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Metropolis and Hiroshima

I saw the anime Metropolis the other day and I have a lot of thoughts that relate to it, but I’ve been revising a review for for three days now and it still isn’t coming together.

Let me just say this: my eyes were in Art Deco heaven; the soundtrack uses a jazz repertoire that was pretty clearly devoid of any American reference points, which made it awkward in some places and refreshing in others; and once again it occurred to me what a good thing it probably is that so many of the teenagers I know are studying Japanese.

Metropolis, like most science fiction anime (and some nonfiction; see Studio Ghibli’s Grave of the Fireflies), bears the white shadows of Hiroshima: the action hinges on a colossal weapon with the ability to wipe out all of humankind (with the usual boy-meets-robot, boy-loves-robot, robot-ponders-meaning-of-its-existence, boy-loses-robot-in-cataclysm-of-interplanetary-scope trajectory).

By contrast, the government as well as the cinema of the United States currently seems to indicate we live in the only place on earth that has lost the collective memory that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were atrocities. Witness the equation of the bombing with other murderous American actions, like My Lai and the genocide of the Native American peoples, in recent speeches by bin Laden and Bobby Fisher, among others; also check international news sources; then go back to your CNN. We’ve got a president who’s rattling his nuclear arsenal and an attorney general who seems about ready to go Strangelove on us at any second. (My dad has another suggestion for anointing Ashcroft that doesn’t involve cooking oil or Clarence Thomas, but which does require the sacrifice of some not-so-precious bodily fluids.)

We’ve always explained away Hiroshima by saying it had to happen to prevent the loss of life elsewhere, but others have not been as willing to write the atrocity off; their movies, thank god, are extremely popular with the kids right now.

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