Director: Katsuhiro Otomo
Starring: Anna Paquin, Kari Wahlgren, Patrick Stewart, Alfred Molina, Oliver Cotton, Robin Atkin Downes
Format: DVD, BluRay
Run Time: 115 mins
Release Date: 24th September 2018
Licensed By: Manga Entertainment UK
In Victorian England, in the midst of a steam powered revolution, we are introduced to Ray Steam a young engineering prodigy, following in the footsteps of both his father and grandfather. Mrs. Steam one day receives a package from Ray’s grandfather, containing a strange metallic ball capable of advancing the current age of steam power. Ray is tasked with keeping this new technology safe, and it’s not long before two men from the O’Hara Foundation track it down, bringing with them immense trouble for both Ray and his family…
Steamboy is regarded as the most expensive Japanese anime production to date, with a whopping $22 million budget. On top of being a lavish production, which took ten years to come to fruition, Steamboy was also directed by the remarkable Katsuhiro Otomo, the man behind Akira. We follow the story of the Steam family, comprised of a father/son team of engineers. Having fallen out over the direction they think the steam age should go, it all falls down to their grandson Ray to bridge the gap. With political corruption, the age of steam is leaning more towards the advancement of weapons. London is in for some troubling times at the hands of the Steam family.
Ray is a young lad from Manchester, living with his mother and two childhood friends, whilst both his father and grandfather are working abroad in Alaska. Ray, just like the rest of the men in his family, has a talent for working with steam power. Currently working on a new form of personal transport, it’s his steam powered monowheel that helps him try to escape the clutches of the O’Hara Foundation. The only information he was given was to keep this mysterious steam ball away from the Foundation. Clinging to his grandfather’s words, he tries to do just that. Ultimately he arrives in front of his estranged father, who has suffered some serious injuries in Alaska and has modified himself to account for them. Aside from Ray, we have Ms. Scarlett O’Hara St. Jones. She is the fourteen-year-old American granddaughter of the Chairman of the O’Hara Foundation. Spoilt is an understatement, but she does start to see the destruction that is being carried out upon London in the name of her family business. Although Ray and Scarlett spend only a little bit of time together, these moments do include immense danger and near-death events. Scarlett does start to mature after these events in ways that, in the end credits, you see have shaped her future in a very unexpected path.
This film all boils down to a family dispute between Ray’s father and grandfather. Both worked side by side for so long, but whilst in Alaska trying to finish their work on the experimental steam ball, tensions escalated. Now both engineers have very different ideas as to where the future lies in regards to steam power, and the entire city of London is now a battlefield. With steam powered tanks, monstrous machines and floating castles, there is plenty of steampunk action in this film.
As I mentioned before, this film was directed by Katsuhiro Otomo. Known worldwide as the creator and subsequently the director of Akira. He also contributed to both Memories (1995) and Metropolis (2016). Both Sunrise and Bandai Visual were involved in the production of Steamboy. Over the course of the ten years Steamboy was in development, the production team used an astounding 180,000 drawings and 440 CG cuts. It was first released in Japan in 2004, and first made its way to the UK in 2006 under SONY Pictures. Now the UK’s leading anime distributor Manga Entertainment UK is re-releasing the title once more but giving it a BluRay treatment.
Although the storyline is a bit of a letdown, the animation carries the film. Another bonus is the English dub voice cast, featuring Patrick Stewart, Anna Paquin, Alfred Molina and Kari Wahlgren. Steamboy is available to buy now both online or in any store that carries anime.