I’ve been in a movie slump lately. There has been so much going on, I feel like I have so much to do and not enough time to do it. With 2 jobs, an internship, 2 blogs, writing a novel and a slew of other things, there is not enough time in the day for everything. I haven’t been watching many films but I recently remembered that I have never done an ‘Akira’ (1988) review. This has to be the gravest offense I have ever committed thus far. The ‘Akira’ saga has been causing some stir recently when a new Americanized version of the original film was set to be produced. After a lot of banter and ridicule from fans protesting against the all Caucasian cast, the film was scrapped from the eyes of main stream motion pictures. I took this news with a sigh of relief because I feel that this film should never be Americanized. If anyone is a fan of anime they have seen ‘Akira’. If you claim that you are but have yet to see this film, stop posing and get yourself a copy. In the hierarchy of anime cinema, ‘Akira’ is the mother of all. This film revolutionized the industry and still remains to this day, one of the greatest animated films of all time. I hope that my review does the film justice.
The film takes place in New-Tokyo, a few years after a horrible war which forced Japan to its knees. During this time, street gangs are rampant as the youth run the city. One of these gangs lead by Kaneda, goes head to head against the Clowns, a rival bike gang. The carnage begins as skill is pitted against skill; metal flies and blood spills all across the city. Tetsuo, a member of Kaneda’s gang, begins taking out a few clown faced rivals with a swing of his metal bat. As he rides away in victory he has a head on collision with a young boy Takashi, who has escaped from a top secret government facility. After finding their injured friend, Tetsuo is carted away leaving Kaneda and his gang rattled and worried about their injured friend. While this government facility begins to run tests determining the impact Takashi has had on Tetsuo, Kaneda is determined to find his lost friend. Tetsuo miraculously escapes, but not without horrible consequences. He begins to have hallucinations and spurts of tremendous power that he cannot control. These events, spiral into a tornado of chaos, creating a whirlwind of pandemonium amongst the city. Kaneda and his new friend Kei begin to fight an impossible battle to save Tetsuo from himself and the fate that awaits him.
Director Katsuhiro Otomo has created his masterpiece with this film. Based on a graphic novel from the 80′s, ‘Akira’ revolutionized the anime industry and it is clear why. The story runs with a magnificent energy that keeps up with its pulsing momentum throughout the entire film. The story drips with heartache and passion as each characters journey is revealed. Kaneda plays the part of the heroic underdog, a boy who’s family revolves around his friends. Tetsuo is someone he considers a brother and through tough love has become someone he would not want to loose. For Tetsuo, he see’s his new found abilities as a way to become the one people look up to. He no longer has to hide behind Kaneda like a scared child. He can command his own destiny because now he has the power to do so. This hunger for control consumes him into madness. His transition is spectacular and is composed like a Mozart masterpiece. The one element Otomo continuously revisits during the the film is the desire for control. Whether it be to control a dangerous threat or ones own selfish desires, it is the driving force behind a majority of the characters motivations.
Visually, ‘Akira’ is a stunning example of anime gold. I’ve heard a lot of fans complain that ‘Akira’ is not anime because of the realistic style Otomo has chosen for the film. Not every anime needs to consist of blue haired women with gigantic breasts or fruity looking heroins who wield ridiculously large weapons. Otomo chose a more realistic approach to make the film feel as if it were hinted in reality. The characters are all more relate-able and harness a more practical meaning for the audience. It gives off a strange feeling that perhaps, in the near future, this could possibly be a reality. It’s not all out of the ballpark of science fiction though, but that does not in any way take away from the tone Otomo was trying to set. Be wary, this is not really a film for children. It kind of carries the same feel as ‘Fist of the North Star’ only far more grounded and emotionally eradicating. Not only are the visuals stunning and down right mind blowing, the musical score of the film really carries it all the way through. It’s amazing how much music can really make or break a film. In this incidence, it makes it. It helps place you alongside the characters, leading you to experience everything they would be themselves. Composer Shoji Yamashiro created a story though his score alone; one does not have to watch the film to feel it happening inside your mind. It successfully draws you in and keeps you captive until the final credits roll. You feel empowered by it which truly adds to the considerable control presented.
Overall, this film is amazing. It sets the bar for every element that makes a film great and gives the audience a jaw dropping experience they won’t soon forget. I actually made an ‘Akira Trailer’ for a film project I had to do for school, which proves how much this film has impacted me (see below). Also, make sure to check out ‘The Akira Project’ a live action trailer made my Akira fans FOR Akira fans. It’s now in post production and I know there are rumors that they will throw together a film as well. From what I can see so far, it looks worth the wait (link below).
Munky Rating: A+
check out the Akira Project here