The Art of Steamboy Part II : Background Art

Now that we’ve taken a look at the storyboards in Part I, let’s move on to the background art for the film.

A total of 6 background artists churned out all the plates used in the film, which is no certainly no mean feat considering the huge amount of work that they had to produce for an anime running 120 minutes long.

At the helm was art director Kimura Shinji, who himself painted a staggering amount of background plates. If you find his name familiar, that’s because he also worked his magic on Michael Aria’s visually stunning Tekkon Kinkreet. Check out the reviews for the amazing Black and White artbooks.

(above and below) Superlative details for various parts of Ray’s house. The book gives the reader an excellent chance to pore over and study the intricate work in the background art, which otherwise would only appear for a couple of brief seconds in the film.

(above) The massive citadel towers above all, and the art quickly reminds me of Brueghel’s magnum opus “Tower of Babel”. ( below )

(above right) Similarly, the cloud shrouded, eerie green moon immediately have me recalling Victorian artist Atkinson Grimshaw’s “Park Row, Leeds”. ( below ) Whether these pieces were homages to the masters or just plain coincidences is anyone’s guess, though I much prefer the former.

(above) The dank and dark interiors of the citadel where Ray’s climatic battle with the gargantuan mechanical monster took place.

(above) One of Scarlet’s planes that appear during the end credits. Fans of Otomo will probably notice by now that the man is partial to the color red; Kaneda’s costume and bike in Akira; Ray’s costume in Steamboy, Magnetic Rose, and not forgetting of course, the huge red hero cannon in his delightful Cannon Fodder.

Unfortunately this mammoth of an art book has been out of print for quite a while now, and no reprints have ever been made. This is probably due to the poor box office takings for the film, and the publishers saw no point in publishing an expensive art book that few folks would want to buy. The Amazon item page is right here, just for your information. If you ever spot a used copy for sale in a 2nd book store when you visit Japan, I would advise you to grab it immediately.

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