Hindenburg catastrophe and the trenches of World Battle I. On this regard, the movie does share some similarities with Akira in how they painting the horrors of utilizing expertise and science to wage warfare. At one level Steamboy virtually argues for a father to homicide his personal son as a result of he is turn out to be a warmonger — take that, Disney!
It is exhausting to not count on Steamboy to be a visible masterpiece after Akira redefined what you possibly can do with animation. Fortunately, the movie completely delivers.
There’s a way of scale practically unprecedented within the style. When the movie reveals its model of the giant tarantula from Wild Wild West, you really really feel the burden and hazard of it because the digital camera continually zooms in on the tiny and fragile people being crushed and blown to items by all of the war-machinery on show.
Steamboy stays one of many most expensive anime movies ever made, and each cent is absolutely on show, with over 180,000 drawings and 440 computer-generated cuts making for a near-perfect mix of conventional and pc animation that no fashionable CGI film can replicate. On the similar time, stunningly inventive camerawork that pans, spins, and rotates together with the motion could be not possible to do in absolutely 2D animation.
Whereas cyberpunk is a style that originated with loads of ethos however devolved into only a fairly aesthetic, steampunk by no means actually had a lot ethos to start with (in movie, no less than). Katsuhiro Otomo’s Steampunk breaks the mould by really offering some poignant commentary on its setting and style, whereas nonetheless making for a high-thrill blockbuster-scale steam-powered journey.
Steamboy is streaming on Amazon Prime till April 1.