Article

AKIRA


VOICES OF: Mitsuo Iwara, Nozomu Sasaki, Mami Koyama, Taro Ishida, Jimmy Flanders, Drew Thomas, Barbara Larsen, Lewis Lemay, Stanley Gurd Jr.

1988, 124 Minutes, Directed by: Katsuhiro Otomo


Description: Set in 2019, the film richly imagines the new metropolis of Neo-Tokyo. Two disaffected orphan teenagers--slight, resentful Tetsuo and confident, breezy Kanada--run with a biker gang, but trouble grows when Tetsuo start to resent the way Kanada always has to rescue him. Meanwhile, a group of scientists, military men, and politicians wonder what to do with a collection of withered children who possess enormous psychic powers, especially the mysterious, rarely seen Akira, whose awakening might well have caused the end of the old world. Tetsuo is visited by the children, who trigger the growth of psychic and physical powers that might make him a superman or a supermonster.
- Amazon.com

One of the most expensive animated movies made in Japan (called anime), Akira is based on a popular manga or comic book of the same title. Akira is one of the few anime titles to have been released theatrically in the States and elsewhere.

The truth behind the movie lies probably somewhere between those cultists who proclaim it to be the best animated movie ever made, and those born contrarians who think that it just plain sucks.

On the one hand Akira is still technically excellent - more than ten years after it was made. Forget about the computer graphics employed (rather manifestly) in the likes of Disney movies like The Lion King, Tarzan, etc.

Akira still holds up with the best of them - its animation frees movement in a way that cannot be replicated in live action movies, the special effects of The Matrix notwithstanding. Every frame of Akira bustles with the type of details lazier animators usually leave out: textures, shadows, and so forth.

At times it is an assault on the senses and, like with a good comic book, it is probably a movie that one can rewatch again, just to take in the smaller details.

"If the only anime you know is the stuff with battling robots, then you're in for a surprise . . ."

One would also unfortunately have to rewatch it to make more sense of the plot.

Sure, you'll have no problem following the gist of it, but will probably have a tough time at certain points to explain what precisely was going on. Until about halfway through the movie you'll have to pay close attention to Akira's rather dense structure, which features a myriad of characters, subplots, background story and so forth.

Maybe the running time (of more than two hours!) is too short to explain events at a more leisurely and transparent pace. Who knows? It is only about halfway through that the main plot comes to the fore.

Comparisons with Disney movies, by the way, are superfluous. If you have seen other anime like Wings of Honneamise you'll know that they deal with more than just cute talking animals like they do in Disney movies.

If the only anime you have seen is the stuff with battling morphing robots (like RoboTech) on television, then you're in for a surprise as well. Akira is a decidedly adult affair: it is quite violent with buckets of blood at times, as well as a fleeting topless scene. So don't think it is something that you can quickly pop into the VCR to entertain the little 'uns.

However, if you're into adult animation (like Heavy Metal) then you would probably want to pop this Blade Runner/Mad Max hybrid into the VCR for yourself after sending the kids to bed . . .
 

 


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