Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Akira is a 1988 film that has become a cult classic among anime fans. based on the manga of the same name, the movie cost $11 million (over $21 million today) to make and grossed $80 million ($152.8 million today). The story follows biker gang leader Kaneda Shotaro and his best friend Shima Tetsuo as the pair confront the government, revolutionaries, a group of psychic children, and Tetsuo's own descent into madness. the movie pioneered many techniques of anime that are still seen today, or are sometimes even too advanced for today.
They really took their time to make this movie sparkle.
In the year 1988, Tokyo is overtaken by a mysterious, massive explosion that levels the city and sparks World War III. By the movie's start, in 2019, no explanation for the blast was given to the public, and while the city has been rebuilt, the scars of war show themselves prominently on Neo-Tokyo's face and its people. Rough and tumble bike gangs rule the streets, one of which, the Capsules, is led by Kaneda Shotaro and his powerful red motorcycle. During the course of a fight with their rivals, the Clowns, Kaneda's right-hand-man Tetsuo is injured while avoiding a child in the street. The government carts him away to a hospital, where it is discovered that, like the boy he avoided hitting, Tetsuo possesses psychic powers. The government then detains him with plans to use him to further their goals.
Kiyoko, one of the psychic kids, eventually helps the main characters.
Akira was a rush. The animation was so fluid it was as if the action was happening right in front of your face. They achieved this ideal through the use of a massive budget, a committee of producers, and over 160,000 animation cels. The film broke the mould in this respect, and by also having pre-scored dialogue, meaning they recorded the dialogue beforehand and animated the character's faces to match. it makes for a much more expressive feel than you usually encounter in anime. with it being anime vs live action, it also had the ability to show a much more well-realized Neo-Tokyo. the colours and visuals were just stunning, even with most of the action taking place during the night or the twilight hours.
Really, it's just gorgeous.
The one place i found Akira lacking was the plot. while it was faithful for the most part to the manga (the ending being severely trimmed vs the manga's ending), the whole thing was just.....weird. Tetsuo's hallocinations, the whole thing with the inflating body parts, and even the psychic children were never fully explained, or even touched upon enough to make sense together. The explosion at the beginning is eventually detailed, but just how the psychic children angle fits together with the biker theme is rather odd, as if it was cobbled together from two different stories. the ending is the main attraction in this circus of madness, the head jewel in a crown of calamity. i actually had to read the plot on wikipedia to make sense of what i had just seen. while it was definitely interesting, it was more about fascination than true interest.
When in doubt, steal things from the government.
as with the animation, the sounds of Akira were spared no effort. the soundtrack is at once very appropriate and gripping while being very 80's in nature. you may catch yourself laughing a bit at the synthetics while at the same time being on the edge of your seat while Kaneda races around a corner on his bike. even the bike's sound was customized, being created by splicing together a 1929 Harley Davidson and a jet engine. as was previously stated, the animation was made to match the original dialogue, so while the choice of voice actors for the edition i heard (2001 Pioneer/Animaze dub) were top-notch, there were sometimes awkward moments (such as when we heard someone shout "TETSUOSHIMAAAA!!!"). still, though, each character had a great pick for his or her voice, which just accented the movie more. (plenty of nostalgic lulz were had after hearing Tai/Joe Shimamura as Tetsuo, Blackrose as Kai and Vash/Lelouch as Kaneda.)
No expenses were spared in the making of this bike.
Akira is definitely a cult classic among anime fans, due not only to its content and style, but also due to the era it was released in. one of the first series to make it over here on home video  during the early 90's, Akira was one of the reasons that anime was blacklisted among many parents/groups during that time. it was an era when cartoons were only for kids, so something as gorey, violent, and offensive as Akira came as a rude shock to those parents who rented it for their children (against video store owners' advice). as such, this movie is firmly 18+.
The Clowns are really a classy bunch.
Akira is available from many torrent sites, such as The Pirate Bay and Kickass Torrents. it is available for purchase from Funimation in North America (formerly Bandai), Madman Entertainment in Australia, and Manga Entertainment in the UK. be warned, though, if you search for Akira on TPB, be sure to include "anime" in the search bar, or else you'll get results for a Japanese porno.
Everyone's foreheads are so large and their eyes so close together.


  1. i just read the plot of the manga on Wikipedia, and I must say, it is a lot more complex and well-thought-out than the movie, which leads me to believe that this may have been trimmed due to time or budget constraints. with that in mind, it is still a great movie, but perhaps it is best viewed as a divergent storyline than the actual movie adaptation of the manga. (it doesn't help things that the manga ended 2 years after the movie was made.)
    if you are so inclined, I encourage you to go and read the plot for yourself. it's really interesting. :0

  2. As a bit of interesting knowledge, the original '88 Streamline dub of Akira received a Criterion Collection release back in 1993. To date, it is the only animated film to receive this treatment.