August 19, 2007

I had a busy week at work, but this is the first weekend I’ve had off in a month, so let’s see if I can’t get myself somewhat caught up with some of my backlog.

I promised the rest of the sci-fi Tezuka books, didn’t I? Dark Horse put these out a few years ago, and the series consists of Lost World, Metropolis, and Nextworld. Having read Lost World first, I thought they were all going to be really antiquated, boring, and have low production. Lost World is the oldest one, though (he mentions in an essay he wrote it in the late 30s and it was finally published in that form in the late 40s), and Nextworld and Metropolis are actually… quite good.

The worst thing I can say about Metropolis is probably that it has absolutely nothing to do with the movie of the same name. It’s got Duke Red, Kenichi, and Higeoyaji in it… but so does Astro Boy. The plot of the manga is vaguely similar… Duke Red pays Dr. Lawton to create an artificial being… but the artificial being is created with synthetic cells generated somehow by fake sunspots of Duke Red’s creation. Dr. Lawton escapes with the kid when it’s finished, Duke Red hunts Lawton down and kills him, the robot (Michi, neither male nor female) escapes and lives with Kenichi and Higeoyaji until it finds out that its a robot after mistaking Duke Red for its dad, then it goes on a little robot rampage. There’s an ocean liner involved, as well as an infestation of gigantic rats with Mickey Mouse’s face (called something like mickeymouse waltdisneyus). At one point, Higeoyaji hollows one of them out and makes his escape wearing its skin.

Anyway. It was a little manic story-wise, and it did feel like there was some stuff missing. Tezuka explains this in an essay in the back that said he had to edit the work way down. It’s very patchy as a result, and has a few main characters. It focuses separately on Kenichi-Michi, which then joins up with a separate subplot involving a flower girl named Emmy, then there’s Higeoyaji, who is investigating Duke Red and gets trapped in his lair. The story focuses largely on Dr. Lawton until he dies. There’s also Emmy’s sister, who runs with some gangsters that are separate from Duke Red’s stuff, and Duke Red just appears every place, including inside an investigation team run by Notarlin that was meant to capture him. I fell asleep a bunch of times reading it, so it’s also not terribly exciting and a little dated in addition to being a messy story… but it was still kind of cool.

There’s definitely a lot of great stuff art-wise in it. There are several two-page spreads in the beginning which consist of crowd scenes with a ton of people speaking at once and crowding each other. One notable scene features six panels which zoom in closer and closer on a scientist’s mouth as he runs in and announces the sun spots. At one point, Higeoyaji gets separated from his robot companion “Fifi” (which looks nothing like the Fifi from the movie) by a panel border. This is Duke Red’s first appearance, and he’s a little more hook-nosed and sinister than usual.

So where does that put this in the sci-fi series? It’s definitely better than Lost World, which was extremely dated, but very novel because of its age. Metropolis isn’t anything like the awesome movie that bears its name though, and the story here isn’t nearly as good as Nextworld, so it kind of gets ranked and lost in the middle. You could buy it if you were reading Lost World and Nextworld together… but really, Nextworld is the only one worth reading. Just skip to the review on those two volumes.

For my own reference, Lamp dies by being thrown into the ocean by robots while chained to Hamegg.