Akira

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VivisQueen's avatar By VivisQueen on Mar 24, 2008

Story

I have been staring at my computer screen for what seems a decade, trying to sum up what Akira feels like to watch - after a considerable period of hesitation, I offer the following graceless suggestion: think Ghibli on acid. Although relentlessly brutal and disturbing, Akira remains strictly philosophical at heart with its exploration of human evolution set against a backdrop of human decay. As such, it has that energising creativity to be found in Ghibli productions; and yet, due to the level of bizarre savagery, it also makes me feel like I'm experiencing a rather bad hallucinatory trip.

Opening with a stark ‘beginning of the end' setting reminiscent of many parts of the world even today, Akira quickly establishes a dark, unnerving mood. Rather than alien invaders or malfunctioning supercomputers, Neo-Tokyo suffers from good old-fashioned social disintegration; the city is a place where violent demonstrations and wannabe messiahs sprout like weeds, and all the while the authorities are struggling to hold onto power. Being a fan of cynical portrayals of humanity, I immediately connected with Akira's world and found myself easily swept away despite some of its plot-related lapses.

Moreover, Akira's individual scenes are brilliantly directed. First and foremost, it offers plenty of action sequences with fluid, fast-paced stunts and gory violence. Squeamish viewers will probably not appreciate such detail but I find the violence is rarely gratuitous and actually enhances the story's emotional impact; specifically, the explosive psychic battles provide the plot with some valuable momentum. However, even the ordinary non-action scenes are wholly gripping due to the tense characterisation and world detail. For example, Kaori at the laundrette remains one of my favourite moments for no other reason than the disheartening features of the room and the realistic touch of the girl on the telephone in the background.

As hinted above, not all is perfect, and at least one qualification is in order; cramming in six manga volumes of politics, metaphysics and the end of the world, it probably comes as no surprise to say Akira's plot progression is far from seamless. For instance, after waking up to find himself in a strange hospital, Tetsuo stumbles to his escape, turning up at his girlfriend's place a couple of scenes later without explanation of how he got there. Granted, these ‘gaps' are rare and, being absorbed by the milieu, I get the impression that I have not missed much, but they are inelegant nonetheless.


Animation

Akira's only ‘imperfection' animation-wise is its age, although, in more important respects - colour scheme, character design, motion etc - not one thing needs amending. With detailed hand-drawn images and such a high quality concept, this movie doesn't come off bad at all in comparison to more recent features.

For anyone suspicious of 1980s interpretations of the future, fear not: far from having a cheesy concept where bad hair and even worse clothes dominate the scene, Akira opts for a timeless gritty feel. On the one hand, the character designs are simplistic; Kei the terrorist, for example, is difficult to recognise as a female at first because of her rather androgynous design, and, apart from a couple of too-short trousers, the clothes could belong to any futuristic era.

The details of the city environments, on the other hand, are remarkable; everything from the use of shadow to the weird skin tones in neon lighting helps to give Akira a manic depressive appeal. As mentioned before, this attention to detail also extends to the blood and gore used liberally throughout.


Sound

Both the Japanese and the English dubs are of a high calibre in terms of drama, but the Americans outperform the Japanese in terms of suitability. Kaneda's Japanese voice, as an example, just seems too reedy for a street-wise leader of his age.

Complementing the twisted mood of the movie is a unique experimental soundtrack which mostly involves percussion music and spooky chanting. This one is worth owning if you like your music a bit ‘out there'; for example, the high-octane bike chase is accompanied by a breathy piece with dramatic power drums and some of Tetsuo's crazy scenes use a rather discordant but chilling choral theme.


Characters

Unsurprisingly, Akira leaves absolutely no room for kind-hearted altruists. Most of the characters are either acting for explicitly non-ideal reasons or their motivations are left unsaid, so warming to any of them is a pointless exercise at best. However, a cast does not have to be likeable to be good, and despite each character being rarely more than one-dimensional, the cast as a whole makes for a believable mix of creepy villains, antiheroes, and tragic victims. Still, only the three centremost characters, Kaneda, Tetsuo, and the Colonel, are actually memorable in their own right.

Kaneda is a street-wise brat who knows how to handle himself, but what strikes me the most about him is his sense of humour; he is genuinely amusing when he talks back to police officers and his flippant remarks help alleviate the tension at all the right times. Still, while he is admirable in that delinquent way, he is not the kind of person you necessarily want to spend more than ninety minutes with.

His best friend, Tetsuo, on the other hand, gives the impression of a victim frustrated by the lack of control in his life. The traumas and transformations he faces as a result of his godlike development make for some of the best scenes of the entire film.

Arguably the most complex character is the Colonel because, in the midst of all this madness, he is the only one willing to make pragmatic, commonsensical decisions. Interestingly, this does not make him the good guy in any strict sense because his uncompromising methods leave a lot to be desired, and, as with many of the other characters, I am undecided whether to cheer him on or not.


Overall

Akira is an action fest kind of movie with an unexpected philosophical and sociological depth; sure, plot progression is disjointed on occasion and the cast is not phenomenally sympathetic, but I could offer Akira nothing less than a high score. As a thrilling sci-fi with a unique ‘brink of madness' approach, it makes a powerful and lasting impression.

7.5/10 story
9.5/10 animation
9/10 sound
7/10 characters
8/10 overall
soulofdamnation's avatar By soulofdamnation on Jun 5, 2012

I loved it, I wish it was longer, but you know how these things are you like something so much that you want more of it.

9/10 story
8/10 animation
8/10 sound
10/10 characters
8.8/10 overall
RisikaFox's avatar By RisikaFox on Dec 24, 2010

This movie was... Incredible. I really didn't understand what was going on during most of it, but at the same time, the story was so compelling that I just couldn't stop. I still have a lot of questions, but I have a feeling that was the goal- to make you think, really think. It simply blew my mind, and in a good way.

?/10 story
?/10 animation
?/10 sound
?/10 characters
9/10 overall
FullmetalCowboy24's avatar By FullmetalCowboy24 on Dec 3, 2012

Critic's Log - Earthdate: December 3, 2012. Review #25: AKIRA


The time has come, This is my 25th review and I have a special movie to talk about. I will now review the 1988 landmark anime film... AKIRA!





In the year 2019, 31 years have passed since the outbreak of World War III. In the city of Neo-Tokyo, all authority is waging a never-ending struggle against underground forces that virtually rules the shattered city, A top-secret child with amazing powers of the minds breaks free from custody and accidentally involves a biker gang in the project. The incident triggers psychic powers within one of the bikers named Tetsuo, and he ends up being taken by the army and being experimented on. Tetsuo's mind has been warped and he is on a path to destruction.





To be technical, this is a TMS Entertainment production and  this anime film is directed by Katsuhiro Otomo (who also created the manga of the same name). It is also a landmark anime for one obvious reason. For 1988, the animation blew everyone away. When I first saw Akira, I was blown away. I knew it was made in 1988 before I saw it but I find it almost hard to believe that it was made in the late 80's. It has fluent animation, the action scenes sometimes looks badass. I love the Bike Chase scene in the first 15 minutes of the film. The animation still looks amazing. If you didn't research this movie on Wikipedia, I'll tell you this then. This anime film has more than 160,000 animation cels throughout the two-hour experience. There was a whole lot of effort put into the making of this film. This film was one hell of an achievement.

 




The animation is not the only good point in the movie, although it may be the contributing reason on why most people would like this movie. The music by Yamashirogumi Geinoh really fits the movie well. I like some of the ominous themes in this movie. The music is mesmerizing throughout the movie.

 




As far as voice acting goes. This will be a lengthy topic to discuss. Oh well, here goes... The Japanese Cast is not bad, in fact it's pretty good. Mitsuo Iwata is fine as Kaneda, Nozomu Sasaki is good as Tetsuo, and Mami Koyama is not bad as Kei. There's a lot of seiyus that are not really big names but they play their roles just fine. Here's a little fun fact about the subtitled version, the voices were recorded before the animation was finished. Also, the animation staff focused on matching the characters' lip movements match the dialogue (which was a first for an anime production). As far as the English Dub goes, there are actually two dubs to Akira. The Streamline dub (which was from the 90's) and the Animaze/Pioneer Dub (which was done in 2001) I will actually state my opinion on both dubs. It is going to be very difficult for me to comment on the Streamline dub because I know there are some people that have grown up watching the Streamline dub and they actually liked it. I am more familiar with the Animaze/Pioneer Dub because that was the first dub I saw. I have seen a little bit of the Streamline dub and I tried to get used to it. There are some people that like the Streamline dub and there are some people that don't like it. I personally didn't like the Streamline dub, I'm sorry for those that like that dub, but the voices sounded way off to me. I was surprised that Cam Clarke voiced Kaneda though. So what do I think of the Animaze/Pioneer dub? I think it's a good dub. Johnny Yong Bosch fits the role because Kaneda is a punk and Johnny was a perfect choice for Kaneda, Joshua Seth is also great as Tetsuo. Wendee Lee was also good as Kei but I felt Kei sounded a bit older than her age in this dub, this is just a minor nitpick but Wendee Lee's performance was pretty good. as far as other performances go, Jamieson Price was great as the Colonel, and there were some well-known dub actors in the movie such as Michelle Ruff, Michael Lindsay, Mike Reynolds, William Frederick Knight, Skip Stellrecht, and Steve Blum. The Animaze/Pioneer dub is good, but I sort of prefer the subtitled version on this one. Kevin Seymour really did a good job as ADR director in which he didn't disappoint in the later dubs that he worked on with animes such as Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Code Geass. I've said enough on the voice acting

 




As far as characters go, the characters (in a way) have personalities that would fit the setting of the story that which the movie presents. Kaneda is a street punk that has a sense of humor. His best friend Tetsuo really has some problems which I really can't blame him too much for since he has a inferiority complex. I almost found Tetsuo as a whiny little bitch but there is a slight cool appeal that I see in Tetsuo and it was somewhat fascinating to see Tetsuo progress in character development. Kei is an alright character of all the bunch, She doesn't have too much development compared to how she developed in the manga. The Colonel on the other hand is a pretty good character from start to finish. He may be tough and ruthless but he has his reasons. I like how he is pragmatic to recognize the danger that Tetsuo's fledgling powers pose. I also like his sense of honor that reflects on the Military. Call it a soldierly sense of honor if you may. I like the Colonel. The other characters are pretty good for the most part.

 



 

The story of Akira is a bit hard for me to describe because the animation is what most people remember about Akira. There's definitely a lot of style with some substance to go with it. The story does have a post-apocalyptic setting and most of the scenes you see or will see does fit that setting. It's obvious that this is an adaptation of the manga of the same name and Otomo-san took some liberties from turning his 2,162 page manga epic into a 2 hour film. It's not completely faithful to the manga but since Otomo-san directed this film, I don't have much room to complain. I will say that the manga has a far more complete story, this movie does have a story but it can be a little hard to remember for some people. I guess it's good for the most part. There are times I just get blown away by the animation and totally forget about the story.

 



Akira was available by Pioneer/Geneon before it went out of print, it was later picked up by Bandai Entertainment until they went under. It was rescued by Funimation. At the time I'm writing this review, it will soon be available from Funimation. The manga by Katsuhiro Otomo was available by Dark Horse Comics until the rights expired and it was picked up by Kodansha Comics. The Akira manga is available from Kodansha Comics. An American live-action film was in the works but it is in development hell.


With all that said, Akira has incredible animation that ended up as one of the most popular anime films today. This film has garnered a cult following which I think the animation contributed to that. The music is mesmerizing and a tripfest in some themes. The movie has a couple badass characters as well as some badass moments. The story may have not been faithful than the manga but it is directed by the creator of the series so there's really no need to complain about that. This is a really cool movie and anyone that likes anime should see it. You won't be disappointed for the most part.

I give Akira a 9 out of 10, It is EXCELLENT!


Feel free to comment below.


Critic's Log - Post-script: Well, I just got to 25 reviews and an Otaku's work is never done. Even though I don't get paid for posting reviews, I do have fun writing reviews and posting them. Feel free to check out my other reviews that I have posted if you feel up to it. I also want to thank some of my friends that I have or made throughout the time I had making these 25 reviews. With that said, That is all I have for the time being and have a great day.

 

 

8/10 story
10/10 animation
10/10 sound
8/10 characters
9/10 overall
Lawgun's avatar By Lawgun on Sep 27, 2014

Выдающееся для своего времени произведение, которое я посмотрел, уже обзаведясь кое-каким опытом в аниме, спустя 25 лет после его выхода. События стремительны, герои раскрыты, политическая и общественная обстановки ясны с первых кадров. Глубокое сюжетно-ориентированное аниме, не оставляющее после себя никаких вопросов, что настоящая редкость. Авторы точно знали, что хотят подать зрителю, и у них это получилось отлично в рамках специфической тематики, на которую они ввели моду, на мой взгляд, как для восточных аниматоров, так и для западных кинематографистов. 

8/10 story
5/10 animation
8/10 sound
7/10 characters
7/10 overall