The film begins with Kaneda, the leader of a high school biker gang, chasing a rival gang out of town. Tetsuo, Kaneda’s childhood friend, gets telekinetic abilities after getting ahead of the gang trying to prove himself and wrecks his bike because of the old appearing child. Afterwards Tetsuo is captured by a secret organization, taken to a secret lab, and made into a test subject. Kaneda goes to save him, but is too late. Tetsuo drunk on his own power releases a mega creature named Akira.
Creating an apocalyptic war between Akira, the military, and Kaneda.
Akira’s influence on the world was bigger than anyone could have anticipated. Once American audiences witnessed the film, they saw it was more exciting than just amazing animation or a captivating storyline. It proved that animation wasn’t just for children, like Speed Racer, a popular animated show at the time. Manga books, really took off in America with the release of Akira.
Featuring the artwork of writer/artist Katsuhiro Otomo, they greatly influenced the manga industry in America.
The director’s style was also so effective that it can still be seen in anime today. So much so that when I first saw Akira it was years after growing up watching Japanese animations on cable. At the time I simply took it as another sci-fi or cyberpunk styled anime film. So I compared it to films, shows and even manga’s that came years later, without knowing Akira was released prior to everything I had seen up to that point.
The story line and each scene transitioned so seamlessly. I believe the storyline was told in a way that the audience could feel as if they were actually there. Essentially, Akira is a film that you can easily get absorbed into its world.
What amazed me the most with this film is the amount of detail that went into each scene. Previously I never took note of the long cuts, or “camera angles” used to go from a vast city sky shot then zoom or quick cut down to eye level with the character’s perspective. Otomo had made an animation that seemed very realistic, with the use of shadows and vibrant colors to add depth and texture to every scene. Light could be considered a character of the film. Much like we learned weather can be a character in Rashomon. The film uses negative space to highlight much of its action scenes. The lighting heightens the effect and every frame involving the city in extreme wide angle views.
The detail that the seventy artists put into every scene was remarkable. Some scenes were extremely detailed paintings layered upon one another. The light trails left from the motorcycles was a great example of this layering. Other amazing details include the sweat dripping down Tetsuo’s face, or wires coming out of pieces of equipment. Even as small as the dirty bar walls or rust on pipes. It is because of these small details that I personally enjoyed the telekinetic fight scenes the most. The amount of debris that was created when Tetsuo would power up was impressive when you stop to consider the amount of time the artists took to make just one second of a fight scene.
This movie was packed with constant movement, bloody gore, and lots of action. This was never one of my top favorite anime films, but I do now see and admire the level of influence it has on what are my top favorites. It also held a very real perspective on many social issues such as government corruption, rioting on the streets met with police brutality, and even troubled youths. Events that regardless of the era, or country they are relatable to countless people.