Akira (1988) Movie Review

details
Title: Akira.
Universe: Stand-Alone.
Rated: R.
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).

thoughts

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.

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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.

Image result for akira gif

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.


EXHIBITA

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?
Share your thoughts with me!

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18 comments

  • I watched the movie during my first brush with anime (that was the Tenchi franchise) and Akira was such a different beast from Tenchi that it put me off reading the manga for at least a year. I didn’t realize it was rated R at the time so the sexualization and drugs and violence really surprised me and (considering I was only a year or two out of seminary) shocked me to be honest.

    I haven’t watched it since but it is one of those movies that I know I need to watch again as I’ve changed a LOT since then. One question for you, do you know if there is a difference between the regular edition and the 25th anniversary edition?

    Liked by 1 person

    • While sexualization is barely present in Akira, compared to other franchises where it’s almost an important cultural element… The violence is pretty impressive, since it’s mostly oriented around the giant blub and some physical violence. I feel like today’s level of violence in any form of entertainment is MUCH more intense though hahaha

      I think a rewatch would be a great idea. I know I plan on doing so in the future, probably when I decide to reread the manga series in 5-10 years.

      From what I know, the latest 25th anniversary Bluray simply contains enhanced audio with multiple English dubs (apparently over time, there were different voice actors brought into the project). The bluray edition also contains some extra content, like behind-the-scenes stuff and artbooks or something. Otherwise, I don’t think there’s a “longer” version of the movie depending on the edition you get your hands on. I might be wrong but I’m 80% certain hahah

      Liked by 1 person

  • Superb review my friend, I found it especially interesting given that you’ve read the manga series. I’ve always enjoyed this anime and it blew my young mind when it aired on BBC2 in the early 90s, which was quite significant as that was one of the most prestigious and respected tv stations back then! I can see how the more elaborate narrative of the multi-volume manga would lead to the necessary reworking and slimming down of the plot and that can obviously frustrate things. Still, I enjoy it for what it is and the animation and music (as a lover of film music I loved that you took time to talk about that) are ground-breaking and although there may be flaws to the anime I honestly can’t see a live action version working (especially if it’s Taika Watiti…we don’t want it turned into a goofy comedy a la Thor).

    For me though, Ghost in the Shell is THE definitive classic anime movie! I need to get around to reviewing some more anime – have you seen ‘Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade’? Think you’d like that one quite a lot!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, good sir! I’m amazed that you got to see it aired on TV. Now that’s something to remember forever. And I definitely agree there. Despite the issues the plot might have, I think everyone who has seen the movie, whether they read the manga or not, can agree that the animation and score make up for a lot of the flaws.

      I’m 100% with you. I am neutral at the idea of a live-action movie because Taika Waititi is on it… If he brings his comedy touch to it, it’s bound to be an ambitious move…

      I plan on checking out the anime GitS movie this year too. I saw Johansson’s adaptation and wasn’t impressed, especially when I know how much potential a live-action adaptation could’ve had if they at least tried to add the ideas behind the first manga volume…

      I’ve never seen Jin-Roh but something about the soldiers reminds me of Killzone hahah It does look and sound awesome! I’ll keep a note for it. Thanks for the recommendation! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • I went into the live action GitS with an open mind and hoping (even wishing) that it would be ace – but, alas, you remember my review for that. The 1995 anime, however, is a memerising masterpiece (again, you might recall my classics review for that) – can’t wait for you to check that out.

        Haha, yeah I totally get that Killzone reference and you’re right! Hope you check Jin-Roh out and enjoy that as well.

        Liked by 1 person

  • This brings back memories. I really enjoyed Akira when I first saw it, many years back. It was one of my early exposures to feature length anime. It’s been so long there’s much I don’t recall about it, such as the soundtrack. I’ll have to rewatch it at some point. I loved hearing your take on it from the perspective of having also read the manga, as I’ve never read it. Trying to pack something of that length into the much shorter length of a movie has to be a challenge, knowing you’ll have to leave out so much. And doing it before completing the manga? That’s quite a task, and full of risk of alienating the die hard manga fans. Great review, Lashaan!

    I second Chris’ recommendation of Ghost in the Shell. I’ve enjoyed every iteration of that franchinse I’ve seen, from movies to series (though for the moment I’ve skipped the US live action version).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Todd. I really appreciate it. I think it’s the type of movie that merits being rewatched throughout our life. I know I’ll revisit both manga and movie in 5 or 10 years. There are things are simply “acquired taste” with Akira as it reminds me a lot of certain movies well-known but not loved by all (e.g. 2001: A Space Odyssey).

      I definitely plan on checking out the animated series/movies of Ghost in the Shell. I actually read all the manga last year to. I wouldn’t recommend the Johansson movie though. Despite being pretty in all the senses of the word, it’s too superficial to be a “great” adaptation… 😦

      Like

  • Never watched the movie, though I heard some positive reviews. I do believe, however, judging by your review, that it’s not a good starting point for manga reading in general 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  • I’ve always wanted to read Akira and have even checked it out a time or two but sent it back unread. The early early manga that made it what it is today doesn’t always interest me. I don’t know that my brother has ever been happy with an animation movie version of a manga. Haha. The nature of a movie and even just a book don’t really mesh well unless the book is thin to begin with. I do love the sound of the soundtrack 🤣 and it might be worth it to watch for that reason alone … after I read it of course.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think both the manga and the movie can be seen as two distinct things with barely any real ressemblances. It’s that different. And I think, for your own pop culture, it’s totally worth checking out the movie, even if it’s just for the animation or the score. The appeal for the story will entirely depend on your personal experience! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    • Totally worth checking out at some point. Before or after the manga, it doesn’t even matter honestly! 😀

      It’s cause Letterboxd uses the half-star system with 5 stars being the maximum and to be able to represent the half star, I put my score on 10 and just divide by 2 hahah

      Liked by 1 person

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