I may be obsessed with books but when it comes to steampunk I’m all about the visual media, especially when it’s animated. Almost all my favorite examples of steampunk are some kind of animation, whether it’s a series, a movie or a video game. There’s just something magical about the way animation brings steampunk worlds to life. I mean, airships are cool, but they’re way cooler when they’re animated. Or at least I think they are.
Most of the steampunk animation I’ve watched has been Japanese animation or anime. American animation is almost exclusively for children and tends to center around a relatively narrow handful of topics, but anime explores every genre. In fact, anime often goes to the extremes of every genre, including horror–both the gory and the psychological kind.
Some of the best known anime is steampunk. Howl’s Moving Castle is an anime movie based on a novel by Diana Wynne Jones set in a wondrous steampunk setting. I’ve never read the book, but Howl’s Moving Castle was one of my first introductions to both anime and steampunk. Magic in the world of Howl’s Moving Castle can be either fun or dangerous and is both throughout the movie. Created by Studio Ghibli, one of the most well loved names in anime, the animation of Howl’s Moving Castle might be old but it still looks fantastic today.
Laputa: Castle in the Sky is another Studio Ghibli masterpiece with a fascinating steampunk city. It’s not quite as well known as some of the other Studio Ghibli movies but it is just as awesome. This movie is a great place to start if you’re really into the lighter side of steampunk. Also, airships.
Want a series to dig into? Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood is an incredibly popular steampunk series set in a country called Emestrius, which uses a combination of steam technology, gear technology and of course alchemy. There is also a longer Full Metal Alchemist series but the story line in Brotherhood is much closer to the original manga and(at least in my opinion) more interesting. If you love steampunk because of the opportunities it presents for political intrigue, Brotherhood is one series you’ll adore.
Seven Samurai is a lesser known example of steampunk anime which takes the classic film Seven Samurai, adds magic and robots(it makes more sense than you might imagine) and transforms it into an awesome anime. It’s also the only anime on this list where the main characters are all adults, or at least all adult-ish, which brings me to another interesting point about anime:
Anime is not afraid to throw children into harsh situations. In fact, a lot of anime created for adults around adult themes still feature protagonists who are in high school or even younger. In some ways this is really awesome. I think stories about/for young people in our culture could use a lot more diversity, and creepy children… Well they’re the best at being creepy. On the other hand, I’d love to find more anime that centers around actual adults.
Of course, the Japanese aren’t the only ones who’ve created steampunk animation. Just last week a French animated film called April and the Extraordinary World was officially released in the US(I actually can’t wait to see this movie, check out the trailer to find out why). There have also been a handful of animated steampunk movies created by American studios such as Atlantis – The Lost Empire.
Over the next few months I plan to take a journey through the land of steampunk animation, reviewing animated steampunk series and movies I discover along the way. Most of it will be anime(I’m a bit of a fanatic) but I’m eager to explore steampunk animation from everywhere else in the world too. I hope you’ll enjoy discovering it with me!
Have you watched any awesome steampunk animation? Are you interested in discovering more? Let me know in the comments section below!