It seems appropriate to start the new year off with something impressive, outstanding… And something readily available on streaming platforms. And for those reasons, and several others, I decided to start 2019 off with the anime classic: AKIRA.
The movie is set in the city of Neo Tokyo in the then far off year of…2019. It’s been thirty-one years since a blinding light destroyed Tokyo, which kicked off World War III. Peace has supposedly been achieved, but the Neo Tokyo is plagued by crime, terrorism, government corruption and citizen protests.
It is in the city that the protagonists, a gang of bikers called the Capsules led by a boy named Kaneda, live. They don’t seem too concerned with anything but their own rivalry with another gang, the Clowns. One night, during a large protest, one of the gang members, Tetsuo accidentally crashes into a little boy Takashi, who was escaping a government lab.
Takashi is unharmed, but the accident unleashes a power within Tetsuo, who is promptly whisked away by the government.
The Capsules, along with resistance fighter Kei, go on a mission to find Tetsuo. Kaneda is his best friend and is concerned with Tetsuo who is only becoming stronger. The other psychic children in the lab, including Takashi, try to stop him before he becomes powerful enough to destroy the world.
Meanwhile, Tetsuo goes in search of the missing psychic child, a boy named Akira who is allegedly in cryogenic storage underneath the Olympic Stadium, the only person who could stop him.
The movie is very intense, and there is a lot happening. I couldn’t follow everything, and I was left with a lot of questions with the characters and the plot. But, the movie moves quickly and there’s no time to look away from the screen and think, because the movie never has a point where you’re allowed to think.
But that works in AKIRA’s favor. It’s supposed to weird, mind-trippy and exciting. Because I’ve watched a lot of anime and cartoons in my time, the movie probably didn’t have the same effect on me as it did to people back when it aired, but I can see how it was revolutionary,
The only thing that weirded me out was Kiyoko, one of the psychic children. I was fine with how they looked; it made sense for them to be messed up because of government experiments but I don’t understand why Kiyoko who is presumably a young child, has a face full of make-up and the nails of an evil step mom.
It just…bothers me. Like the government is okay presumably kidnapping and exploiting the powers of young children, but allows the girl to wear makeup? I don’t know. It’s a weird thing to harp on, but I don’t think it makes the movie bad.
The espers are interesting; they each have their own strengths. But I dislike that the fact one of them attempted to escape is never really explored. They’re wise, so they’ve kind of accepted their situation and haven’t otherwise tried to escape. (Maybe it’s because they know how badly the government would react?) I guess, only watching it once doesn’t really make it clear. But I like the relationship, the three have with each other.
And then of course, there’s the mysterious Akira, who only appears for a few minutes despite all the Espers talking about him like an old friend. I won’t spoil it, but it’s pretty tragic. And apparently he some worshipers, or something. I wasn’t sure.
But I assume a lot of this is covered in the manga. As I understand, the movie barely covers half of the original (and extremely long) manga. Which I’m now interested in reading, but yeah, this movie already has enough going on in it. I can’t imagine fitting much more into the film, they’d need an intermission.
Now, this isn’t a very character driven piece. A lot of the names sound alike, and I had trouble keeping track of names and who was who.
This isn’t necessarily a terrible thing, but it’s very devoted to the action and the world surrounding it. I can’t tell you much about their personalities other than the one or two characteristics, but oddly I’m okay with this. Usually, I prefer more character-focused shows, but that’s just me.
I do wish the movie had made some things clearer because….the Espers are kids, who know or knew Akira but it’s been thirty years since he disappeared, so they’re not kids?
I think it might have just been me, but this movie definitely isn’t the most cohesive of media, but it’s not done poorly.
It’s how the movie was designed to be and it does it well.
I’m not sure what I expected when I started to watch it; I had no idea what the movie was about. I know I’ve said this before about other shows, but it’s true. I just knew it was a famous movie, that changed the view of Japanese animation in the US and in general. And I can see that.
The animation, themes and dialogue still hold up today, which isn’t easy. I can see why this movie is considered a classic. The 1980s were a weird time for movies; trippy sequences and nonsense were the name of the game; they tend to have a very distinct aura and not all of them age well. This movie, however, stands the test of time.
I highly recommend it.
On a more personal note, I’ve been having trouble keeping up with my reviews with my new job and I think that’s been affecting their quality. I don’t have as much time to look things over and unfortunately that leads to a lot of mistakes. So that’s something I’m hoping to improve on this year.
For right now, I’m still aiming for one review per week and hopefully throw in one mid-week post a month. Eventually, I’d like to do some video reviews, but that wouldn’t be for a few months.
And that’s the scoop!
Year of release: 1988
Length: 124 minutes
Director: Katsuhiro Otomo
Producer: Ryōhei Suzuki, Shunzō Katō
Screenplay: Katsuhiro Otomo who wrote the original manga, Izo Hashimoto
If you liked this movie watch: “The Castle of Cagliostro,” the film that started it all