Review of 'Steamboy (Suchîmubôi)'

steamboy.jpg Rei (voiced by Anne Suzuki) is a young inventor in the late 19th century who receives a parcel from his grandfather Lloyd (voiced by Katsuo Nakamura) containing blueprints and a mysterious “steam ball” along with a note telling him to contact Robert Stevenson (voiced by Kiyoshi Kodama). Shortly after the parcel arrives two operatives show up from “The O'Hara Foundation”, an organisation where Rei's grandfather and Rei's father, Eddi (voiced by Masane Tsukayama) were doing research. When the visitors attempt to grab the ball Rei flees where, by chance, he encounters Stevenson on a train. The meeting is short-lived as Rei is quickly abducted by the foundation and taken to London in a zeppelin where Rei finds himself a “guest” in the “Steam Castle” located a short distance from the 1866 Great Exhibition site. Rei quickly learns the foundation need the steam ball to complete the castle mechanism which proves to be a monstrous weapon of war that they want to sell off to the highest bidder by demonstrating it on the exhibition itself…

If you like action, Steamboy has got you covered. However, if you are looking for a deep story or any sort of meaning you will be a bit more hard-pressed and, ultimately, the film disappoints. The computer-generated graphics look amazing and the set pieces are truly incredible but at the end of the day it mostly boils down to a, admittedly very cool looking, steam-punk battle in the middle of London (which suffers greatly for it, though this tiny detail is largely ignored). The first half of the film introduces us to the characters but all attempt at nuance is thrown out the window for the second half which quickly degenerates into a single drawn-out battle which quickly gets to be a bit tedious despite the impressive action.

If you are looking for the good guys/bad guys be prepared to be further disappointed as no one is entirely what they seem. So much so that the one dimensional, cavalier attitude of the Steam Castle controller Alfred (voiced by Susumu Terajima) towards the wanton destruction is refreshing in that at least we know where he stands. As for the others, Rei's father and grandfather, and Stevenson, they seem to flip back and forth between good and bad, adding confusion to an already confusing plot.

Though it looks great with an incredible amount of detail on the screen ultimately “Steamboy” is disappointing film from a master of anime, Katsuhiro Otomo. Lacking any sort of real emotional depth, this is most definitely not Akira.

Rating: “Average, but who wants to be average?”

Review Date: 2020-01-19

Directed by: Katsuhiro Otomo

Studio: Bandai Visual Company

Year: 2004

Length: 126 minutes

Genre: Japanese Animation

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