Thursday, December 8, 2011


Curator's Note: Having just written "Short Reviews," let's give this a try!

Akira (アキラ)
July 16th, 1988
124 min
Japan (Japanese)

Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo
Written by Katsuhiro Otomo and Izo Hashimoto

Detailed visuals and a layered narrative set Akira far and apart from typical animated films. TMS Entertainment shows a haunting future, no doubt based on Japan's haunted past, that proves required viewing for time and all history.

This semester at film school I have immensely enjoyed a science fiction class, which expanded my mind to the genre itself and why these films were made when they were made. The latest blessing from this course came in the form of Akira, a widely and wildly acclaimed anime that I had always been meaning to see and may never have had it not been for the class. My professor related to us that if a nuclear bomb had never been dropped on Japan, we would not have this story. 

Akira begins in 1988 when an iconic mushroom cloud taints the Oriental landscape yet again. Years later in 2019, Neo Tokyo proves to have risen from the ashes (again, again), only to be on the verge of an apocalypse. In this darkened future we follow a bike gang where the relationship between two members, Tetsuo and Kaneda, proves vital to the rest of the story. Tetsuo has always lived in Kaneda's shadow since the two were orphans, but after an introduction and encounter with a child esper, Tetsuo begins to unleash his inner energy. The caution of the narrative is how people use such power, which brings my thoughts back to the history of Japan, a country that rose from the ashes before.

From here the plot wastes no time to get rich with an ensemble cast of nearly a dozen characters. What I found remarkable was the ease with which I was able to distinguish between them and discover where they play a part in the bigger picture. To be sure, Akira is not a show for children. It has elements of dark comedy, grotesque horror, and brutal violence. The changes and choices Tetsuo is faced with leads to many of these things. Neo Tokyo is a rough place, with false prophets and power-hungry individuals. Akira (especially the title character) awaits to provide commentary on the madness. As beautiful and intentionally disgusting (something I could also say about Miyazaki's Spirited Away) as the animation is, it is the deep and thoughtful issues of its narrative that make Akira the masterpiece it is. As present as the fade-ins and fade-outs of scenes are throughout the film, the messages follow suit.

Curator's Note: It is interesting to note that this film came out in 1988, the same year as another anime feature, one I consider among the best films of all-time (animated or otherwise), My Neighbor Totoro. While you couldn't find two more different films in terms of subject matter, they are both colorfully animated in that gorgeous Japanese style (albeit, Akira has a bit more explosions than Totoro.)  Totoro feels more like a children's picture book come to life while Akira lends itself to the graphic novel (actually based on the manga of the same name). The impending doom that is the American remake of Akira is also worth mentioning, but let us save that for another blog post altogether.)

"Now you're king of the mountain, but it's all garbage!"
- Kaneda


CONTENT: language, nudity, strong bloody violence

Updated 7/16/13

1 comment:

Colloquial Mage said...

Some people think that My Neighbor Totoro isn't as happy as it seems. Check this out:

I think it fits and personally believe it's true. It adds a scary depth to the movie.

Thank's for the review!