Time is a funny thing. A veil more than a man-made concept, it is the ultimate in distorting, masking and outright changing our perception of the world around us. Go ahead, go revisit a Looney Tunes episode, you'll find it awful. Or perhaps take another look at the Titanic film your parents rented as a kid, you'll appreciate it.
So yes, Akira, right, this is a review. The point I'm trying to make is, the perception people have of something can evolve over time, often beyond its merits. Something's legacy can often grow past it's own shadow, and we remember it as more grandiose when we should.
Akira falls victim to this. Not bad by any means, but something mediocre has since been seen as something "epic", to use a trite word. So why is this? Well let us take a trip back to somewhat glorious 1988. Peepshow, Suffer and Green had all just been released and the world was finally getting an animated film from Japan that wasn't all robots or shenanigans.
Anime fans from all around flocked to their local nickelodeon to see said film, Akira. Their thoughts upon leaving? "Well that was pretty good." By and large, nothing beyond that.
How it grew to the "gold-standard" that it holds today I'll never know. The direction, the art, the voice acting, hell, even the writing, virtually none of these qualities excel to the point of influence. So that's out, but what about pure enjoyment, or simple likability? Well, for "my first anime", sure. But a serious fan of the medium? No sir, not at all.
So where to start? Well, how about our bland framing device also known as the plot? I'd rather not, to be honest. The less I spend talking about this thing the better, but the people must know, and on I press!
Combine the silly gang antics of West Side Story with a touch of over-the-top Mad Max and perhaps a bad episode of the Twilight Zone (Read: All of them) and you have Akira's ridiculous story. (And if these combined elements sound good to you, please finish asphyxiating yourself, as you're obviously halfway through and already brain-dead.) Oh, and a silly, Napoleonic revenge plot. Joy.
Does much more need to be said? It's ineffective, it's silly, and it just tries to tie together the numerous set-pieces scattered throughout the film. It has clearly taken a back seat to some of the other elements in the movie, and that will simply not cut it.
The art, thankfully, fares better, but it still falls under our "mediocre" umbrella that is the true nature of the film. Everything is drawn technically well, but it has no style of it's own. It's very "color by numbers". This is a man, this is a building. It is *not* the artist's own person, or the artist's own building, and that is a rather missed opportunity.
Not to mention every frame of the film has that grainy, low quality tint to it that colored every piece of '80s animation. Not a particular fault of the filmmaker's, but it does detract from latter day enjoyment.
Sadly each character who is animated is there in sight only. We don't feel their presence, nor we perceive them as a representation of a person. They are cartoons, and nothing more.
The lack of personality is simply staggering given the film's (Unearned) legacy. Damsel in distress Kei, McGuffin Akira, blind rage Tetsuo or needless asshole Kaneda. They are all interchangeable with thousands of thousands of characters from other shows.
We watch all of them "do", and none of them "be", and that is a trap plenty of amateur screenwriters fall into.
Voice acting is equally bland, no outstanding performance on either end of the quality spectrum.
So why, we ask, do people love this movie so much? Much like the adoration of Led Zeppelin, it is mob mentality. A few people like it, some silly sheep bah in agreement, and suddenly half the world holds something near-worthless in high esteem. Is it deserving? No, shoot no.
But should you watch it? Ultimately, I'd say yes. It may not be the greatest animated film of all time, nor the worst one, but there is obviously a large grey area here, and it can fall anywhere therein for each viewer. We can all develop our own opinions, but reviews are here as a guiding source, and this reviewer says it's worth taking a look at.
If only to get the legions of sheeple off your back for not having seen it already.