- Release Date
- July 1988
- Run Time
- 2 hr. 4 min.
- Tokyo Movie Shinsha
Akira is an Action Science Fiction Adventure anime film by legendary Japanese animation studio Tokyo Movie Shinsha. Even if many people consider something a masterpiece, that does not mean it’s still a masterpiece decades later; time begins to show its cracks. Even the most prominent studios have unsavory titles that they’ve created, and given the age of their titles, sometimes time hurts them more than it does helping them. However, can a film made in the eighties still be considered reasonable? However, many anime fans think this anime film to be the definitive movie to see within an anime lifetime. Perhaps their view is tinted with rose-colored glasses, and this film is not as good as it is cracked up to be.
Japan, 1988. An explosion caused by a yoaung boy with psychic powers tears through the city of Tokyo and ignites the fuse that leads to World War III. To prevent further destruction, he is captured and taken into custody, never being heard from again. In the year 2019, a restored version of the city known as Neo-Tokyo – an area rife with gang violence and terrorism against the current government – stands in its place. Here, Shoutarou Kaneda leads “the Capsules,” a group of misfits known for riding large, custom motorcycles and being in constant conflict with their rivals, “the Clowns.”
During one of these battles, Shoutarou’s best friend Tetsuo Shima is caught up in an accident with an esper who finds himself in the streets of Tokyo after escaping confinement from a government institution. Through this encounter, Tetsuo begins to develop his mysterious abilities, as the government seeks to quarantine this latest psychic in a desperate attempt to prevent him from unleashing the destructive power that could once again bring t the city to its knees.
One area of this story that was pleasantly surprising was that even though it is from the late eighties, the plot is still as relevant today as it was back then, if not more. When it comes to a story, this dynamic, complex being first viewed upon its audience can easily be overwhelming. However, the ability to have the little details and complex aspects of this story makes it outstanding, especially when the viewer can watch this film as many times as they want and still be able to find little things they never noticed before. Another remarkable aspect of this story is that even though the film has a run time of slightly over two hours, it does not feel that long. Each event that happens within this film is crafted into a perfectly sized puzzle filled with the right amounts of Action, Adventure, Science Fiction, and even Supernatural and Horror elements throughout the entirety of Akira.
However, this story did have a few problem areas that must be shared with prospective viewers. The first one is that even though the story is still relevant, some areas are a bit dated, in both the English dubbed and subtitled versions. The jargon used within the movie is dated a little and seems almost comedic, but this problem is few and far between the audience. Another negative aspect this film had was that the viewer would quickly tell what act of the story they are in, mainly due to the slower moments that aren’t written and the other areas of the film.
The last area of the story that may have viewers turning away from this film is some nudity within Akira. Though this is somewhat in the beginning, viewers need to be warned about this as they may not be wanting to view any instances of rape, sexual violence, or even nudity when they are just looking for a fun movie to watch. However, if one is more worried about the level of nudity within the film, there are only a few sequences during the film’s first quarter.
People tend to criticize the artwork and style based on current productions when viewing older anime. This can easily be considered incorrect, especially when it comes to films such as this, but considering that the artwork within this film is arguably better than half of the anime series that have premiered since the turn of the century truly means something special. The color tones of this film are magnificent and creative, quickly switching from dark and earth tone colors to bright and vibrant ones so quickly truly make Akira cemented within the viewer’s minds long after the film is done. Knowing each animation frame crafted by hand to make and perfect hundreds of thousands of keyframes is outstanding and truly breathtaking.
Though if the artwork within Akira is one side of the coin, the animation production is the other. While the film is considered nearly perfect for animation and production, it’s not perfect by any means. Considering that the original soundtrack was composed by Shoji Yamashiro, whose real name is Tsutomu Ohashi, who crafted a beautiful score for the movie, the music is not the problem. The potential problem is that some viewers may be wanting a bit more from the production, but that would be unconceivable as the style within this film is by no means close to today’s current production value. With the beautiful soundtrack this film has behind it, the characters and the story are the toppings on what makes this film so good to see, even if the viewer has seen it multiple times throughout the years.
However, the characters within this film are both excellent and abysmal at the same time, though when it comes to characters, this is one of the essential parts of having a good story. Shotaro Kaneda is the main protagonist of the film and the leader of The Capsules. He is an average-looking male with short black hair and brown eyes. His most notable feature is that he often wears a red jacket with a large design of a capsule on the back, a pair of red pants, and boots. He is considered the main symbol of being defiant against authority within the city. Though beneath his tough and cocky exterior, Kaneda is brave and innately empathetic towards others. He looks out for the safety and well-being of other members within his biker gang and even cries when he loses one of them.
Tetsuo Shima is a deuteragonist and the main antagonist of the film. His character is best described as representing destruction and power in the wrong hands. Tetsuo is a young man of below-average height and is slightly underweight with a deficient muscular body. However, his easiest trait for any viewer to recognize is his inferiority complex, which leads to his downfall. As Tetsuo gains more and more power, he loses who he is and eventually everything.
Considering that this film is so highly praised and loved by so many worldwide, some may begin to think this film is perfect. However, it’s easy to find the negatives within the production, story, or characters when a movie is being watched. Though the characters within this film are a little bare and questionable towards the end, it is essential to note that the ending is original and not part of the source material. Having an original ending to any property is a huge gamble, and if viewers have read the source material or not may determine how much enjoyment they receive.
Overall this film was well made and continues to hold up to this day! Though the characters within this film aren’t as fleshed out outside of the two mentioned above, the ones that aren’t are still enjoyable and entertaining. Please don’t underestimate the value of an anime film by its age because there will always be beauty within something hand-crafted and written. Akira is something that every anime fan needs to experience at least once, as this should consistently be ranked within the top ten anime films to watch.
Cody Senpai is the creator of BakaNow, an anime review website that specializes in spoiler-free reviews for everyone. He is an avid anime watcher who has traveled to Japan numerous times to not only experience the culture and history but also to build friendships with people through a common interest. He is an avid animation fanatic from birth and even went on to major in communication to help share the importance of the stories we love to watch and listen to. Cody lives in Denver, Colorado and loves to do anything adventurous.