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An Anime Metropolis Japanese Animators Bring Distinctive Touch to a Classic Film

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An Anime Metropolis

Japanese Animators Bring Distinctive Touch to a Classic Film
Jan. 24, 2002 -- On Friday, one of the latest and most ambitious animated films from Japan opens in U.S. theaters. It's called Metropolis, and it's inspired by Fritz Lang's 1927 silent film of the same name.
The new film is a collaboration between two of the biggest names in Japanese animation -- one living, and one dead. Beth Accomando of member station KPBS reports for Morning Edition that Japanese animation has become a huge influence among animators all across the globe.
This animated version of Metropolis is directed by Hayashi Shigeyuki, who goes by the name of Rintaro. His inspiration for the story came from a comic book -- but he says his early influences came from another medium: live action films, especially American and French cinema.

Rintaro started his career as an animator and worked on the cartoon that introduced Japanese animation to American audiences nearly 40 years ago -- Astro Boy.

The creators of Metropolis are Rintaro and the late Osamu Tezuka. Tezuka wrote the original Astro Boy comic books -- or manga, as they are known in Japan -- and in 1949, he created a manga inspired by still photographs from Fritz Lang's futuristic silent film Metropolis.

Like Lang's original, Tezuka's comic book Metropolis raised such classic science fiction themes as the individual's search for identity in the modern world, and man versus machine. But Tezuka gave them a Japanese twist, says Jonathon Clements, co-author of The Anime Encyclopedia.
"Tezuka, like many other people in Japan, was trying to work out what this Cold War thing was and who's side should the Japanese be on," Clements says. "If you look at Metropolis, you'll see it seems to be half American -- every now and again you see American architecture, especially art-deco architecture -- and half of it seems to be brutalist Soviet artwork going on in the background. Because at the time Tezuka was writing, he was confused about which side to be on."
That confusion is reflected in the visual design of the new film -- but Rintaro's touch comes through in his obvious American influences.
"It's sort of the visual style of the American '30s, things like in the style of the buildings, like in the future," Rintaro said. "But there are zeppelins flying in the film. It's in a future setting but I wanted to include something like a nostalgia for the American '30s."
Out of respect for the man who created the original drawings that inspired him, Rintaro is billing his new film as Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis. After it opens in theaters, Metropolis will be released in March as a special edition DVD.

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