Akira, the 1988 Japanese animated film directed by Katsuhiro Otomo and based on the popular anime comic, has been hailed as a ground-breaking and iconic piece of anime and rightly so.
This science-fiction epic is set in a post-apocalyptic Neo-Tokyo, a city in the aftermath of a psychic explosion in 1988 which led to the rise of biker gangs, government corruption, and a new generation of telekinetic youths whose power if left unchecked would be catastrophic to the city and the world at large.
Without giving too much away if you haven’t seen Akira, the movie is set 31 years after the event in 1988 and follows the story of a rebellious teenage biker named Kaneda and his best friend Tetsuo, who grew up together and get embroiled in a government conspiracy involving a mysterious child with immense psychic powers named Akira.
Tetsuo gets taken against his will by the military after coming in to contact with an escaped psychic children and is then subjected to experiments and drugs to awaken his abilities and of course, it all goes terribly wrong and we as the viewers get taken on a rollercoaster journey of epic destructive proportions.
The movie is more than just its violence though, its a cult classic and an iconic one at that!
So, let’s delve deeper in to why its legacy is secured as one of the greatest Sci-Fi movies of the 80s and possibly the 20th Century.
Akira’s Visual Style
One of the key elements that makes “Akira” so iconic is its visual style.
The film was produced using traditional hand-drawn animation techniques, which were combined with state-of-the-art computer technology to create an unparalleled level of detail and realism.
The animation is complemented by vivid and immersive character designs that are both highly expressive yet physically believable. The characters still look anime but gone are the big eyes and over the top caricatures and instead a more realistic depiction of people and their mannerisms.
Prior to this films release outside Japan, similar sci-fi based cartoons animation was rudimentary to good, sure we had some great cartoons in the 80’s but we saw nothing like this and this is what set it apart.
It’s not just the characters that stand out, the cityscape of Neo-Tokyo is a feast for the eyes, with towering skyscrapers, sprawling slums, and futuristic landscapes that evoke a sense of dystopian grandeur much like Bladerunner did a few years earlier with its depiction of L.A in the future.
It makes the city just as much a vital feature as the main cast are, with a global city alive with the hustle and bustle and that you would see today.
It’s the dystopian underbelly you see juxtaposed against the glittering light that makes it stand out, it’s almost a story of two cities and it truly feels alive.
In addition to its impressive visual style, Akira is notable for its thought-provoking social commentary. The film explores a wide range of themes, including the dangers of unchecked technology, the corrupting influence of power, and the bleak future that awaits humanity if we continue down the path of destruction.
The film also delves into deeper philosophical questions about the nature of reality, the limits of human consciousness, and the consequences of unlocking the secrets of the human mind.
This social background adds a dimension to the proceedings of destruction and despair adds to the overall tone of the movie and basically said this is not for kids.
Akira’s Cultural Impact
Akira has had a profound impact on the anime industry and popular culture, both in Japan and around the world. Upon its release, the film was widely regarded as a masterpiece, and it quickly became a staple of Japanese animation consumed globally.
It was one of the first anime films to receive a significant level of recognition in the West, and it helped to popularize anime as a genre and establish it as a form of high-quality entertainment.
In the years since its release, Akira has without a doubt inspired countless other filmmakers and animators, who have drawn upon its themes, visual style, and storytelling techniques in their own works.
Despite being released 35 years ago, Akira continues to captivate audiences and remain as relevant as ever.
Its themes of technology and its potential dangers, as well as its exploration of the human condition and the limits of human consciousness, have only become more pressing in the years since its release.
The film’s stunning animation and its well-crafted characters and story continue to hold up even today, and it remains one of the most highly regarded anime and science fiction films of all time.
Also to add to the timelessness of Akira, one of the key scenes in the movie is set at the new Olympic stadium for the 2020 games (the movie is set in 2019) which was actually held in Tokyo for real, although postponed due to the global pandemic.
Add in the fact that its a future that looks like today in many ways, there are no flying cars etc, military tech looks about right (except the epic laser rifle of course) and the cities inhabitants looks pretty normal just like today. Although it must be noted that we are still waiting for a bike like Kaneda’s today.
In short, Akira is a true icon in the world of cinema. Its incredible visual style, thought-provoking themes, and lasting impact have made it a timeless classic that continues to captivate audiences today.
If you’re a fan of anime, sci-fi, or just good filmmaking, Akira is a movie you won’t want to miss. Its legacy as a ground-breaking work of art you can only hope will continue to inspire future generations of filmmakers and animators for years to come.
Where Can You Watch Akira?
If you are eager to see it, good news, Akira is available to watch on Netflix in the UK right now so next time you’re flicking through trying to find something to watch, think ‘Akira’ and strap in for the ride of your life however if you need a preview check out the original 1988 trailer here.
Did Akira have a profound impact on you when you first watched it? What made it a stand out movie for you? Share your memories and your opinion on this movie in the comments below We’d love to hear your thoughts on this iconic movie.