animefringe february 2003 / reviews

Metropolis CD Soundtrack
Format: compact disc / 20 tracks
Production: Domo Records / Toshiyuki Honda
Comments: Music that effectively plays upon the onscreen action.
Animefringe Reviews:
Metropolis CD Soundtrack

One of the most artistic anime films of this year was Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis. Directed by Rintaro, Metropolis is an epic and moving film, based in the retro-futuristic city of Metropolis. It stands to reason that the movie's score is no less than outstanding. Toshiyuki Honda's score captures the dual nature of Metropolis by creating a highly jazz influenced musical background for the film. While this may lead some to think it is in the vein of Cowboy Bebop, the music in Metropolis uses a Southern Dixieland/New Orleans style of jazz, which makes it very distinct from Cowboy Bebop. Like any good film score, Metropolis' score not only serves as a window into the onscreen action, but plays upon it, adding its own flavor to the visuals.

01 Metropolis
The opening track on this OST is a jazzy little tune featured in the film when Kenichi and his uncle traverse the jarringly futuristic Metropolis. The song moves along in a rollicking fashion, upbeat with a sense of something deeper waiting to be uncovered.

02 Foreboding
This track is a dark, brooding number, quiet and still. It has hints of this melody that slowly grows into something larger. Much like Metropolis itself the song grows into something unsettling.

03 Ziggurat
The Ziggurat is Metropolis' version of the Tower of Babel, a tall commanding structure with a secret purpose. This track represents it ideally. The track booms uncomfortably. One can picture the Ziggurat in the mind's eye, an enormous, imposing structure, twisted by evil, not unlike Saruman's Orthanc in Lord of the Rings. Towards the end of the track, the song features melodies and horns from the jazzier portions of the soundtrack; however their sound is twisted, almost more like human wailing than music.

04 Going to Zone
Track four is another jazzy tune, featuring strings and a lush big band mentality. Like many of the jazz tracks on this OST, this one represents the city of Metropolis. The low bass in this song calls to mind many Warner Bros. cartoons.

05 Sniper
This song is, in many ways, like track two, Foreboding. It is quiet and ominous. This song seems more orchestral than jazz. It almost serves as Rock's theme. Rock is Metropolis' antagonist, though his motives make him human and three-dimensional. Sniper highlights these qualities in Rock.

06 El Bombero
El Bombero is a fast-paced action track, not unlike Cowboy Bebop: Knockin' on Heaven's Door's What Planet is This? The song is catchy and the alarm-like guitar sound effects suggest the importance of robots to the Metropolis. The song is played when robot fire fighters race to Dr. Laughton's lab.

07 Three-Faced of Zone
Track seven is more slow-paced, but remains jazzy. In addition to horns, the song features a wonderful piano melody that wouldn't be out of place in any jazz bar from New Orleans to New York. About half way through the track, the gloom of Sniper makes an appearance.

08 Zone of Rhapsody
While not mirroring any of the tracks on the OST, Zone of Rhapsody takes off where they leave off. Much of the music dealing with the town's three zones or its robots is in the vein of this track. It leads to a possible connection between the state of African Americans in the 1920s and the state of Metropolis and the robots in the film. This is not as far fetched as it sounds, since Tezuka dealt with America's racial issues in Tetsuwan Atom.

09 Hide Out
Hide Out is a short track (about one minute, thirty seconds). It recalls the booming threat of Ziggurat.

10 Run
Run is another jazzy chase song. The horns on this particular song are extremely smooth. Run also features some disjointed piano and a thumping, heavy bass. It too is reminiscent of some Cowboy Bebop music (especially Piano Black).

11 St. James Infirmary
Track eleven is one that many might consider quintessential jazz. Featuring some strong (but muffled/unclear) vocals and some great mellow/blues style instrumentals, the song is played towards the end of the movie. The instrumentals are thoroughly in the style of the songs before it. However, this is the only song on the OST to feature vocals.

12 Sympathy
Sympathy is a piano melody, with a light use of strings, which serves as Tima's theme. The piano serves to illustrate one side of Tima, while the strings (especially in the beginning of the song) tend to anticipate her change at the end of Metropolis.

13 Snow
The beginning of Snow sounds very similar to Three-Faced of Zone; it shares instruments with the earlier track, but not a melody. This track is one of the longest on the CD, clocking in at nearly seven minutes. However, the track moves into a more Sniper-style brooding mode around the two minute thirty second mark, which lasts the rest of the song. Around the five-minute mark, the song features some inspired but subtle call and response.

14 Propaganda
Track fourteen is a booming, uplifting song. However, as its title might imply, this is a shallow fašade in the film. While the song suggests some noble heroism, the film's visuals combined with this song lead to some subtle but inescapable visual irony.

15 Chase
Chase is another take on Ziggurat. Though it's shorter, it matches the earlier track nearly blow for blow.

16 Judgment
Track sixteen is a quieter, orchestral track. It too is brooding and ominous. The violins and the lone horn in portions of the song add to the pent-up horror it illustrates, as drums come in and add to the excitement.

17 Awakening
Awakening features some very Hithcock-esque violins, sharp horns, and booming drums. It plays at the film's most climatic moments, and the song fits well into the mood.

18 Fury
Track eighteen picks up where Awakening left off, sans violins. The track is booming yet fluid, with snare drums and horns that sound like they're gliding. Hints of Juggernaut can be heard throughout the song.

19 After All
After All is a rearranged version of Metropolis featuring piano, a banjo, and tuba. It's upbeat, even more so than Metropolis.

20 There'll Never Be Good-Bye - The Theme of Metropolis
The final track on this CD features the melody from After All and Metropolis along with some very jazzy vocals. It sounds similar to a version of the Final Fantasy Prelude theme on the vocal Final Fantasy Love Will Grow CD.

The jazz on this OST is great. It's rollicking, memorable, and fun to listen to. However, the slower tracks tend to slow the entire CD down. While this would not have been a major complaint if several different slow tracks were on the CD, the tracks, slow and jazz, tend to sound the same on this CD. In fact, the Metropolis OST could have been three to five tracks shorter and had the same impact. Instead, the tracks lose a lot of their variety and whimsy because one hears the same instruments and melodies over and over.

It's hard to recommend the Metropolis OST to anyone but major fans of the film. Even those intrigued by the jazz in Cowboy Bebop would do well to sample the CD before purchasing it. While the individual tracks on this CD are great, there isn't enough variety on the whole CD to make it the stellar product that the songs are.