Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: Violence
Mitsuo Iwata as Shōtarō Kaneda
Nozomu Sasaki as Tetsuo Shima
Mami Koyama as Kei
Taro Ishida as Colonel Shikishima
Mizuho Suzuki as Doctor Ōnishi
Tetsusho Genda as Ryūsaku (Ryu)
Director: Katsuhiro Otomo
Biker Kaneda is confronted by many anti-social elements while trying to help his friend Tetsuo who is involved in a secret government project. Tetsuo’s supernatural persona adds the final twist.
I had been hearing about Akira for a while, with it being one of the most well known anime movies. I decided to check it out, knowing only that it was an anime and that it is incredibly influential. I really didn’t know whether I would like it, partly because I didn’t know what to expect, but also because I was still getting into anime films at this point (with it being the second anime movie I watched). Akira really blew me away on so many levels.
Akira is an incredibly ambitious film which blends so many elements together, including sci-fi, action, and body horror. Immediately something that is present from the start is the setting of the film, with some tangible and rich worldbuilding. The movie is 2 hours long but it packs so much story and worldbuilding in this runtime, and is so energetic that the runtime flies by so quickly. The story itself is engaging and entertaining, it goes in very different directions that you aren’t expecting, and the characters are likable and have charm to them. Something that is worth knowing going in that the movie might be a little hard to understand and follow at times. This is because Akira never stops with the information gives you from the story to the worldbuilding, and there’s a lot of exposition. While I’m not a big fan of heavy exposition shoved at the audience, they did it in a way where I actually didn’t mind it, even if there’s some details I missed on a first viewing. There is so much happening, especially in the third act. The ending escalates to nothing short of insane, that’s the section that the majority of people will be confused by. This movie also has a lot to say with thought provoking and mature themes, touching on religion, police brutality, corruption, military, and more. With regard to any issues I had from a first viewing, the tone could be a little inconsistent, especially with random humour in some serious moments. I didn’t mind the humour for the most part, but sometimes it was a little out of place. Also some of the characterisation could’ve been a little more thorough, there were a number of side characters I didn’t care much for.
Akira is directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, I don’t know of anything else he’s done, but his work on this film is astounding. First of all worth talking about is the animation, and for an anime released back in 1988, it really holds up well. The animation is gorgeous and enthralling to watch. The movements are smooth, and the backgrounds are beautiful. So much care went into every frame, so much detail is provided and its so dense that it can be overwhelming at times. The setting of Neo-Tokyo is characterised so well, creating a city so rich and complex. Everything about the movie is distinctly cyberpunk. The action sequences are thrilling and filled with adrenaline, with very memorable moments. Something I wasn’t expected was for Akira to be as gruesome as it was, it is a brutal movie with some great body horror. There’s also a great use of sound and silence, in fact some significant moments are done without sound. The musical score is memorable and unique too.
Akira is known as a masterpiece by many, and I can see why. It has had a significant impact on anime, cyberpunk, sci-fi, and just film in general. Even if you ignore the impact it’s made, it’s a beautiful animated and thrilling film that’s complex and dense in its story and themes. I wouldn’t say its an easy film to have as a gateway into anime with what it does. However, I do think that it is a must see movie, and one I definitely intend to revisit in the future.