This paper undertakes a comparative analysis of the mythic archetypes and modernist architecture employed in director Rintaro’s anime film Metropolis (2001). Based in part upon both Fritz Lang’s film (1927) and Tezuka Osamu’s manga (1949) of the same name, the latest Metropolis brings together such disparate elements in an effort to define the utopian/dystopian city-state of the future and its potential to resolve, for better or worse, longstanding tensions between capital and labor. While Rintaro’s Metropolis is largely articulated through the contrasting styles of Tezuka-esque, cell drawn characters and an almost hyper-real, CG-generated Art Deco cityscape of skyscrapers and labyrinthine subterranean levels, I seek to follow the trajectory of the Bauhaus ideal and the revolutionary promise of modernist architecture hinted at by Lang. Yet to fulfill this final objective it is also necessary to account for the missing link in all three works’ architectural blueprints: the “birth” of the female robot, or gynoid. A new breed of modern archetype—albeit one with a longer history than is typically acknowledged—she exists as an instrument capable of unlocking the full power of the no less artificial and man-made city-state, or destroying it entirely.
Seth Jacobowitz is an Assistant Professor at San Francisco State University specializing in modern Japanese literature and visual culture. He recently published The Edogawa Rampo Reader, an anthology of short stories and essays in translation by Edogawa Rampo. He is currently working on a book entitled "Writing Technology in Meiji Japan" which deals with the new techniques and technologies of writing behind the rise of national language and modern literature in late nineteenth century Japan.