Akira is an anime movie written and directed by Katsuhiro Otomo based on his Manga of the same name. It was released in Japan in 1988 and in the US in 1999. Akira was a huge hit and is now considered a pioneering movie that has paved the way for other anime films.
Akira is cyberpunk with elements of body horror. The animation is highly intricate and broke away from the usual static facial expressions and lip synching of its predecessors. It uses some computer-generated imagery primarily to animate the pattern indicator used by Doctor Onishi. CGI was also used to tweak lighting and lens flares and for background objects and pathing. The voice acting uses pre-scored dialogue which is made before the film production begins. The film uses super fluid motion and more than 160,000 animation cells and you can see it in Akira. The production techniques are still considered to be quite innovative for the genre. The budget was a whopping 9 million dollars which was unheard of for a Japanese Anime.
The storyline, very faithful to the original Manga, is unusual and very fascinating. In July 1988, a massive explosion occurred in Tokyo, which starts World War III. After the war, the city now called Neo Tokyo has been rebuilt but by 2019, suffers from overwhelming corruption and crime. The main characters are bikers and outsiders of society, who are living under the shadow of an oppressive war driven government.
The story focuses on Kaneda Shoutaru, who is the leader of “The Capsules” biker gang. Kaneda is known as a rebel with a quick temper. He is brave and loyal and takes care of his gang. Tetsuo is Kaneda’s best friend with psychic abilities. He is involved in an accident and his psychic abilities become much stronger afterwards and he loses control. Kaneda and his bike members are symbols of anarchy and rebellion. The story can be quite hard to follow and it's pretty bizarre at times for first time watchers.
The film revolves around superhuman like themes and superhuman like abilities especially psychokinetic ones like telekinesis. It's not a main part of the story instead it mainly focuses on the societal pressures and the crime ridden world the main characters are living in. It has common manga motifs such as youth alienation, government corruption, and a military in a horror styled world. As the film goes on things keeps getting worse and worse for Neo Tokyo. You could see Tetsuo’s mental and physical degradation as time goes by. As becomes more powerful with his psychic abilities his body mutates into an unrecognizable disgusting mass.
The action is really good and ultra-violent. The bike scenes are my favorite as it's fast, unpredictable and holds nothing back. Akira has a really unique art direction that is just as highly intricate and fluid as its animation. The world of Neo Tokyo is dark and surreal. The design of the motorbikes in the film are beautiful and futuristic. The special effects of the film are very cool. It has sharp visuals and a vibrant color pallet. The sound design is impressive and sounds magnificent on a good home theatre system. Its musical score is haunting and high tech just like in the film.
Akira has influenced many films, anime and video games. The slow-motion bullet time in The Matrix was influenced by Akira. It also brought a new wave of anime fandom in the early 90s to the western world. Movies such as Ninja Scroll and Ghost In The Shell, and tv shows such as Cowboy Bebop and Sailor Moon were all preceded by Akira. This movie was ground breaking, inspiring and today, is considered one of the best sci fi and anime movies of all time.
The film gets 5 stars.