Akira is one of those must see animations if you are getting into the Japanese anime genre. It still holds it head up high, even today, as a ground breaking animation addressing some of the major concerns of the time.
Katsuhiro Otomo wrote and directed Akira, adapting it from his own epic 2,182 page manga. One of the films' flaws is simply that he tried to condense such a mass of information into 2 hours of
animation. In fact, where the film ends is not where the manga ends, and there is another whole films' worth of story left.
The manga is packed with political scheming, revolution, religious conspiracy, the mystery of the awesome power of Akira and a couple of kids caught up in it all. When you try to pack all of that into a single film you end up with a gigantic tangled mass of information that can be very confusing if you don't pay close attention to it. I guess those who have read the manga will have no trouble deciphering what is going on and those who haven't are thrust into the position of the main characters as they are just as confused as the audience.
The film starts on July 16 1988 with an apparent nuclear bomb destroying Tokyo and starting World War III. Thirty-one years later, in 2019, Tokyo is rebuilt on an artificial island in Tokyo bay and renamed Neo-Tokyo. The government is under a lot of strain from anti-government terrorists, political arguments and gang violence.
The government also has a mysterious program controlled by the colonel, which has experimented on children to unleash their latent mental powers resulting in three prematurely aged mutants, known as the espers.
The film centers around Tetsuo and Kaneda, two members of a bike gang called The Capsules, who are in a gang war against another bike gang called The Clowns. After a bike battle on a highway (one of my personal favourite scenes ever) the gang is involved in a web of military secrets involving a force known as "Akira".
- YOUTH REBELLING AGAINST AUTHORITY
- METHODS OF CONTROL
- TRANSFORMATION EXPERIENCED AS TEENAGERS BECOME ADULTS (COMING OF AGE)
- JAPAN'S DANGEROUS RUSH TOWARDS TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCE
- GOVERNMENT CORRUPTION
- LOSS: ALL THE CHARACTERS IN SOME FORM ARE ORPHANED WITH NO SENSE OF HISTORY.
- MILITARY'S OLD FASHIONED HONOUR
- RELIGION, YOUTH CULTURE, CYBERPUNK, PSYCHIC AWARENESS, REBIRTH
Shotaro Kaneda- Kaneda is the gang leader of The Capsules who boasts a custom modified motorcycle. He and Tetsuo have been best friends since childhood.
Tetsuo Shima- Tetsuo is seen as the black sheep in the group and suffers a major inferiority complex under Kaneda. He looks up to Kaneda but resents the fact that he has to rely on him. After his psychic abilities manifest he becomes Kaneda's nemesis. He seeks to prove himself supremely powerful and that he does not need anyone's help. His powers become to powerful for him to control and the espers then have to awake Akira to stop him. His torment, god complex, and desperate breakdown give an emotional center to events that are otherwise drastically out of human scale.
Akira- Akira was a young boy who developed god like abilities when serving as a test subject for a secret ESP government program in the 1980's. He lost control of his powers and the blast completely annihilated Tokyo. They recovered Akira's body and when their tests came up with nothing they cryogenically froze his remains and stored them underneath the Olympic Stadium so that future generations can study it.
The Espers- Masuru, Takashi and Kiyoko, three children that were also on the same ESP program as Akira. They are not as strong as Akira but to prevent the event of 1988 they gave them drugs to control theirs powers which kept them in a state of perpetual but ageing childhood.
WHY IS AKIRA SO POPULAR?
Akira still looks amazing today, and for the time it was out of this world. At the time, and if you still watch budget cartoons today, animation companies cut comers by having limited motion e.g just having a characters lips moving but the rest of the frame still. This film broke the trend with its meticulously detailed scenes, attention to detail and super fluid motion. Also the lip dubbing is exact as they recorded the voice after the animation was made, unlike other companies of the time.
Those of you who have watched this for the first time today, may be a little confused and hopefully some of this have cleared it up for you. For others who have seen this I hope you can agree with me that this film just gets better and better ever time you watch it, and that is what makes the anime a must see film for all anime watchers.
If anyone has any questions about Akira please feel free to comment :)