Japan, 1988. An explosion caused by a young boy with psychic powers tears through the city of Tokyo and ignites the fuse that leads to World War III. In order to prevent any further destruction, he is captured and taken into custody, never to be heard from again. Now, in the year 2019, a restored version of the city known as Neo-Tokyo—an area rife with gang violence and terrorism against the current government—stands in its place. Here, Shoutarou Kaneda leads "the Capsules," a group of misfits known for riding large, custom motorcycles and being in constant conflict with their rivals "the Clowns."
During one of these battles, Shoutarou's best friend Tetsuo Shima is caught up in an accident with an esper who finds himself in the streets of Tokyo after escaping confinement from a government institution. Through this encounter, Tetsuo begins to develop his own mysterious abilities, as the government seeks to quarantine this latest psychic in a desperate attempt to prevent him from unleashing the destructive power that could once again bring the city to its knees.
Note: The following review DOESN\'T contain spoilers.
Akira is a very controversial piece of art — but a piece of art regardless. It isn\'t easy to watch it, and it isn\'t easy to review it, either: Akira the movie is such an ambitious and influential project that grasping it in its entirety is far from being trivial.
Akira\'s story is among those where you need either high intuitive and perceptive abilities to understand everything that goes on, or to watch it several times. It doesn\'t really help that Katsuhiro Otomo stuffed almost 2000 pages of story into 2 hours of screen time, but at least the movie
has considerably good re-watch potential, which might help to release part of the strain.
What we have is a post-WWIII Tokyo of not-too-distant future, led by greedy politicians and torn apart by terrorists trying to bring down the corrupt power and biker gangs that roam the streets. There is no usual hi-tech cyberpunk fantasies about living online, free information or global communication — just a demonstratively dystopic setting involving modern society abandoned to rot on its own. This is driven up further by the secret military experiments in attempts to magnify and control human psychic powers, which actually led to the WWIII in the first place. These social, political and semi-scientific, semi-mystical aspects mix and intertwine as a couple of teenagers get accidentally involved in all this mess.
Where Akira definitely wins is the art department, being a clear milestone in animation. It\'s been almost 20 years since its release, and I\'ve yet to see many movies, especially anime, drawn with this amount of detail. There are very few still shots, every movement is scrutinized and animated at 24 frames per second, creating a remarkably fluid image. Dialogues are all lip-synched and everything looks as natural as it was possible to do at the time.
Character design can be called dubious, but personally I like it, since it\'s considerably truthful to actual real-life images, where people actually tend to have noses instead of some weird pointy bumps, and eyes that don\'t take half the entire face. Most of the characters are pretty much ugly, and it helps them match the gloomy setting really well. The only weak spot in it is considerably small difference in facial design, which is why some characters (especially younger ones) look similar to each other.
Sound and music
Akira is actually rather silent most of the time. However, when the sound plays, it\'s almost always highly dynamic and spot-on. Most of the soundtrack is dominated by industrial beats, minimalistic ethnic motifs and chants, and is intended to set the certain ambience in the movie, so you\'ll likely fail to enjoy it too much outside of it. But for what it\'s worth, the sound work is really good in the movie, especially considering the time of its production.
I can\'t say there\'s too much to it when it comes to characters. The movie\'s limited length (compared to manga at least) didn\'t leave too much for character development, so you mostly see more-or-less clear manifestations of certain archetypes rather than complex emotional and psychological twists, even though not all of them are simple to read through. Some appear initially negative but proven to be decent later, while others appear good at first but eventually show themselves to be corrupt.
Pretty much the only characters who let you get some insights into their backstory are Kaneda and Tetsuo, especially the latter. Both are almost equally confused by the events engulfing them (kinda like the viewer, actually), and it\'s very interesting to track their relationships throughout the movie.
This is a very subjective matter, but personally, Akira is one of the most enjoyable movies I\'ve ever seen. It has a lot of shock value (assuming you\'re shocked by immense amounts of graphic violence), it has furious action, it has plot riddles, it has mystery, drama and horror elements, all presented in a coherent (but sometimes overly gruesome) manner. Some people regard Akira to be a gratuitous bloodbath, but there\'s much more to it than the amount of gore, it\'s just that those people are unable to look deeper than that. There is a lot of symbolism ingrained underneath the visual layer, and it takes some time and effort to find all the links to cultural and other contexts.
That being said, if you enjoyed watching it for the first time, chances are you will enjoy it the second time around, and probably even more at that. The final 20 minutes literally eat my head from inside every time I rewatch them, much like End of Evangelion or other similar movies. And for this alone I think it deserves its 10.
Overall, I\'m still of the opinion that Akira is a masterpiece and deserves watching, whether you like anime (or any form of animation, actually) or not, at least for its great cultural and historic value. There are many movies and cartoons that are far more enjoyable, and it\'s not like Akira is the absolute limit of anything and everything. But as more and more titles surpass it in various respects, Akira stays like the Colossus of Rhodes, being a great achievement on its own and one of the most influential landmarks in the history of anime for years to come.
Akira is a film adapted from the manga series of the same name by Katsuhiro Otomo. The film was a huge success, even outside its native Japan, and is often heralded as one of the all-time greatest anime ever produced. I first saw this film in 2007, and I have no desire to see it again. I know "classic" anime and I tend to not mix very well, but I cannot understand why this film was and still is championed as a "great" example of anime. The only thing great about this film is how it teaches you what NOT to film in an action
It's the future in Tokyo, or Neo-Tokyo, and everything has gone to Hell. The streets are a warzone between gangs, the government, and everyone else. In between all of this are a number of children with psychic powers that enable them to do pretty much whatever they want. One of these children is a teenager from a biker gang named Tetsuo. He and his friend Kaneda get caught up in the government's attempt to . . .
I'm sorry, I'm giving this plot way too much credit. Do you want to know what I recall this movie being about? It's a series of one senseless act of violence after another. Sure, there are scenes of expository dialog, and an important flashback, but this is pretty much the entire movie right here: someone gets the crap beaten out of them. Someone else gets shot. Someone else gets exploded. Someone else gets the crap beaten out of them. Throw in nonsensical psychic powers, among even more people dying whether they deserve it or not, throw in one of the worst endings in cinematic history, roll credits. The film does not even bother to explain most of the things that happen. It's pretty much like all those mindless action flicks that plagued Hollywood in the 1980s, except animated. Then again, Akira was made in 1988, so I guess it was just following the leader in this regard. 3/10.
Akira is famous for its fluid animation. Indeed, it is the oldest anime I've seen that has motion as fluid as what you would expect from an American animated film. As gruesome as the violence is, it is well-crafted. So why then does this only get a 6? Two problems. One, the coloring. I know, this is a bit unfair, seeing as how Akira is a pre-digital anime, but the coloring is drab for the most part. At times, it is fitting of its dystopian setting, but other times, it's just, well, drab. And two, this film has some of the most bland character designs I have ever seen in a theatrical animated film. It's like the filmmakers weren't even trying in this aspect. This and the coloring bogs down my score, but at least there's no choppiness in the animation. 6/10.
The sound is alright. The soundtrack is eccentric, but works. The sound effects do their job. The ending credits song is lame retro 80s synth fluff, but it could've been worse.
I got to see parts of Akira in both Japanese and the English dub by Geneon. The Japanese dub is superb. Unlike most anime, Akira's Japanese dialog was recorded before the animation work was completed, much like an American animation. Unfortunately, because of this, foreign language dubs look off compared to the original. Now, dub purists are probably thinking, "But . . . but . . . Johnny Yong Bosch! Wendee Lee! Joshua Seth!" Yes, I love them too, but honestly, if for whatever morbid reason you do decide to watch Akira, you're better off seeing it in Japanese with the subtitles on. 7/10.
Characterization? What characterization? This, along with the threadbare plot, is what killed Akira for me. Who are these characters? Why are they doing the things they are doing? Why should I care for them? Only one character gets any such development, and that's Tetsuo. We learn his motivation and his desire to strike back at the world, and why he and Kaneda are conflicted with fighting each other at the end, but that is it. Seriously, that's all the characterization you get in this film. When a character dies, you don't care for them, because you know nothing about them. The characters whose names I even remember are Kaneda, Tetsuo, and Akira, and that's only because the first two keep shouting each other's name, and the last has his name in the title. Like, for example, who was that girl Kaneda kept hitting on? The one that, thanks to the lackluster character designs, looks like a boy? What was her purpose in all of this? What about all those government guys? The rival biker gang? The other children with psychic powers? And why does Akira do what he does in the ending? None of this is either elaborated, or done in a way to make me care as an audience member. 2/10.
Enjoyment: If all you want to see are brutal, pointless acts of violence, then you're in luck, because that's exactly what Akira delivers, in spades. If you want more than that, you're going to be sorely disappointed. I know this is a compressed adaptation of a manga, and the manga is supposedly better, (I don't know, I haven't read the manga version of Akira) but couldn't Otomo have made the anime at least stand on its own for those who haven't read the manga? As it is, it is a confusing mess, chock to the brim with sensationalized violence. Now, mind you, I don't mind seeing mature content in my entertainment. What I do mind is seeing "mature" content used only as a means to shock and awe the audience. That's all Akira does, and somehow, it managed to delude a large number of anime fans into thinking it was "deep" and "meaningful", when all it really is is a crappy 80s action flick that dissolves into nothing by the end. That's about as much sense as I can make out of the ending anyways. 3/10.
Now before any of you say "You just hate Akira because you didn't see it back when it first came out!", I want to point out that that is a moot point to make. My favorite film by Hayao Miyazaki, Castle in the Sky, predates Akira by two years, and is a much, much, MUCH more enjoyable film than this. And also, Katsuhiro Otomo would go on to make the film Steamboy, which, unlike Akira, actually has a proper plot, characters worth giving a damn about, really nice coloring, and slightly less bland character art. So really, there's no point in seeing Akira anymore, except to laugh at it, because as far as I'm concerned, the anime version of Akira is nothing more than a joke.
Often hailed as a classic, I can kind of see where the praises are coming from: this kind of hard hitting, apocolyptic anime always seem to attract acclaim. But personally, I couldn't really get into it that much. Or perhaps it's because I just didn't get it.
My main problem with "Akira" is the vagueness of the story. I mean, I'm not the biggest fan of these abstract, philosophical stories to begin with, but "Akira" also suffers from a lack of completeness, which only exacerbated my confusion even more. I was watching it with a friend and he was having to constantly explain what to
me what was happening using knowledge that he'd accumulated from reading the manga (and in fact he didn't fully understand everything either as he hasn't read all the manga). My own view on this is that an anime like this should be able to stand on its own - I shouldn't have to go digging into the manga just to understand what is going on.
The visuals of "Akira" was supposedly amazing at the time. But if it was, stylistically I don't think it's aged particularly gracefully, though it hasn't done too badly either. Some of the background scenery still looks great, but the characters designs have an odd, "wobbly" kind of feel to them.
Even though I didn't find the music particularly to my taste, I appreciate the fact that it tries to do something different. The chant heavy soundtrack used had a primitive and alien feel to it. In the context of the anime, it worked quite well in a weird way and didn't sound out of place. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the voices, which sounded rather horrific on the dub, with the sub sounding a little but not much better.
Other than Tetsuo's character, which was quite well done, I found the rest of the character to be a little wooden, which probably affected my enjoyment of this anime a bit. And as you probably will have guessed by now, I'm not too impressed regarding the grand, complicated plot underneath that's nigh on impossible to follow unless you've read the manga.
If you like those philosophical kind of anime, you'll probably enjoy "Akira". I can't deny that it's an interesting watch, but for me, that's about as far as it goes.
So I finally got a chance to sit down and watch it, namely the English dub. What do I think about it? It was pretty good for an anime that came out in the 1980’s and it holds up pretty well to this day. I was very surprised that the show was actually directed by the writer of Akira as well. Not many people can write a manga and get to direct it as well when it comes to movie. This means that the show would have come out how he wanted to and not changed around as it went from hand to hand. Just
how close is this to the manga? Well as of now, I have not read the manga so I can’t answer that.
Some things do bother me with the story and mostly with the characters though it is more based on my preference of character then anything else. I just think that the biker gangs felt a bit forced. I never been in one, never even been near a gang like that before so I can’t say for sure but I think they wouldn’t be so open with what they were doing for so long without already being caught by the cops. I may just be analyzing it a bit too much but it just got on my nerves. That also goes for Kaneda always trying to get into Kei’s pants.
The main story had a very deep underlining meaning both in psychology and in humanity itself. It’s hard not to spoil anything about this when most of it happens at the end but I do have to talk about this. There is a back and forth aspect that seems to happen of what science could learn but at what price. It’s there when they mess with Tetsuo’s brain and the results that happen after. Let me tell you, the results were not pretty. We are always striving for learning more about ourselves and to push ourselves to the max but at what price do we pay for such an idea? Are we even willing to push us to a point that we ourselves are not considered human anymore? And what would happen if such a power was placed in the hands of someone who didn’t fully understand how to use it? Something that Kiyoko says in the show rings pretty true no matter what you’re talking about. I went something like ‘when you are given this much power, you must chose how you use it.’ Sort of similar to Spiderman’s Uncle telling him ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ but the idea is still the same.
The animation was rather gory and bloody for the most part with a lot of dark depressing textures. The place they lived really did look like a back ally pig sty but I believe that was what they were going for. For the time this came out, the artwork is rather good and I was surprised by just how much detail they put into the background as well as some of the movements. They even placed the streaks from the tail lights of the bikes in. I don’t think I have seen that much detail put into a show that was hand drawn except for Studio Ghibi’s movies. While the design of the characters were pretty realistic as far as anime can go without not looking like anime, they were still rather simple and it is understandable when people have to draw them time and time again. Once in a while, the lighting and shading didn’t work all that well and I don’t remember much shading on the ‘children’ except for the wrinkles.
The voice acting was surprisingly well done for the time it was dubbed. I can understand why this movie was what got anime going in America because the voice acting was what I would of imagined the characters to sound like. Because of the somewhat realistic artwork and the constant yelling that characters did, the lip sink suffered slightly. I can only say slightly because what they did do; they did a damn good job in doing it. One person who stood out really well was Kiyoko’s voice actor (The female little child) Melora Harte. For those of you wondering, I did watch the 1988 release of the dubbing and not the new 2001 version; at least I believe it to be.
I can truly understand why this is called a cult classic, being as a symbol of ‘greatness’ in the anime world. As the years have not been all that kind to it, it may not hold that title for animation and voice acting but its story is still something that should be kept in the minds of those who watch it. If you haven’t watched it, you are missing out even if you don’t like this stuff.
You think you know anime movies? Have you seen all 30 of these movies on our best anime movie list? Our writer sets themselves a only-one-movie-per-director rule and comes up with 30 movies every anime fan must see.