Animated Movies, Indie-mation, Reviews

Indie-mation Club Week 2: ‘Akira’ Review

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Akira is a rated R film with mature content including graphic violence so viewer discretion is advised. This review contains mentions of this mature content.

If I were to make a list of ‘Must See Movies for Any Animation Fan,’ I would definitely include Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira on that list. While it is narratively messy, it is such an experience in visceral sound, movement, creativity, and imagination that it can’t be missed.

The plot in Akira is beside the point but, for the record, it is about two childhood-friends-turned-gang-rivals Shotaro Kaneda and Tetsuo Shima in the dystopian cyberpunk city of NeoTokyo in 2019. The world has gone into chaos after a nuclear bomb went off at the end of World War III. Tetsuo becomes exposed to a substance called AKIRA and develops strange telekinetic abilities that he struggles to control and that the government and organized crime want to use for various purposes. Most of the movie becomes a chase between Kaneda, Tetsuo, and those trying to hurt them.

I like to compare watching Akira with going on an amusement park ride. Perhaps the plot isn’t super interesting but there is an amazing image, sound, and/or sequence ready to dazzle you along every turn. Watching Akira, you get to see things you’ve never seen before and will never see again, like a giant teddy bear coming to life or a person’s organs and body expanding like a balloon to fill up a room. It’s dark and violent but, because it is so creative, it is a really fun experience. It’s like Inception but way more trippy!

I had the amazing experience last year of seeing Akira on the big screen, which is something I highly recommend if you get the opportunity. What stood out to me the most was the incredible way it uses music and sound. The score by Shoji Yamashiro is outstanding and evidently much of the animation was built around the music’s “sonic architecture,” where most movies work the other way around. With its electronic beat, the music ebbs and flows along with the insane imagery creating a deep intense experience.

If you take a look at this scene, notice the way every movement of the motorcycles is felt in a screech or vroom. The steel and grunts of the men are perfectly timed along with the tick-tock propulsion of the score. Meanwhile, the imagery of the city provides incredible backdrops with the light and colors of the motorcycles in the foreground. I love how the motorcycles leave behind a rainbow of color in their wake, and you can see the speed of the movement as they move along.

Akira is one of those great movies where every scene has layers to dissect and analyze. The music, imagery, sound design, and more are layered in every scene but there is also a lot to think about thematically. First of all, it has a lot to say about the anxiety Japan experienced after the bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II. It also has layers of allegory, including the problems of groupthink, unbridled religion/capitalism/socialism, unlimited power, quickly-burgeoning technology, and substance abuse.

But you don’t have to think about any of that. You can just flip it on and enjoy the pretty colors, music, and energy. It’s a great ride and a terrific film!

What do you think about Akira? Is it the classic everyone makes it out to be? Put in the comments section what you think and let’s talk about Akira!

Edited by: Kajsa Rain Forden

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About Rachel Wagner

Rachel has loved animation since she was a little girl singing songs from The Little Mermaid at the top of her lungs. She currently works in social media marketing and loves to blog and vlog about Disney, Pixar and all kinds of movies in her free time. Her favorite movie is Up and she considers herself quite the Cinderella aficionado seeing every version she can get her hands on. She also loves animated TV shows like Simpsons, Gravity Falls, Star Wars Rebels and more. Follow her on twitter @smilingldsgirl
  • Eli Sanza

    Definitely an entertaining film. A bit too cerebral for the mainstream (and me) but I still enjoyed it. Animation is the highlight.

    • Rachel Wagner

      Cerebral is the last word I would use to describe Akira. It’s kinetic and intense I think

      • Eli Sanza

        I haven’t seen it in a while. Maybe I should watch it again.

        • Rachel Wagner

          Yeah I would describe it as maybe even a bit over zealous with so much going on and throwing at the screen

  • Renard N. Bansale

    Landmark anime film, but…It’s still a two-hour adaptation of an unfinished, six-volume manga. Add a half-hour or, even better, make it a two-parter, and maybe even wait until the whole manga is complete, and then it rises from just a technical masterpiece with providing themes to fill a somewhat hollow plot to a thorough masterpiece in my book.

    • Rachel Wagner

      I don’t know if I would go so far as hollow but I am sure more movies and series could help make it stronger. Still such an experience to watch

      • Renard N. Bansale

        I saw it at the Seattle Cinerama with a few friends last spring and we discussed on the ride back to our homes that while the film was a technical wonder, the story felt a bit lower on the priorities list. We didn’t really care about the characters too much either.

        • Rachel Wagner

          Yeah I agree the story isn’t top priority but I just wouldn’t go as far as hollow

  • Fadi Antwan

    I watched it once a couple years ago due to the acclaim and had zero clue what was going on. I was dumber then, but I really disliked the experience (as did my friend) and don’t think this is for me, so I’ll skip on the rewatch.

    • Rachel Wagner

      That’s too bad. It’s not a film for everyone I suppose

    • suila

      w2-akira >>> GONEWMOVIE13.BLOGSPOT.COM

    • Honestly, when I first watched this I was 15 and there wasn’t much anime around at that time. The style was completely new and the story fascinated my teenage mind. I think my mates and I rewatched it about 10 times that year and each time we started to understand it more.
      It’s maybe not so deep a story as an adult, but I’ll always love it. Akira is one of the main reasons why I was so drawn to animation as a career.

  • samuelh73

    I cut my anime teeth on Akira (and Black Magic M-66, another interesting film if you ever get the chance), and both of them hold a very special place in my heart. Akira was and always shall be my favorite anime (I even have the soundtrack to it!).