End Times Anime 

Sweetest Apocalypse of Beauty and Delight

Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis
dir. Rintaro
Opens Fri March 15
Cinema 21

How many of you think the total eradication of humanity is closer than ever before? Raise your hands and don't be shy! Sure, five years ago, people would have called you a kook, but now that there's an American Shadow Government, conspiracy theorists are seeming ominously wise these days.

As we spiral into the War Machine and towards the End of Man, there's no better people than our newfound friends, the Japanese, to tell us what the fuck's up with the apocalypse. A popular theme in anime, Armageddon is absolutely rife with storylines, even though the outcome is usually the same. And in 1949, Osamu Tezuka gave us one of the first and most beautiful mangas (Japanese comics) focusing on the idea of an end times: Metropolis, based loosely on the idea of Fritz Lang's eponymous classic film (but written before Tezuka actually saw it).

Recently re-made into a dramatic feature-length film by acclaimed Akira director Rintaro, the movie Metropolis unfolds in a sprawling, crowded city in the future. The city's buildings reach high into the sky, but the highest is the newly built Ziggurat, a gorgeous structure made by the city's most beloved figure, Duke Red. The structure has an unspecified purpose, and Duke Red is popular for unspecified reasons, but he's popular nonetheless, having almost as much power as the city's president. Unfortunately for humanity, Duke Red is totally psychotic and wants to control the world by creating a robotic superhuman replica of his daughter, Tima, who will eventually sit in the throne of the Ziggurat and rule Earth.

However, a corrupt government, a group of rogue proletariat revolutionaries, a rebel band of robots, and a detective from Japan really put a wrench in Duke Red's evil plans.

Metropolis is meant as a tribute to Tezuka, and it does his career much justice; the animation is incredible, with huge, sweeping shots of the city, in both digital and traditional anime, and a great soundtrack full of '30s hits (perhaps meant as an additional homage to Lang). And, even though you know all those pretty buildings are going to crumble and roast in their own decadence, there's still a sense of hope in the film due to a bevy of well-placed, animated doves. Perhaps this means the human race has a little bit more time left on this ravaged earth.

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