There’s an entire subgenre of Cyberpunk called steampunk, which fetishes steam and coal-based technology (most often set during the Victorian era). The ethos of the Victorian era was mastery over nature by sheer will and brute application of technology, and steampunk takes the signature technology of that era (namely, coal-fired steam engines) and extrapolates them to – frankly – absurd degree. H.G. wells is probably the literary forefather of the genre, but tit was really William Gibson and Bruce Sterling’s novel The Difference Engine that really established it. That was a great book, and I think set the general optimistic tone that is now common to steampunk (as opposed to the grim dystopian tone of most cyberpunk).

At any rate, Steamboy is pretty much tailored to the genre. I’m sure there are other examples of steampunk anime out there but I have limited awareness. I heard about Steamboy from AICN and decided to give it a shot.

In a nutshell, Ray is a prodigy child in Manchester, UK who has an innate knowledge of steam technology. His grandfather and father are working in Alaska and come across a new power source that immediately draws the attention of the great powers (US and UK). The new source, called a steamball, is sent to Ray to keep it out of the wrong hands but powerful grups convereg on and chase Ray trying to gain the technology for themselves.

I’m only about 1/4 way through the story but will update the post as I complete it. In the meantime, please chime in (no spoilers yet, please) with your thoughts on Steamboy if you’ve already seen it.

4 thoughts on “Steamboy”

  1. “Sakura Wars”, in its various incarnations, is another example of steam punk. The TV series is arguably a combination of steam punk and gothic horror. (The OVAs are a lot different. The movie is a travesty.)

  2. It’s an absolutely gorgeous movie, but it ultimately unravels into a simple excuse to show pretty pictures and neat gizmos, with pretty much no likeable characters (it’s made by the same people who made Akira, which is pretty much the same way – pretty, but not especially involving).

  3. Steven, for some reason my spam filter ate your comment. I’ve rescued it. I’ll take a look at your review of Sakura Wars…

    Mark, thus far I have to agree that it’s really a spectacle. The plot and the underlying conflict would have been much better as a Kino short rather than this drawn out affair 🙂 Also this is less scifi-steampunk and more fantasy-steampunk. The technology is as unbelievable and impossible as in Miyazaki films. With Miyazaki we know we are in fantasy, however. I don’t like the pretense here.

  4. This has been showing up on some of the various cable channels lately in two versions: Spanish with English subtitles and an English dub.

    Even though I don’t speak Spanish, it is clear that the subtitles leave much to be desired; they leave out a lot of things that the dub picks up (for example, the bit about building steam balls in Ireland and Alaska is subtitled as only talking about Ireland; the dub includes the mention of Alaska).

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