Akira (1988)

“What’s happened to me?”

So this is actually pretty fantastic.

Today’s movie is one that I’ve been waiting to see for a long time; the landmark film that is largely credited for putting Japanese anime on the map, Akira. The film was really everything I expected and more. The visuals were imaginative yet bounded by their own reality. The story was somewhat strange, but it was also logical. It was complex and layered, with nuanced characters. The antagonists were fully realized characters, acting according to understandable motivations, as opposed to simply being cartoon bad guys.

An action-packed cyberpunk adventure set in a dystopian Japan in the not-too-distant future, the film weaves an adventurous tale of totalitarian government, underground rebels, teenage motorcycle gangs, and a small group of people with psionic powers, into a deep but well-paced cinematic experience.

Of course, anime isn’t exactly my genre, (or else I’d have seen this years ago), but I really did find that viewing Akira really was an experience. The plot is rich, and there’s a lot going on. At one point as I was watching the film, it seemed like it was ramping up for what would typically be a film’s big-epic-finale, but then I looked at the time and there was almost an hour left. This hour was filled with increasingly heightened stakes that were well plotted and flowed neatly from one to another.

As was the case with the only other anime movie I’ve seen. This is a fantastical and somewhat illogical movie, however as I’ve alluded to, it works because it follows its own internal logic. The film sets rules then follows them, (even if the viewer isn’t told what they are for a while.)

When coming up with my rating for this movie there were a few things I took into consideration. Most importantly, I really enjoyed the movie. I felt like I went on this crazy ride, and emerged at the end with some real emotional resonance. However, I do have to contrast that against the fact that isn’t going to be a movie that every viewer is going to enjoy so much. You sort of need to be able to just sit back and enjoy the ride as it comes at you.

Normally, that might cause me to knock a film down to “Worth Seeing”. However, I do also give credit to films for being important parts of cinematic history. As the film that is largely credited with kicking off a wave of Western interest in anime that continues to this day, Akira has that in spades. It also happens to be a really good film. Therefore I don’t have any reservations in saying that Akira is a Must See.

[Akira (アキラ) (1988) – Director: Katsuhiro Otomo – Rated R for graphic violence and brief nudity]

OM|ED Rating: Must See