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Last checked: 2017/07/31
Metropolis (メトロポリス, Metoroporisu) is a manga by Osamu Tezuka. It is loosely inspired by Fritz Lang's legendary science-fiction movie of the same name. In 2001, it received an anime movie adapation by Madhouse which featured an all star production crew consisting of director Rintaro (of Galaxy Express 999 fame), writer Katsuhiro Otomo (of Akira fame) and others. The movie was distributed by Toho Company in Japan and Sony Pictures/Columbia TriStar elsewhere.
The story begins with a scientist, Dr. Yorkshire Bell, noting that dinosaurs flourished and became extinct when they advanced beyond their ability to adapt to change. Giant mammals, such as the saber-toothed tiger and the mammoth, came and went the same way. Humans, Earth's current dominant life form, had one special asset - intelligence - enabling them to advance further than all creatures before them. Dr. Bell wondered if, one day, humans might advance beyond the point of no return and render themselves extinct.
In the summer of 19XX, a bulletin reveals that a prolonged investigation by the United Nations Police has discovered a plot by a murderous secret society known as "The Red Party", led by master of disguise Duke Red, has infiltrated the International Scientists Conference held in Metropolis. While Duke Red orders his henchman Acetylene Lamp to follow Dr. Charles Lawton, M.D., all the scientists notice that the Sun is now covered with sunspots, causing its radiation levels to rise. Lawton, back in his laboratory, had almost given up on his thirty-year experiment into synthetic cells (imitation eukaryotes composed of non-organic material and designed to mimic organic cells, in order for enough of them to be fashioned into true-to-life prosthetic organs and body parts) when he noticed the sunspots had irradiated his tank of synthetic proteins and brought them to "life". So had Duke Red, who ordered Lawton to create an entire human body out of synthetic tissue, its face modeled after a marble statue and possessing several superpowers. Fearing his creation would be used for evil, Lawton brought it to "life" and destroyed his lab, making Duke Red believe their creation had been destroyed.
In reality, Lawton had rescued the artificial human and was raising it as his own child in secret, thanks to some help from Dr. Bell. When "Michi" ("his" name) accidentally rendered its "father" unconscious and went out to play, he stopped a truck from running over a girl selling flowers. When the boy was mobbed by an awestruck crowd, another boy named Ken'ichi dragged him to the Dam Dharma Museum and the statue it was modeled after. They learned from the curator that it was called "The Angel of Rome", possessing the most beautiful face in the world - not knowing that Dharma himself was a member of the Red Party who supplied the statue to Duke Red.
The Red Party paid Lawton a visit, resulting in Lawton being mortally wounded, which was witnessed by Detective "Moustachio" from Japan who, unfortunately, had to release them because he had no arrest warrant. Lawton showed Moustachio a film telling the whole story of Michi's creation, as well as a journal detailing all of his powers. Arriving at his Japanese-American relatives' home, he discovered his nephew, Ken'ichi ("Ken" for short), had brought home a friend from the museum - Michi. Revealing Lawton's death and true paternal status, Moustachio entrusted Michi to Ken'ichi's care while he consulted Superintendent General Notarlin of the Metropolis Police Department.
Notarlin introducing him to Police Inspector Ganimarl (a parody of Ganimard, easily defeated foe of Arsène Lupin,) from France and Sherlock Holmes from England, Moustachio went with them to a monster sighting behind the Dharma Museum where they were attacked by giant rats (which bear a striking resemblance to Mickey Mouse,) and crashed - into a fake tree which led Moustachio to the Red Party's underground headquarters. His presence discovered, Moustachio attempted to escape, aided by Fifi, one of the Red Party's slave robots (No. 14), but was caught and Fifi destroyed. Duke Red, describing himself as the "Napoleon of the Electronic Age" (in reference to the "Napoleon of Crime"), revealed that the Red Party was developing a chemical weapon called Toron Gas as well as responsible for the man-made sunspots, using a substance called omothenium (which intercepts gravity) to raise the Earth's temperature enough to melt the Antarctic ice cap in order to build their new headquarters upon the defrosted continent. Unable to get Moustachio to hand over Michi (the former unwittingly revealing the android's custody with Ken'ichi), the Red Party locks him in a chamber to become their first guinea pig.
Michi is introduced as a new student at Ken'ichi's junior high school, as well as Emmy, the violet-seller girl Michi had saved - unknown to the class, Emmy's schooling was being sponsored by a strange old man in exchange for luring Michi to her gangster older sister. At home, Ken'ichi accidentally discovered Dr. Lawton's journal revealing Michi as an artificial human with cybernetic 10,000 horsepower (7,500 kW) super-powers - including helium-induced flight, gills in his ears to breathe under water, and a sex-change button in his throat - which Ken'ichi tested successfully at home.
At the Metropolis Police Department, Dr. Yorkshire Bell had been summoned by Notarlin to examine the giant rats (scientifically named Mikimaus waltdisneus) and revealed that giant animals and vegetables were growing all over the world because of the sunspots. Holmes arrived to reveal Duke Red as responsible for the sunspots as well as his current disguise - the strange old man helping Emmy. Ganimarl tracked the man to Emmy's home, where the man was being held up for more money by her sister's gangster friends. Exposed, Duke Red gassed Ganimarl unconscious and left him in disguise for the police to find, and threatened Emmy's sister to deliver Michi to him.
Back at Red Party headquarters, Moustachio realised the Toron Gas hadn't been released because the giant rats had overrun the underground base (courtesy of Moustachio unintentionally leaving the entrance open). Disguising himself within the skin of one of the rats, Moustachio found the base's CPU and a short-circuited slave robot (No. 56). Reactivating the robot, he ordered it to immediately destroy the CPU and then destroy the Red Party's food and water supplies at the right time, then played dead so Duke Red's henchman would dispose of the rat's corpse (with him in it).
Ken'ichi and Michi arrived at school to find the police questioning Emmy about whether her sister belonged to the Red Party. The other schoolchildren learned about Emmy's sister's criminal connection and attempted to expel her, but Michi saved her; Emmy returned the favor by telling Michi she knew the location of Michi's father (still abiding by Duke Red's plan) but she was abducted by a giant wasp. Michi saved her again and Emmy admitted to lying about Michi's father. Ken'ichi insisted Emmy stay in his house for protection, but her sister and her friends entered and demanded Ken'ichi bring Michi to them. He did, first activating Michi's gender switch; the gangster's left because they wanted Michi the boy, not Michi the girl. After Ken'ichi informed Emmy of Michi's true nature, they discovered Michi had run away.
Moustachio arrived at the Metropolis Police Department to inform Notarlin and Ganimarl that Duke Red had been infiltrating the police to spy on them - as Sherlock Holmes! Duke Red had the police arrest Notarlin and Ganimarl, having recruited more than half of them into the Red Party, and left Moustachio free, telling him Michi had escaped and the Red Party had to pursue him. The Red Party used their mobile headquarters - the Atlantis, a 200,000-ton luxury liner - to hold Notarlin and Ganimarl while pursuing Michi; little knowing that girl-Michi had unknowingly stowed away onto the ship, was discovered, and recruited as a cabin girl.
Michi discovered the crew's true identities and used the ship's radio to contact the police, who sent a search plane with Ken'ichi on board to find it. Michi was caught and admitted her name; Duke Red pressed the gender switch to turn "her" back into "him". When Michi mistook Duke Red to be her father, Duke Red revealed Michi's artificial nature and criminal purpose. As a result, Michi's mind snapped and he attacked the Red Party, the henchmen discovering he was also bulletproof. Confronting the Red Party's slave robots, Michi convinced them (led by No. 56) to destroy the food and water supply and scuttle the ship. The Red Party attempted to abandon ship but were arrested by Notarlin and Ganimarl, who escaped their cell in the confusion, and then thrown overboard by the robots. Notarlin and Ganimarl, having fled up the mast, watched as the robots condemned Duke Red to being incinerated in the ship's boiler, then were rescued (after a fashion) by Ken'ichi's search plane.
The party were then downed by Michi and witness "his" declaration of war against the human race, marching towards Metropolis along the ocean floor. Unable to contact Moustachio because of the sunspots interfering with radio transmissions, they drifted towards Long Boot Island, where a surviving member of the Red Party told them the omothenium radiation emitter had created the sunspots but also enlarged all flora and fauna, his colleagues having been eaten by giant ants. Destroying the emitter, they saw the man-made sunspots disappear right before their eyes.
Receiving warning of the robot army, Moustachio had the police declare martial law and remove the populace to underground shelters. Dr. Bell warned Moustachio that a poisonous gas, which destroyed human brains to reduce them to animals - was being released; Moustachio recognised it as Toron gas, Michi and the robots having destroyed the Red Party's underground gas cylinders, and among the first victims were looters along with Emmy's sister.
Michi knocked down Metropolis' skyscrapers by hand while the slave robots took on the people on the ground. While the ordinary robots were easily dealt with, Ken'ichi attempted to reason with Michi, then challenge him (successfully) using judo. When Michi gained the upper hand, his body started to smoke and he fell off the roof. While the citizens wanted Michi's destruction, a broadcast by Dr. Bell informed them of Michi's mental breakdown due to Duke Red and that he was dying; because the sunspots were gone, their unique radiation which powered Michi's synthetic cells faded away, and his body was disintegrating.
As everyone, including Michi's classmates, witnessed the end of science's greatest work of art, Dr. Bell reflected, as he had at the beginning of the story, if humanity's advancement was capable of engineering its self-destruction.