Oh well, look at that … spider webs is already spreading across this blog. Humph, I’m so sorry for not keeping #moe404 active in June; which I won’t justify myself about anything, but promise I will do better in the future. Now here I am, starting to active again by reviewing one of the best anime movies of all time; released in 1988, adapted from a manga which published in 1982, yet still is one of the strongest foundations of today anime and modern production … it is known by the title of Akira.
Maybe you don’t know anything about this one movie yet, though I really doubt you are if you really like watching anime; you must have heard of Akira at some point when you’re discovering anime topics in social media or reading posts in the blogging community. You might have heard about Ghost in the Shell since we have already discussed it; one movie that has became the most well known anime series of the nineties; but if we turn back time a decade earlier, history knows the most famous movie at that time around was Akira, which has impacted the overall Japanese showbiz industries especially in the anime department. I could say, Akira was the one franchise which opened up the anime-industry to the mainstream Western entertainment, especially in America even though it was also received some harsh criticism at the same time.
So now you’re wondering, what is Akira? Well then, let’s discuss..,..
July 1988 is when everything started; Tokyo was decimated by an unknown force in the form of a black explosion, unmatched in magnitude to even started the World War III. A little the world knows, that it was just a little boy known as Akira, which later then captured and taken into custody in order to prevent any further destruction —never to be heard from again. 31 years later in the year on the rebuilt ruins of the old city, the new and recovering Neo Tokyo is now filled with the aimless youths who rife with the violence of bike gangs and terrorism against the current government … there is a black sheep in the form of a lonely youngster named Shima Tetsuo, who exists only to discover that something inside him has shaped himself as an incarnation of Akira.
August 2019, Shima Tetsuo and his friend named Kaneda Shoutarou are involved in some criminal activities as a biker gang, which leads them to meet a small esper sprung from a secret government laboratory by a dissident underground revolutionary organization. This random encounter has made the government pay an interest towards Tetsuo and administered him into a military institution where he begins to develop the psychic abilities. As the government seeks to quarantine this latest psychic in a desperate attempt to prevent him from unleashing the destructive power that could once again bring the city to its knee, Tetsuo seeks to prove himself supremely powerful and independent enough to live without the need of anyone’s protection.
Akira is telling a story about a collision of black and white destruction that planning to dismantle Tokyo once again. But more than that, Akira also tells about a friendship between Kaneda and Tetsuo; a relationship between a carefree gang leader with one of the gang members who quietly suffering from a deeply rooted inferiority complex, who admires his friend yet at the same time strongly resents his own reliance upon him. They’re best friends since their early childhood and still slowly developing affection as brothers even after they have grown older, to the point where they’re willing to be in the middle of activities of an anti-government guerilla in hopes to find each other again.
But of course, everything has two sides; nothing has been forever wonderful.
When you first watching Akira, you should have known what you’re getting into, considering that Akira is definitely not for everyone, and I believe not many cyberpunk movies could present itself like Akira —or you can just imagine the most disturbing way an anime can depict a character, surrounded by a depressing city similar to Gotham, and a huge threat of apocalypse such as Godzilla destroying the world. Akira is definitely not a cool science fiction movie which has been depicted from the various futuristic anime shows such as Neon Genesis Evangelion and Ghost in the Shell franchise, but also not the kind of movie that will deliver you a deep mystery and psychological stress similar to the drama that Perfect Blue come across with. For me personally, Akira is a hard kind of movie to characterize since it grasps a different take of the genre. Let’s just say, Akira is a msfts movie; from its characterization to even its soundtrack choice. But amazingly, it has received critical acclaim and even known as one of the greatest steps of the anime history.
Akira is widely considered the definitive classic of anime, and I think it will be very hard to be digested by the current generation of the anime fans, especially by those who are not into watching the classic ones. Mainly that was the reason why I told you to focus only on how the friendship between our two main characters plays the role in the movie; because if you pay the attention too much towards anything else, the movie will get you disappointed. With all the msfts choices of its animation and the sound department, together with the poor mystery aspect revolving the government’s secret the movie tries to tell; the only thing left to lean on is the change in characterization of our two main characters, especially Tetsuo who changes over the course of the movie.
But of course, we’ll get to these points one by one. First, let’s answer the question of why the mystery aspect in Akira is kinda lame when compared to today’s anime shows with the same theme and concept..,..
For whatever reason is, every horror and supernatural story has always been going hand in hand with the aspect of mystery; and that’s also the case with this movie, which will lead you to question the true identity of the mysterious individual named Akira, and question about these special children famous by the handle of espers who are under the ‘protection’ of the government. Of course, you’re going to have the answer in the end, but most likely after you become more understanding about Tetsuo and having the answer to what made him so oppressed in his life.
Unfortunately, having yourself understand about the movie will not make you shocked or even see it as a big deal, especially for you who only watch the current decade of anime series and have not seen a classic ever. Hearing about a legendary status in certain shows like Akira is, of course, will make you wonder what the show really is. But even though you’re not disappointed after you watch it, experiencing it for the first time would be difficult because you have already set up some expectations for it, and it’s very easy to expect the absolute best from Akira yet to feel the disappointment when the movie is over.
I couldn’t help but to compare Akira with the current decade series with the similar genre and theme, and not a thing could come across except differences; there is a huge gap that distinguishes Akira with anything you would see in today’s anime series. Let’s just throw one franchise with the same genre, Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica which has at least three movies throughout its franchise, and Akira compared side by side; there is almost nothing similar remembering the fact that the two features children alike with supernatural abilities inside them. Then I threw another one, Psycho-Pass which could be said one of the best of futuristic shows that revolving around the government secret; but again, it’s still far away from the approach that Akira has taken.
Maybe that is the main reason why I see the aspects of military and sci-fi in Akira as poor. Yet of course, this doesn’t make the movie failed in delivering the dystopian futuristic world even though the current society would be no longer see everything that happens in the movie as futuristic anymore. Some scenes with extreme violence have also existed throughout the movie, but none of them has given me the feeling that Akira is the next level genre of horror. With that all being said, the question remains is why so many people were going crazy about this Akira movie? Well, there are two main reasons that could answer to that question; first, is because they have lived in the past and at least have born a few years earlier than me; and second, is because of the manga. Yes, the manga aka. the source material of this world surrounding Akira.
The fact that Akira is actually two hours and four minutes movie that adapted the material source consists of literally six thick manga volumes, is just something that hard to believe. People said that the manga will not only illustrates you the better understanding about the futuristic city they named Neo Tokyo, but also a very deep political scheming, conspiracy and revolution that are plotted by a number groups of religious, and also of course, the way deeper development regarding the secretive scientific projects of vast scale and the mystery of the overpowered individual they keep calling it Akira. Plus, the fact that the manga wasn’t even finished when the movie production was started, just make everything harder to believe.
Maybe the fact that Akira compresses hundreds of manga pages that originally published over several years, has to be the reason why the plot in the movie is more than just a little bit messy and vague. And yet, this messy and vague plot is one of the biggest reason why people would be attracted to Akira. If you could ask anyone who has seen Akira and would describe the first 15 minutes of the movie, what you will get is an explosion that ended the world, a new city of metropolis overloaded with TV news reports and dog food commercials on billboards, rioting students, biker gangs and thugs fighting each other, and an odd paranormal been chasing by a military state. Other than that, you should have realized that the movie also had implied the character development right off the bat, so there must be so many things going on with the movie as you can imagine, maybe almost too much to handle.
Now we have come to this part where we talk about the characters in the story of Akira, I might say that this part is the best part of the movie. In case you haven’t realized yet, the last 30 minutes of the movie is filled with actions and reactions between the two of our main character, the time when dramatic scenes are happening on screen and conversations are developed for them to finally trying to understand each other. For sure, there are always two sides for the audience to choose between the good guy or the bad guy; but whoever they have to choose and relate with, everyone who has watched the movie would accept that it was the point of no return for every character in the story.
Between the full length of the movie, there are so many developments that happen to change the movie’s narrative and move its atmosphere from one point to another. There is this fictional world of Akira that had constantly changed forasmuch as the city of Neo Tokyo has been introduced as an unstable city since the beginning, our political and government opinion is also had to change in the middle of the movie … to even our outlook towards this subject of interest known as Akira that has been introduced as an antagonist who destroyed the world once at the beginning, also had to change when the movie unfolds the truth about him as just another victims of the government’s experiment. But unfortunately, all of those developments didn’t really give me any impactful experience, except what happens to our main character —Shima Tetsuo which later became the government’s subject experience known as the Number 41.
When I was introduced to his character, I immediately saw him as a secretly crybaby who always depends on his other gang members, see him as an immature teenager who doesn’t even have the courage to tell people that he is worth a recognition. In the course of the movie, the messy and vague concept we have discussed had made me eliminates the line between which character is the antagonist and which is the protagonist, including my judgement towards everything that Tetsuo does after he gains his esper abilities. Strangely enough, what my brain needs when I watched Tetsuo’s transformation from a weak 15 years old kid into a psychopath who destroys anything on his path and kills anyone who dares to deal with him, is just whether it made any sense or not. And when it makes sense, I don’t care about anything else anymore.
Now, what do you think about a kid who has been demanding for a recognition form everyone around him while the reality only gave him the reasons to hate everyone … until finally one day, he blessed with a power to do everything by force? Now the answer is, of course, he will climb the food chain; he wants to control everything and he wants everyone to not hold him back as he’s now capable to protect himself from any harm. From my point of view, this concept totally makes sense. Not thinking to go back to the old biker gang he was in, he rampaged through the city to find the remains of Akira that has been hidden by the government; of course, to take the remains out of the existence as he has learnt that Akira is the only one who has the power equally as big as himself, and he also learnt that Akira would reawaken and bring himself into an alternate dimension, which of course he don’t want that to happen.
On the other side, there is Kaneda Shoutarou who has been the leader of the biker gang that previously Tetsuo had the member of. Not only that, the two have also been best friends for a long time —even years— before the current event takes place. Though this relationship has not been developed earlier in the movie, but the amount of care and worry that has been shown by Kaneda when he knows about Tetsuo’s involvement with the government’s business, has made me realize how strong the bond they have really is —or at least, the one-sided cares that Kaneda have shown for Tetsuo.
At the end of the movie, which of course the screentime is filled also with the military state trying to stop the awakening of Akira, but the weight of the narrative lies in the interaction between Kaneda and Tetsuo; a brat kid who just gained the ability to fly, destroy everything, and kill anyone with just a push of rage … with a normal ‘old brother’ who just want his best friend back to normal again. You as an audience, could say anything about what you think is the best happens to the movie, whether it’s the science fiction or the cyberpunk theme that the movie represents; but after I rewatched the movie last night, I remember that the character development of Tetsuo and his psychological interaction with Kaneda are the ones that had made the movie appeal on my eyes.
visual and arts.
Okay, now let’s get back to the arts of the movie. Get back? Yes … if you can remember what I have said earlier, my assessment towards this point is still the same; Akira is a msfts movie. I don’t even see any character design that is amazing or even appealing enough for me to take as a profile picture, even though I wouldn’t have the same opinion towards Akira’s fan arts and its posters —which most of it are amazing. But honestly, the character design in the movie animation is literally the most msfts of everything.
The second worse choice in this assessment is the soundtrack, which is a weird album of tracks where the most of it constructed by some random elements of notes. One example is must be the one time when the chasing sequence between the biker gangs was on screen, when I only heard a deep breathing voice —like a sound that someone would make when they’re struggling to breathe through an oxygen regulator tube. It is very creepy, but at the same time it’s succeeded in delivering the atmosphere of this chasing sequence where broken glasses are flying everywhere, engines are exploding, people are crushed by tires and their head chopped by iron rods.
The third worse choice they have made must be how the three espers depicted in this movie. I don’t know how they have been illustrated in the manga, but here in the movie they are depicted as three small children with the appearance of old people; which having that appearance and voiced with children’s voices at the same time was so uncomfortable for me to watch, even the weirdness is almost creepy to see.
But I understand why they have done all of this, which is their short amount of time to deliver a certain amount of emotion and atmosphere into some characters or situations. And they have done it all the way about everything, not halfway; whether how red they have coloured the blood in the movie, how weird the soundtrack is, to even how crazy the characters have been depicted in the movie. The result, the movie is actually succeeded in giving the audience the feeling towards these certain characters or situations just like how Akira wants it. It’s weird and … always getting weirder, but it’s a different kind of weird that the movies from Satoshi Kon usually try to deliver —Akira is the classic kind of weird.
Other than that, all the Japanese voice actors and actresses are amazing, and you’ll understand immediately why Akira is a legendary one after you watch the first five minutes sequence of the movie. To be remembered; Akira is a movie that has been released more than three decades ago! So just let that fact sink in for a moment.
closing – nesha’s final verdict.
I actually have a lot more things to say about Akira, but I think for only one movie, this post has become a too long review already —and I have to upload one review at least for this week alone— so I should end the review here. But nonetheless, I hope you can get what I tried to point out about this one legendary movie. Watching a totally different movie from any other anime you’re usually watching doesn’t necessarily make the movie bad, it even usually turns out really good considering that we couldn’t ever find the kind of settings before. But sadly in this case, Akira has presented itself as msfts as possible to the point where we couldn’t relate to anything that happens in the story —well except, the development aspect of our two main characters that we have talked about … but almost nothing else.
For some people, Akira is an expression of the post World War anxieties and struggles which mirroring Japan’s warped and disoriented state following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki … but does the movie really succeeded in delivering this message? For some other people, the dramatic moment between Kaneda and Tetsuo in the ending scene didn’t even give them any emotion, since they didn’t know why they have to care about these two characters. Because as we know, the fact that the manga is actually six volumes and the movie is only two hours, people who created this movie must have been throwing away so many important scenes in building up the world around the characters, and skipped also a lot of important scenes about the background story of each character. People even said that the character of Akira ischaracterized in the movie as someone who’s quite different from the manga. But who knows, I haven’t read the manga; though it was first published in English by the Marvel Comics under the Epic Comics imprint and it was one of the first manga to be translated in its entirety … so, it must be a really great manga.
In the end, the movie of Akira is no longer a revolutionary movie … maybe because now we are living in 2018 and not 1988. But Akira is still a legendary one, it has so many unique settings and subtle concepts that are very different from any other anime you have watched or usually watch. So if you haven’t seen Akira, I still recommend you to watch it at least once in your life. And for the sake of your enjoyment, please don’t watch the dubbed version, but watch the subbed instead. ❤
additional pieces of information.
- first time premiered in the summer, 16.07.1988
- nesha’s review of an anime movie
- from the studio of Tokyo Movie Shinsha
- tagged under the genre of #action, #military, #sci-fi, #adventure, #horror, #supernatural, and #seinen
tagged under the subgenre of #psychological, #science_fiction, #cyberpunk, #post-apocalyptic, #psychics, #superpowers, #angst, #genetic_modification, #high_school, #human_enhancement, #manga, #super_power, and #violence
- the age-rated as R+
Well, there you go my review of Akira —thank you for reading! But that is just a one person’s analysis towards this monstrous movie, so I want to know what is your take about Akira? Whether you have or haven’t watched the movie, I want to know if you’re interested in watching it again, and how much did you have enjoyed it? I’d love to know which aspect you agree and which points you disagree with my outlook towards Akira, write them down in the comment section!
With that, I’d like to end this review and go to sleep —I really need a good rest. And by the way, if you enjoyed my review, please consider supporting the blog. We would really love to have that. And anyway, you can just leave if you don’t like my review, but make sure click the like button if you like this kind of stuff. Thank you for reading, keep watching anime, and I’ll see you again next time … bai-bai now~
© content written by nesha5971