Steamboy Review

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During the birth of the steam age, a young inventor must avoid letting his grandfather's invention, a powerful new source of energy, from falling into the wrong hands.


Set during Britain’s industrial prime, this inventive Japanimation concerns a young inventor who comes to possess the immensely powerful “steam ball” invented by his grandfather, and is subsequently chased by nefarious agencies who want to utilise the invention for weapons manufacture. A decade in the making, it’s clear to see where the work went: director Katsuhiro Ôtomo, responsible for the seminal Akira, amply proves that hand-drawn animation is not only still alive, but thriving, with no shortage of arresting sequences involving retro-futuristic gadgetry. However, much like 2001’s Final Fantasy film, superlative design work can’t obscure a paper-thin story. Bogged down with narrative inconsistencies and far too many shots of machinery chugging away, this is beautiful but empty-headed.

Visually arresting, with an enjoyably wacky premise, but scuppered somewhat by its rusty, clunky storytelling.