The Entire World Is Waiting For The Power Of Steam – Steamboy

16 11 2016

Steamboy (Sunrise - 2004)

In 2013, animation Director and co-founder of Studio Ghibli; Hayao Miyazaki created a film which he announced was going to be the last before he retired. The film was called The Wind Rises, and it was a film that followed a young man who dreamt of designing the ultimate aircraft, and so the story took us on a history of his young life, career, romantic relation, and a retrospective history of his country, eventually leading the young man to his pivotal moment designing the aircraft of his dreams. There is one slight issue however with the company he works for, being the ones to foot the bills; the only option is to design it to the benefit of a company contract, and at that time in Japan’s history the only contract work for airplane manufacturers (or at least those shown in the film) is to build them for the sake of war. So while the young man does get to design his dream plane, he has to come to the eventual realization of what the plane’s purpose is to be. It is a very interesting idea for a story, looking at great inventors, the things they do; but also what they have to do in order for them to be allowed to build such things!

The Wind Rises (Studio Ghibli - 2013)

Released in 2004 by Toho, produced by Sunrise and Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo; Steamboy is a Steampunk animated action film set in the UK and follows the adventure of a young inventor who has to come to terms with the realities of the world of inventions and of course save the day from threats very close to home. Touted at the time of release as being the most expensive Japanese animated film of all time, Steamboy took 10 years to produce, and is only the second major animated release for Otomo following his milestone film Akira in 1988.

Akira (Toho 1988)

In 1863 in Russian Alaska, inventor Lloyd Steam (Patrick Stewart) and his son Eddie (Alfred Molina) have discovered a pure mineral water, which they believe they can turn into a powerful steam based energy source. During an experiment however, everything goes wrong with Eddie being engulfed in freezing gases, but leaves a strange spherical object being created. Three years later, in Manchester England, great-grandson of Lloyd: Ray Steam (Anna Paquin), a young inventing prodigy receives a strange parcel containing the spherical object plus some designs relating to it. Two men then show up called Alfred (Mark Bramhall) and Jason (David S. Lee) claiming to be from something called the Foundation and who want the ball. Ray refuses to give it to them, and is surprised to see the arrival of his grandfather. Ray makes a run for it, and is eventually chased by a strange steam automotive vehicle, making his escape on his own Monocycle. The chase leads them onto the railway tracks, with the automotive being pushed into a river, and Ray being rescued by Robert Stephenson (Oliver Cotton) and his assistant David (Robin Atkin Downes). Things don’t last long however, as while the train is en route to London, Ray is kidnapped by the Foundation thanks to their Zeppelin.

Ray finds himself in a dining hall, and being introduced to members of the O’Hara Foundation which includes Scarlett O’Hara (Kari Wahlgren), the spoiled granddaughter of the foundation’s chairman, and Archibald Simon (Rick Zieff), a company executive. Ray then meets his father Eddie whose head has been greatly altered by the accident, now with only a few strands of hair and a helmet covering one half of his head, as well as other metal components all along his body. Ray and Scarlett are taken on a tour of the facility dubbed The Steam Castle by Eddie who says he wants to use it to enlighten mankind’s vision of science. Ray is recruited by his father to help finish it off, but when asked to help in assisting to turn off a valve, Ray finds his Grandfather trying to sabotage the whole thing. He tells Ray that the purpose of the castle and the O’Hara’s foundation is to sell weapons to Britain’s enemies at the Great Exhibition the following day and shows Ray evidence of this. The two eventually reach the core of the castle, and pry away a steam ball, one of three used to power the castle, but they are then surrounded. Ray makes an escape but Lloyd is recaptured. Ray manages to run into Robert Stephenson telling him about his father and the steam castle, and hands him the Ball thinking Stephenson can be trusted, but discovers that Stephenson’s motives are near the same; to build an army for the purpose of keeping Britain Great.


At the Great Exhibition, the O’Hara foundation shows off their weapons to generals from around the world, exhibiting their steam-powered soldiers, miniature aircraft and submersible men. At this moment, Stephenson launches an attack on the foundation using his steam battle tanks. With the exhibition now a war zone, Ray steals the ball back from David, and rigs it up to use it as a sort of jet pack. In the foundation’s control room, Eddie, straps himself into the machine and while under powered orders for the castle to launch. The building sheds its skin to show a great behemoth like structure, a big black floating castle, which then engulfs the city of London in a big freeze. The royal navy in vain try to shoot it down, while Stephenson attempts to pull it down with his trains. Ray manages to get on board the castle reuniting with his father and Scarlett, but is too late to stop Lloyd from shooting Eddie. With Eddie having disappeared into the machine, Ray and Scarlett assist Lloyd in getting the castle back over the Thames as the machine is too unstable and likely to explode. At the last-minute, Eddie having deflected the bullet with his metal body decides to lend a hand, revealing Lloyd’s original intention for the Steam Castle: to be used as a giant theme park. Ordered by his family to save Scarlett and leave, Ray makes his way back to the control room, straps on a jet pack and leaves the castle just as it explodes, sparing most of London in the process.


Can a film justify its release if it does not have much of a plot? Steamboy is an interesting film; on the one side it’s very well researched, and is somewhat surprising to see a Japanese animated film set in 19th century England and feature locations such as Manchester and (‘of course’) London, as well as feature great moments of a country’s history such as the Great Exhibition and famous faces like Railway Engineer Robert Stephenson. I am not saying this can’t be done, I am just saying how well and detailed it all is but you would not exactly expect for a film from Japan to be set in this country during that period. Of course, this film does also have big outstanding and unbelievable moments, interesting characters and great themes; much like you would expect from the man who made Akira: or should you? That’s the point though of seeing it isn’t it, or at least most might think so, that because this man-made an iconic film from the 1980’s, one of cinema’s all-time great animated films, that is why we should see it; no other reason right? This film is of course heavily touted for being from Katsuhiro Otomo, the same director of Akira; but is that the reason why we should see this film, or should it be that it’s a happy coincidence, and that this film should really be its own thing. I think that is where this film sort of collapses. There are some good things about this film: It does feature big moments of disbelief, and it features themes and ideas as well as argues the differences between progress and greed as well as the blessings of science, but only a little bit really, as all that gets entrenched in delivering the Akira experience, with big moments, wonders of awe and nothing else really. It has it’s moments, moments of philosophy that intrigue that inspire, and the story develops this a little bit; but possibly under the belief that he had to deliver a 19th century version of Akira rather than explore these ideas and create something that was its own identity, Otomo just sort of skipped all that. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Akira, I would just rather watch Akira rather than something that is not a near carbon copy of it (Force Awakens).


The film’s characters are a real odd bunch and (international released version) are played by some top-notch quality actors. Much like what was stated above, some characters are minor-ly developed and are actually going in the right direction but are lost in what is a rather convoluted and unused plot. The issue that this film has with its characters is that it’s hard at any one point to actually know who is good and who is bad. Ray Steam is obviously the hero of the story, but it’s just obvious if somewhat boring. The character is nicely set up and has reason to explore and discover as he is lost without his heritage and is in a world that he would rather be doing something else in, but other than that there is no real reason for him. He tries to be brave and do the right thing, he is just not a decent enough character to really get behind or enjoy. Someone like Scarlett is a lot more interesting. She actually develops over the film’s timeline, going from a toffee nosed brat to a proper hero and someone worth rooting for. Yes she starts off in a situation where she is horrid and someone you have no affection for, but as the film develops she becomes a good character, so why she couldn’t be the protagonist is beyond me. That is the thing though with this film, there are two solid female characters, Scarlett and Emma (Paula J. Newman), but Emma gets 3 minutes of fame and is never seen again, but she was interesting compared to Ray who is just useless. The issues with good guy bad guy just continue throughout. Yes, the henchmen are bad, but that is their point and Archibald Simon on the other hand is just a pleasant annoyance who can’t stop talking. Robert Stephenson is nicely done, but it’s sad that someone who should be a sort of helper, a guide or assistance in times of such peril turns out just to be as horrid and bad as the somewhat…..Supposed to be…..villains. His assistant David pretty much covers this role with ease, and it would have been more interesting if David per say was the villain out of the two and was something of a manipulator, and so Stephenson could then be the helper, with a villain by his side that needed defeating. Lloyd is of course a good guy but the story does the right thing of teasing his intentions and asking if he is bad or good, and then reveals his intentions correctly and stays that way, I just don’t think the mad professor look really does him any favours. Eddie meanwhile is of course the big bad villain and is voiced brilliantly, and much like Lloyd is teased into his role, but he just keeps changing his mind. His intentions and motives are there as to why he is who he is, but why would the villain suddenly change sides like that at the end. He should be a boss to fight, a hindrance to overcome, not someone who is like: “Oh well, let me give you a hand!”


The voice acting works in some of the film’s favour, and boasts acting talent like Patrick Stewart, Anna Paquin and Alfred Molina, but it’s not fully utilised I feel. Scarlett is voiced nicely and actually sounds and feels real, compared to Anna Paquin whom does a good job in a male voice role, but in the form of the voice that most people believe how British people speak. Speaking as a British person, I do not speak like that, I have actually yet to meet someone who does. Both Alfred Molina and Patrick Stewart are British; and they don’t speak like that; and they’re in this film! It becomes near offensive the more it gets touted. Maybe instead of hiring people to create a generic voice that does not actually exist, maybe they should hire British actors to do the job, because then it would be a lot more realistic (and less offensive). When it comes to the voice overs in this film the only ones that really do anything I feel are those of Patrick Stewart and Alfred Molina. Patrick Stewart’s character is not seen much of to truly enjoy, but it’s still good when he is on-screen, although possibly a bit loopy and mad. Alfred Molina though I feel really carries this film. It’s a voice of reason and passion, and although the character struggles to really find his place in this film, the voice over does the character tremendous and enjoyable levels of entertainment and justice. It’s just a shame about everyone else really.

The film does have its recovery sections, it’s not all collapsing. The animation is nicely done and works well to really capture the beauty and spectacle of 19th century England, especially London. The fleet of vessels on the Thames, the beauty of the city’s iconic buildings and structures, to the animated engineering of its own infrastructure. Add to this the machines and contraptions of the story’s fictional contents like the steam-powered soldiers, the monocycle, and of course the mighty Steam Castle in all its forms and you have this well-made world which has added benefits. I do think the animation style and colouring loses a bit in comparison to the film’s contemporise like the recent works of Studio Ghibli for example, but when close up the details are superb. The film’s soundtrack Composed by Steve Jablonsky) is an additional benefit too as it creates mostly sounds and ambiance rather than pieces of music. The music does have its moments of grandeur like the launch of the steam castle or the chase within, to moments of peace too like Ray’s theme, Scarlett’s theme, and of course the music behind the blessings of science monologue. Now while not insinuated within the soundtrack itself, there is one piece of music though that does come out in relation to the film: That of its theme from the trailer: Full Force; the adventure and steam-driven music that creates and encapsulates moments of awe and wonder, but creates a level of seriousness and tension to shine out loudly.  Although the film does tout some of that wonderful adventure but still steam punk driven piece of music here or there, it’s this piece of music which shines out for the film’s soundtrack, even though it is really non-existent, but it’s iconic and memorable enough for you to remember it in conjunction with this film.

Generally it feels like something of a shame altogether, because I was expecting more. Steamboy has its likable moments and bits to enjoy, but the story is so convoluted and makes more room for big moments rather than a properly developed plot. It’s one of those occasions where the trailer delivers more than the film. Steamboy is something of a quick storyteller; it just dashes from one thing to another, not developing nor explaining, creating interesting moments but not diving into them sacrificing its potential in the process for something else, but no reveal as to what. It comes with great voice talent but does not really use it effectively, it has interesting characters in the wrong roles and it has spectacular ideas that are just ignored. On the plus side the animation is delightfully detailed, and has music that has its occasions which are used well. Yes it has its big moments which are nicely done and very creative, but a film like this should be more than that. It should not be living in the shadow of its legendary predecessor and working hard to live up to be like its bigger brother. It should be blossoming like a flower, being independent and making its own path, then and only then can it have a chance to be on an equal footing and be appreciated the same way, rather than just being a clone in a different setting.


The Mighty Mallard

6 04 2012

Last May I did a post on Steam Trains. Now I thought I would do another one this time about my Favourite Train, Mallard.


Mallard is a very famous steam train. It was designed by train designer and engineer Sir Nigel Gresley (who later had an A4 named after him). It set the speed record for the fastest Steam Train in the world. It is also a very BIG train. Mallard is a member of the LNER A4 Class, a group of streamlined steam trains built in Britain in 1935. 35 of them were built and were one of the most recognisable trains around. They were used until 1960 (1966 In Scotland) when diesel locomotives were brought in. Possibly one of the world’s first High Speed rail trains. The A4’s were fitted with double chimneys (first introduced with Mallard in 1938). Their streamlined design not only helped with aerodynamics and increased speed but also prevented smoke getting in the driver’s visibility.

It is interesting to note that while Mallard holds the speed record for Steam Trains it is a Giant Train being 21 metres long and weighing 165 tons if you include the tender. The Speed record was achieved on July 3rd 1938 (4 months after it was built) and achieved a speed of 126 mph which compare it to the Virgin Pendolino’s operating speed (125 mph) means it is faster to go by steam train than modern electric. The train went from Little Bytham to Essendine Railway Station. Mallard beat the previous record which was held by the German DRG Class 05 002 from 1936 (124.5mph).  However the engine overheated and required maintenance and repair work before it went out on the line again. Mallard was eventually withdrawn from service in 1963. Mallard is now part of the National Railway Museum in York. In 2008 Mallard was brought outside for the first time in years and was displayed alongside the four surviving A4’s in Britain. It was moved to the Locomotion Museum in Shildon in 2010 but then brought back to York in 2011.

Now while Mallard is an amazing engine to see what would be fantastic is to see it move under it’s own power again. I do sometimes think that when the Flying Scotsman is finished it may be an idea to restore the Mighty Mallard back to working condition, I would like that. I also think that maybe a future project for the A1 trust would be to make a new A4 (ok, it is a different class but the A4s are fantastic). While Mallard is now a legend in the world of steam trains it’s speed and design can be seen in many high speed trains today, it’s design was perfect for aerodynamic and speed and from this many of the fastest trains running today honour Mallard in their design and speed. While Mallard is now a Museum peace it’s legacy continues.


Blog 2011

30 12 2011

Blog 2011

It has been an amazing year. I have left one University and started at another, I have written a Monster Movie and I have had an amazing day out at Blackpool Pleasure Beach with my Best Friend. This year has also been a great year for blogging. My record for most views in a day has been broken 3 times. I reached many milestones including the first blog post to get 100, 200, 300, 400, 500 views and 500, 600, 700, 800, 900, 1000 views in a month as well as my 100th Post. Many interesting things have happened with my blog this year one of which included The BBC making a link to one of my posts (Which was Fantastic – Over 500 Views for one post). Also looking at some of my most viewed posts you can get an idea of what people who have read my blog like; they like Steam Trains, Dinosaurs, Ben and Jerry’s and Godzilla (Hurray, I am not alone). So I thought I would celebrate this by telling you which of the blog posts I have written this year are my top 5 favourites and then I thought I would tell you which are the 5 best blog posts I have read this year and which 5 blogs (Excluding my Blog and Posts because they would always be my favourite and that would not be fair) as a whole this year (these are in order of 1 being best and 5 being 5th best).


5. Four Blokes from Birmingham – Black Sabbath. The piece I did on Black Sabbath was Good Fun and it was also a challenge I have wanted to do for a while. The challenge was to write 500 words about Black Sabbath. It was a writing challenge and I think all bloggers should actually try it because it is an interesting subject and the challenge element is there which makes it exciting to see what it looks like when it’s finished and to see what other people think.

4. Film Review – Godzilla vs King Ghidorah. The film review I did was the first time I did a Godzilla film and so I decided to do one of the best from the series to get it off to a good start. When I wrote this one I first did it on paper and this was very enjoyable and it allowed me to think about it and what I was going to say.

3. The Best Film In The World – Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All Out Attack. Writing this post was fun but hard, I had not seen the film in about a year and so I had to remember it all and so I used Wikipedia to help me out a bit. I found a Really Good Blog with some pictures on it and took screenshots of a couple of them and put them in the post to help out the audience when I mentioned a certain monster. The pictures break it up nicely and it looks nicer to read than blocks of text. Since putting it up it has become my Second Most Viewed Blog Post in the history of my blog.

2. 5 Years of Nintendo Wii. My top 2 posts I particularly enjoyed because it gave me time to think back and remember what happened over a period of time. This post was fun to write and fun to remember what it was like to own the third bestselling console at the time (The Nintendo GameCube) and then remember all the excitement there was to the new console (The Nintendo Wii). Now with the announcement of the Wii U it is fun and exciting to see what the next generation of consoles is going to be like.

1. A Brief History of Godzilla (100th Post). I decided that for my 100th post that I would do something special and at the time I was constantly thinking of doing a history of Godzilla. I enjoyed writing it and looking at all the research I did and then putting it all together. I looked at how the idea was made and looked through the career of Godzilla which had spanned over 50 years. It was so fun to write and I enjoyed it so much and that is why it is my favourite post this year.


5. 2012: A Look Ahead. This one was posted a few days ago and one bit of it I found very funny and so I decided to include it in my top 5.

4. Finally Got It!. This post had a nice picture in it of Seattle at night and is one of the best Photo Posts I have seen this year.

3. Grimey!. This was a post on my former Tutor’s blog and he put up a nice interactive piece of blogging. So you are doing more than just reading or watching. You are also doing something Interactive, Funny and Fun.

2. Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK. Yes it’s a name of a film but this post was one I used to help me in my review. The pictures are good and it has a more in-depth look at the actors in it.

1. Japan Tourism: Tapping Into The Monster Fan Market. This post was a fun one and a Good Idea all around. It is amazing that Japan has not thought about doing this before. The amount of money they could make. I would really like to go on a Monster Tour of Japan. Good piece to Read and interesting as well.


5. Hannah Likes Sheep Baa. Yes it is a funny title but my friend Hannah’s posts are always well written and quite interesting (and funny when she drew a picture of Mick Jagger coming out of a Tardis). Hannah’s blog has also had some fun competitions between her (and not inviting Me or Josh to join in) and Matt.

4. FullyRamblomatic. The blog of Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw. This year his blog was fun to read and listen thanks to a couple of podcast type things which were fun to listen to. OK his blog can sometimes be a bit rude but when you overlook that it is a pretty Good Blog.

3. Ant’s Corner. From the blog that made Grimey! This blog which started this year has had some pretty good posts and some interactive pieces like Grimey!.

2. A White Horizon. From my friend Matt (who animated my Monster Movie) comes a blog which has had some Fun Posts and answered some questions (and is always in competition (and not inviting Me or Josh to join in) with Hannah). The highlight of this blog has been his series of Arbitrary Stopframe pieces which were funny and fun to watch. His art pieces and General Interest pieces were fun to read as well.  

1. Godzilla 2012. A blog about everything Godzilla with some amazing stories and news pieces on Legendary Pictures Godzilla Film. If you want recent news on Godzilla but are not sure where to look, this is the Blog to read.

Well that was the 2011 year of blogging. While there were some projects that I planned but did not get a chance to do I am now working on them and some more for this year (hopefully). Now with 2012 on the Horizon I can’t wait to do some more and I hope that you enjoyed all the posts I did this year and will continue to return to my blog in 2012 for more. Thank You.


PostAWeek2011 has Now Finished. PostAWeek2012 is about to begin.

Return of the Steam Train

19 05 2011

On Monday I was travelling from my home town of Lancaster to the Town of Middlesbrough where I attend Teesside University. I went by Train and when I was leaving York Train Station I saw something very interesting. The National Railway Museum is just next to the Train Station and outside the Museum I saw a couple of Steam Trains. One of them was a LNER Class A4 (which I accidentally thought was Mallard) with Steam coming out. There was also another train outside; The New A1 Tornado (LNER Peppercorn Class A1 60163 Tornado). What is particularly special about the A1 Tornado is that it is the First Train built by British Railways since 1960. If you are a fan of Top Gear you may recognise it as the train that raced a Jaguar XK120 and a Vincent Black Shadow in a race from London to Edinburgh. It was an amazing sight to see this Train and it had Steam coming out as well and even though I was still a bit of a distance from it, it was still Very Big.

Seeing both trains did bring to mind some interesting Ideas the main one being why not have the Steam Trains return to regular service in Britain. Most trains that run in britain today are Electric Trains or Diesel Locomotives. Steam Trains being the size they are would not really work for Commuter and Stopper Trains but why not main line trains. Some Steam trains can reach speeds of 100+ mph. Mallard holds the record for the fastest Steam Train in the world with a speed of 125.88 mph.

Now most Steam Trains these days have been retired except for a small few that are operational and are used as Attractions. If Steam Trains were to return to active main line service they would have to be brand new. That means building them again. If they were brand new they would be in better condition and that is important in terms of getting passengers to their destinations. Getting the right trains to do the job is important and in today’s world of High Speed Transport the Fastest Trains would have to be used. The trains would also have to be strong to carry large numbers of passengers because Main Line service trains need to carry plenty of people. For this Job I think the A4 Class and the Peppercorn Class are best suited for the Job (and also those are the only 2 I can currently think about). The Peppercorn Class are very Big Trains meaning that they are strong enough to pull large weights but they are also very fast for Large steam trains. The A4 Class are also Big Trains but they are also very fast Trains.

Trains to do the job is not the only issue, One issue is that of Infrastructure. With Diesel and Electric locomotives one advantages is that they don’t need to turn around because there is an engine room at both ends of the train. Steam Trains have an Engine at the front but not at the back. In order to use these trains to their full use their would need to be Turntablesat both ends of the line to turn around the engines and some track points to allow the engine to get to the front of carriages and move into position.  Also train stations with roofs over them will need to be well ventilated so that the Steam generated won’t cause health and safety problems. Building the trains is another issue because Steam Trains have not been massed produced for 51 years. There needs to be an industry and need for them to be produced in large numbers again.

I do think that a return of the Steam Train will bring more excitement to the railways so that the train journey is not just about travelling from point A to point B but will be something Fun to do as well. Yes there are issues with bringing back the Steam Train to Main Line service. It could take years before there are enough trains to meet passenger demand and the Infrastructure will need work done to it but I think that the Steam Train will bring more Excitement to the railways and add more Fun travelling by rail. I do like Diesel Locomotives and Electric Train like the Pendolino but if I was to have a choice between the Pendolino and Mallard; I would choose Mallard.


Off-Topic: Next week is my 100th Post.

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