A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
Directed By: Katsuhiro Otomo
Produced By: Ryōhei Suzuki, Shunzō Katō
Written By: Katsuhiro Otomo (Manga series)
Starring: Mitsuo Iwata, Nozumo Sasaki, Mami Koyama, Taro Ishida
Running Time: 121 Minutes
The art of anime is astounding and will forever be so. The world of cinema lends an opportunity to make the imagined come to life, however through animation, the limits of where this takes you are simply endless. Japanese anime is an incredibly special art form in that every single picture is a work of art and is unlike anything else we’ve ever seen before.
A classic of the genre is Akira, an intense, stylish, futuristic piece built upon ideas of neorealism and immense chaos.
A political, action-packed surrealist picture, Katsuhiro Ôtomo’s Akira is supremely unique and champions the genre of anime. An electric ride consisting of colour, space, lavish cityscapes and masterful world building, Akira is a film that is a prime example of how limitless the world of animation truly is.
Capitalising on the boundless world, the film never cuts corners; in fact it may be one of the most detailed animated features in the last three decades.
Set in the fictitious futuristic city Neo-Tokyo after the destruction of the former city during World War III, a military project involving a youthful member of a bike gang named Tetsuo seems to threaten the city.
Delving into the realms of psionic and destructive powers, Tetsuo sets off on a mission to locate a former test subject said to possess similar powers named, Akira.
Kaneda is a central character and fellow member of the bike gang who attempts to stop the rampaging Tetsuo before it’s too late, and what ensues is an enormous, grandiose adventure with incredible depth and development.
What is most striking is the animation within Akira. Although anime is a staggeringly beautiful art form in itself, something about the way Akira is composed and layered stands out.
Whether it be the endless layered skyscrapers blocking the view of anything else, or the immense detail on shadows, colour tones or even something as simple as mist in the air, Akira’s animation style is a cut above the rest.
The world building within Akira is sensational as the near future is solidly established from the first frame, which creates a real sense of belief within the world. It’s not just the establishment of time and place that sets the mood for the film so well, the characters within the world are diverse and idiosyncratic which makes for interesting stories and development.
The best quality of Akira is the bravery and no holds barred approach with the storytelling. The film exhibits the fantastical, the surreal, the visceral and even the grotesque, regularly interchanging between each as the film progresses.
This is one of the more intense and violent pictures of the genre (however I’m sure there are far worse examples out there) with a consistent amount of blood splattering, demolition and carnage, yet it’s not gratuitous, it all fits in seamlessly with the tone and world of Akira.
If there were to be a flaw with the film, it would arguably be that the plot is a little complicated, initially at least. There are numerous characters within the film who have significant roles and a rather large impact, however it was difficult to gage exactly what that impact was a result of, or motivated by.
As the film unfolds however, we get a greater understanding of these characters’ motivations and role within the narrative, it just requires a little but more attentiveness from the audience.
For a film released nearly 30 years ago, Akira holds up and remains a high beloved, celebrated classic of the anime genre. With talks of bringing it to the big screen once again through live-action adaptation, there is no wonder talks have broken down on several occasions.
Not only would the casting be imperative, the right director at helm would be even more crucial as Akira is more or less un-filmable. There is so much going on within the film that the budget to create such an immense world would be incredibly sizeable, furthermore the settings are scattered and equally as gargantuan as the last.
Set in futuristic cities, enormous stadiums, rubble as far as the eye can see, dank underground lairs and even space, with explosions, fire, destruction and telekinesis thrown into the mix, nobody but one of the Hollywood giants would even dare go near such a property, let alone undertake it.
Akira is an iconic piece of anime cinema that is worth your while, particularly if you’re interested in seeing what the art form has to offer. Every single frame is a painting within the film and it makes the experience that much more immersive. The characters, the world, the story and the animation techniques combine to make something truly extraordinary and in a league of its own.
You’ve most likely never seen anything remotely like it before and never will again; Akira is very much a unique piece of work.