Akira, directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, is arguably one of the most influential and important animé to exist. Originally deemed unmarketable to western audiences due to the worldwide lack of interest in animé, Akira proved everyone wrong and ushered in a new generation of interest to the genre. Akira’s fresh and unique style went on to influence western filmmakers and still does to this day. Films like The Matrix and Chronicle both cite Akira as a heavy influential force and this is immediately apparent in both films. But has Akira’s distinct Neo-Tokyo, cyberpunk flavour still got the punch it had in the 80s? Most definitely.
Akira is set in the dystopian future, a few years after the bloody World War III. The streets are crime ridden and paved with advertisements and other neon distractions. The world of Akira is a dark and dirty one with little hope for its residents or otherwise. We are instantly given a tour of this grimy fool’s-gold of a city through the white knuckle excitement of a bike chase between two gangs. This entire sequence is the definition of showing off.
Straight from the get-go, it is apparent just how confident this film is in its own skin. The sheer beauty in the blending of colour, choreography and animation is breathtaking. The bikes whir furiously, every hit has weight to it and every frame is crafted with the beauty and care of painting.
Perhaps it was how Akira was presented that directly correlates to its success. It was the first feature-length animé of its kind to be presented in full cinemascope aspect, use a palette of 312 colors and to move at 24 frames per second. What makes this all the more awe-inspiring is the fact that this is all hand-drawn. 24 full masterpieces of art were designed for each and every second. A true labour of love that really shows the artists' love for their craft and the project.
The bike chase ends with the explosive encounter of bike gang member Tetsuo and a mysterious boy. The encounter leaves Tetsuo in a strange condition and both he and the boy are snatched away by a weird organisation equipped to deal with this sort of phenomenon. From this point on, strange things start to happen to Tetsuo and the audience is presented with the trippy and hyper-violent mental torture that comes with gaining power not meant for humankind.
From here, Akira builds and constructs its foreboding world, progressively getting more and more violent and gritty with every scene. It all culminates in a magnificent and monstrous third act that stands tall with any live action sci-fi film, raising questions about fanaticism, science’s place in the world and government, and the idea of a post-human god.
Akira is a sheer accomplishment of humanity and necessary viewing for fans of entertainment in any capacity, let alone hardcore sci-fi fans. Everything from its oppressive and foreboding world, to its exceptionally unique and haunting score, to just the downright beauty of the animation is completely stunning. Even if you think adult animé or Japanimation may not be your cup of tea, you owe it to yourself and the feature's creators to at least watch this just once. Akira is an ode to storytelling, animation and the hard work of the animators behind it. I promise it will convert you.
We have a very special one-off screening of the classic animated movie on WEdnesday 21 September.