Production Studio: Tokyo Movie Shinsha
Was this provided by the publisher? Yes
More Info: Anime News Network
When Akira arrived at my doorstep, I felt as though someone had dropped off a baby in a basket – a baby genius that may someday rule this world. I thought to myself, “Oh. My. Gawd. I can’t mess this up.”
Akira is intimidating. Some call it the father of modern day anime. Others call it controversial and disgusting but every piece of art has its’ fair share of critics, right? And that is exactly what this is: a legendary piece of artwork. That much is undeniable.
The premise is complex, but one that we’ve seen before: Neo-Tokyo in a near future, post-war world. Only a handful of misfits can save the already damaged world from itself. Or can they?
The characters in the movie remind me of A Clockwork Orange: oddballs and miscreants who act alike and take drugs. Meanwhile, one of them gets brought in by the corrupt government in order to be tested and reprogrammed. Not to mention, in the first scene, we see them wreaking havoc on the streets. Of course, in the manga, the story goes on from this and the similarities end here.
While some people may criticize the animation style, you must remember that this was released in 1988. For its time, Akira had an incredible amount of fluidity in the characters’’ movements, which made the action sequences and inherent violence that much more impactful. In addition, it is refreshing to see an action/thriller anime film that has no CG effects whatsoever. Keep that in mind as you take in the breathtaking amount of detail in each scene. Unfortunately, I can’t say that I loved it all. The animation style was groundbreaking for its time, but the characters’ movements are still a little too stiff for my modern tastes. Not only that, the music is dated. Can we talk about Tetsuo’s booming theme music whenever he appeared in a doorway or in a cloud of smoke? Can we?
DUN DUN, da dum!
But I digress. The praise that I have for Akira completely overshadows what criticisms I may have for it. Not because it is a classic, but because of the storytelling and character-driven plot. We feel for these multi-dimensional characters. Much in the way that we love shows like Dexter and The Sopranos, Akira has anti-heroes galore.
Akira is almost distractedly bloody but don’t let that sidetrack you from the complexities in the character arcs and plot. The story is based off of the common theme of idealism versus a corrupt government who is hell-bent on getting their hands on the newest form of warfare: telekinetics. All of that blood and gore really makes it much grittier and haunting. Remember that in real life, unsettling circumstances aren’t clean and neatly packaged. People don’t just dust themselves off and walk away from corrupt governments, experimentation, and messed-up childhoods.
I also love the fact that the characters aren’t adorable, beautiful, and/or moe. In fact, I found most of them to be creepy or even downright ugly. It fits in with the theme perfectly. You can’t have a moody film like Akira with adorable moe characters. You know, unless you live in Higurashi.
Let me just warn you that the scene that mimics a Fazbear nightmare may trigger a “Five Nights at Freddy’s” PTSD moment. Not to mention, there are shades of Elfen Lied as Tetsuo escapes from his hospital room in addition to flashes of Slither when Tetsuo changes at the end. As you can see, Akira has influenced so much in storytelling, anime, and pop culture in general.
The ending – I won’t spoil it for you – is reminiscent of Evangelion. While some people, myself included, consider it to be deep and thought-provoking, it has also gained a reputation for being weird and confusing. That said, I enjoyed the ending despite the fact that it did feel a bit rushed.
There are plans to make a live-action adaptation of the movie and fans (including myself) are hesitant. Followers like sci-fi legend and LGBT advocate George Takei even took to saying that any casting of Caucasian actors or actresses for any of the roles in the film would offend manga fans, anime fans, and Asians in general. I must admit, after the whole “Aloha” debacle (where an almost entirely white cast was hired for a movie set in Hawaii), the possibility of poor casting is fairly high.
I can see why Akira is such a classic and why it has such a cult following. Not only was it ambitious and ahead of its time, it was also beautifully crafted – albeit, disturbing and haunting as well. If ever there was a genre in anime called “Japanese rock and roll” this would definitely be in it.
DUN DUN, da dum!