Film Review – Akira (1988)

Akira - post

Title – Akira (1988)

Director – Katsuhiro Ohtomo (Steamboy)

Cast – (voices of) Mitsuo Iwata, Nozomu Sasaki, Tessho Genda

Plot – Neo-Tokyo 2019, a world changed forever after World War 3. In this city biker gangs roam the streets and political unrest is normal. Life for bike loving teenagers Kaneda (Iwata) and Tetsuo (Sasaki) changes forever when they get embroiled in a government program that threatens to hurtle the world to another catastrophe.

“The future is not a straight line. It is filled with many crossroads. There must be a future that we can choose for ourselves”

Review by Eddie on 9/04/2014

Disclaimer – the below review is for the English subtitled version of the movie

Akira is a film with a mighty reputation, an anime movie that has transcended it’s genres typically more niche fan base and found itself as not only an important part of pop culture but a movie that in its own right is a peak example of the anime industry and a in many circles a respected Sci-Fi classic. Having to admit straight of the bat my complete lack of knowledge when it comes to the Japanese Anime/Manga world Akira is my first taste of films like this and perhaps one of the only ones I will ever partake in.

Undoubtedly a stunning looking film (which is a fantastic feat considering it was hand drawn 26 years ago) Akira is a film filled with more interesting imagery and ideas than a film that melds all of them together into a cohesive or overly satisfying whole. Director Ohtomo’s vision for the 2019 city of Tokyo is a fine work of art, a world brimming with neon advertisements, biker gangs, rundown city landscapes and bright clothes. It’s a world that is eerily familiar to us in this modern age and could be compared to an animated Blade Runner in its visual aesthetic and it’s no wonder that names such as James Cameron dream of one day turning this film into a live action blockbuster. This world which feels so alive is the reason that Akira became such an iconic piece of entertainment for its story leaves a lot to be desired.

Watching Akira today the story feels overly familiar with it basically falling down to what people do when they receive great powers, they either do good or they do bad. The arc of the story can be seen now days in anything from Spider-Man through to Chronicle. Whilst this power play scenario centres the film, seemingly brushed aside arcs such as biker gangs, political unrest in a post-World War 3 world, disaffected youth and various other elements go by quickly and without much comment and one feels the film would of benefited from more of this and less creepy stuffed toys and wrinkly looking man children, but then again that is perhaps a key element to the films bonkers charms.

Akira is clearly a film that more often than not people relate to and respect and thanks to its bucket load of ideas is never dull. Whilst I didn’t personally connect to the film in any type of meaningful way Akira is a beautifully animated film and a film that still acts as a unique entry into the Anime cannon and if you’re like me and have not delved into the world a decent entry point to all its strange glories.

3 not so innocent teddy bears out of 5

31 responses to “Film Review – Akira (1988)

  1. Nice review. Like you I haven’t seen as much Japanese anime as I think I probably should have. And what I have seen has been prettier to watch than it has been interesting. But perhaps I am missing something. Might have to try this one.

    • Yeh man can’t say I am rushing out to get more anime into me but I am glad I saw this it has a lot of cool ideas and the animation is pretty mind blowing.

  2. AKIRA!
    This one of the first anime films I ever saw (I was introduced to the Japanese animation quite late in my teen years and never became an ardent consumer of it).
    I prefer the manga, though, for it has a more complex plot, but I realize that the film was released long before the manga was finished. Still, visually impressing with a kick-ass soundtrack by Geinoh Yamashirogumi-choir, this movie remains as one of my favourite sci-fi-action animes around. You might also want to check out Otomo’s other films, Steamboy, Memories and Spriggan (which Otomo supervised but did not direct per se. ) Also, reyou might want to read his manga “Domu: the Dreams of Children” (published by Dark Horse).
    Rumour has it that Guillermo del Toro is trying to get the rights to adapt Domu as a live-action feature film. We’ll see. Apparently the copyright issues in Japan are notoriously difficult to tackle.
    Thanks for teh review!

  3. Great review Eddie,

    “one feels the film would of benefited from more of this and less creepy stuffed toys.”

    I agree, I can’t help but imagine what kind of film this would have been if it had stuck with the cyberpunk biker gang arc.

    But having said that, the artistry of this film blew me away, can’t help but love this movie!

    • Spot on with the artistry comment, it’s really for me what made this film memorable even though it was stir fry crazy. Can’t imagine it working as a live action flick.

  4. Nice review. This was the first anime film that really grabbed me and I am a big fan of it. Though I haven’t gone on to watch all that much anime following this one though. Love the soundtrack for the film as well. I saw it screen at the Sydney Opera House, with Regurgitator providing live accompaniment. That was pretty special.

  5. Akira was one of those films that didn’t really grab me when I first saw it – a dodgy rip of the English dub – but when I saw it on the biggish screen at an anime screening at a local university, the Japanese dub totally blew me away. As screenwalker said above,the manga carries way more detail and is a afr more complex story with a different ending, but I think the film solidly captures the essence of tale. (For further viewing, I’d suggest at least checking out the first “Ghost in the Shell”, and most of the more popular Studio Ghibli films).

    • I have heard about how this film has been playing at University’s the world over, a mighty feat for a film to live this long in popular culture. I will try to catch a few of those other classics in the genre.

  6. I love the whole ending of Akira, really hypnotic. Personally, Ninja Scrolls is my favourite manga movie, that and fist of the North Star. Nice review though, just disappointed it wasn’t a five star!

    • Hi mate for some reason I just didn’t buy into the central story that much I much preferred all the side it’d bits that to me would of been great to explore more.

      • Yeah, The central story has never been manga’s strong point I’ll admit! But some of it is so unique and engaging I can’t help but find it enjoyable as a genre.Thanks Eddie!

  7. I have had a copy of this on my DVD shelves for about a year now, but am yet to see it. I am also interested in possibly seeing Steamboy too.

  8. I have to agree that I couldn’t connect to that movie. The pictures were overwhelming I have to say though. In some ways, they were too overwhelming ;S And it is sad that you wouldn’t try watching any other anime movie. There are way better than Akira in my opinion. The studio Ghibli movies for example are wonderful! You should definitely try Anime a bit, they are not all like Akira, although even the Children’s movies sometimes have some creepy elements in them :’D I think that’s typical for Japanese. They are kind of obsessed with scary stories

  9. Akira is an excellent film and probably the best introduction to anime not directed by Miyazaki. I’ve read in a few places that it actually isn’t held in particularly high esteem in Japan, despite its legacy elsewhere. That makes it very similar to Shinichiro Watanabe’s works in that regard.

  10. I need to watch this again. The first time I saw it, the lingering feeling I was left with was more WTF than anything else.

  11. the anime is awesome but the ideas were all over the place, they probably had a hard time condensing all the stuff in the manga into a movie

  12. Pingback: Top 10 Japanese Anime Films | Jordan and Eddie (The Movie Guys)·

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