Director: Katsuhiro Ôtomo.
Screenplay: Katsuhiro Ôtomo & Izô Hashimoto.
Release Date: 1988.
Runtime: 124 min.
Genre(s): Action, Drama, Science-Fiction.
Cast: Mitsuo Iwata, Nozomu Sasaki, Mami Koyama, Tesshô Genda, and many more!
Budget: ¥ 1,100,000,000.
Gross in Japan: ¥ 1,700,000,000.
My Overall Rating:★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10).
Story-telling comes in various forms. Creators around the world charge headfirst into one medium thinking that they found their vocation. When the suit fits the man, nothing else matters to them henceforth. Others explore different playgrounds throughout their career to discover what each has to offer, to understand their most minute subtleties and grasp their potential. Mangaka Katsuhiro Otomo started his legacy by writing and illustrating the classic manga series Akira which began in 1982. Following an opportunity to bring his series to the big screen in 1988, two years before the manga was finally completed, he takes on the role of director and writer as he supervises a revolutionary animated movie that took the world by storm, extending its reach into Western civilizations and changing manga and animation like no one ever has.
What is Akira about? The movie opens up with an unfathomable destructive explosion completely eradicating Tokyo on July 16, 1988. By 2019, the city is rebuilt from the ground up in a cyberpunk metropolis known as Neo-Tokyo. Unlike any territory known to man, it is corrupt at its foundation, infested with gang violence and ravaged by protests where citizens are requesting a change in the city’s political landscape. Following Shōtarō Kaneda, a young and heroic teenager who leads a biker gang with his childhood buddy, Tetsuo Shima, whose grumpy and hot-headed nature always puts him at the heart of conflicts, the story unveils the dormant telekinetic powers of young Tetsuo who incidentally leads a prophetic and existential revolution.
Although it is a near-impossible task to adapt an unfinished manga series into a 124 minute animated movie, it is worth mentioning that Katsuhiro Otomo simply devouts his creative energy into reconstructing the narrative found in the source narrative to fit with an ending that was conceived during production. Although there are elements taken straight of the manga, the chronology, timing, and raison d’être for these elements are not the same. This directorial decision inevitably leads to surprises in the progression of the story and limits the movie’s ability to fully-develop its religious, political, and philosophical overtones. While it might not be its purpose, it does do a better job in establishing Tetsuo’s and Kaneda’s relationship, allowing viewers to better understand their brotherly rivalry—although it still isn’t sufficiently relevant to justify their odd relationship throughout the movie.
While the plot suffers from the constricted time length and had to be trimmed down to the essential while remaining somewhat cohesive, the movie’s greatest appeal remains its spectacular animation. The work put into bringing to life the cinematic narrative found in the manga is awe-inspiring, absolutely magical to say the least. The meticulous attention to detail is found not only in the backdrop with the skyscrapers but also in the rubbles omnipresent within the city. The sequences are also incredibly action-packed, crisp, fluid, and pleasantly overwhelming, conveying perspective and movement with astonishing precision. The film’s mastery of motion is undoubtedly its greatest forte and singlehandedly explains its place amongst the greatest animated movies ever made.
Infusing Indonesian and Japanese instrumental to create an unparalleled and epic score also allowed several sequences to engulf viewers with rhythm and put them in a hypnotized state. Recorded and performed by the collective Geinoh Yamashirogumi, the soundtrack present in this animated movie is indispensable to the overall mind-boggling visuals. On top of that, the movie masterfully creates both day and night sequences with stunning detail to the atmosphere. In the end, even if the story presents an unsatisfactory wrapping, raw dialogues focused on shouting, and poor usage of the mysterious Akira entity, this cinematic piece remains a landmark in animated cyberpunk cinema.
Akira (1988) is a visually stunning tour de force revolutionizing animated motion pictures as it follows the calamitous transformation of civilization through youths.
Akira (1988) is the only animated adaptation of the classic manga that took the world by storm. A live-action adaptation directed by Taika Waititi is supposed to be in development but has been pushed further away from any upcoming release date following the announcement of new projects (Thor: Love and Thunder and the rumoured Star Wars movie).
Have you read Akira?
Have you seen Akira (1988)? Will you? What did you think about it?
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