VivisQueen's avatar By on Mar 24, 2008


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.


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.


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.


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.


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
stevensrmiller's avatar By on Aug 18, 2015

Saw this in the theater when it came out in America. Kind of disappointing. The whole film feels like it is on the edge of something happening, but the something never happens. Even the score is like that, with a few pounding notes here and there, always feeling like some powerful, energetic theme is about to start, but never does. When it arrived, this was touted as the film that would make the world see anime as a great art form, but I think that oversold what this product is. If you liked "Ghost in the Shell," you'll probably like this, but "Ghost" was better.

5/10 story
8/10 animation
7/10 sound
6/10 characters
6/10 overall
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Hachikira's avatar By on Aug 15, 2015

This is truly a piece of Japanese animation history it inspired the creator of Dragonball Z to create manga and anime after he saw a poster for it .   And Dbz is a series that's had alot of influence on Japanese animation and I wouldn't be surprised if it has inspired other artists . I've watched both versions of this film the original dub and the dub that was most recently aired on Toonami.   Whether your interested in seeing something that paved the way for great anime as a whole or simply wish to watch a great film I highly recommend this movie .

?/10 story
10/10 animation
10/10 sound
10/10 characters
10/10 overall
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nosubject13's avatar By on Apr 15, 2015

    Like many, i consider Akira to be the greatest Japanese Animation film of all time. The content and story are maybe not for everyone and i feel strange suggesting this film...because if you know what anime is and you are on this site then chances are you've already seen Akira. But just in case you haven't, or are interested in the articulation of this greatness then here we go.

    Akira is an older film. The colors, animation style, drawing style, story line, character development, dialogue and content are all charactersitic of it's time. It's story is timeless and is on a scale of shakesperean or biblical implications. The story is about one human's struggle with his own reach, pushing that reach, eventually becoming twisted and destructive.

     I love the story, characters, soundtrack and concept of Akira. What I love most is perhaps the amount of production that went into the animation of Akira. It is the most detailed, well drawn sequence of images ever flashed before the human eye. It is because of this that any film or animation enthusiast owes it to themselves to watch this. This is the best and most shining example of how the Japanese are able and willing to organize and work for the sake of competing with all of history and shouting the loudest into the void. Other civilizations have pyrimids, cathedrals, and societies. We have Akira.

10/10 story
10/10 animation
10/10 sound
10/10 characters
10/10 overall
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PaladinPaterson's avatar By on Dec 21, 2014

Akira is a milestone in the Japanese animation department, that are still looked upon to this day as a artistic success. To believe that the animators completed this movie the way they did without modern day technology is a great achievement. The soundtrack for the movie fits so well with the atmosphere that you can't help but imagine the different sounds that it took to complete the movie's chaotic beats. For an action film of it's time, Akira showed viewers and critics alike that a well thought out story can mesh well with an all-out animated epic.

8/10 story
9.5/10 animation
8.5/10 sound
7/10 characters
8.3/10 overall
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