Movie Reviews 256 – Akira (1988)

AkiraBack in 1988, Akira set the new standard for animated films. Now, nearly thirty years later and with a slew of advances in computer animation that have since been brought to the field, it still stands as a monumental achievement.

Based on the Japanese manga of the same name by Katsuhiro Otomo (who also wrote and directed the film), the dystopian science fiction classic is set in a post World War III apocalyptic Neo-Tokyo. The story conveys the naissance of a new world order against a backdrop of rival motorcycle gangs, corrupt politicians, and a military regime that has created a trio of cerebrally advanced, but prematurely aging kids, the espers, which have been bioengineered to be the next evolutionary step for mankind.

When a motorcycle accident gives gang member Tetsuo Kaneda esper like psychic abilities, he acquires a taste for greater powers and begins a quest to seek out Akira, a prophesized esper that has been touted as a savior by local cults. Akira was indeed one of the original espers created long ago, but as he was really responsible for the nuclear holocaust that ravaged Tokyo which led to the last world war, he was disposed by the government which only partially succeeded in concealing his existence. Meanwhile Tetsuo’s life long friend and fellow gang member Shotaro has taken up with Kei and her band of anti-government rebels in search of Tetsuo, the espers and the government’s plans for the future.

The story is complex and multifaceted (actually abridged and modified slightly from the thousands of pages comprising the original source material) but remains entertaining and even highly relevant today, with terrorist attacks, government eavesdropping on citizens, and policies and agreements created in secrecy.

The groundbreaking animation manifests stunning details, fluid motion, all while presenting creative visuals in a multitude of chase scenes, futuristic backgrounds, decrepit neighborhoods all wrapped in unapologetically bloody violence.

If you have yet to taste anime movies, this is one that should be at the top of the heap.

Widely available with many media releases over the years, my copy of the 2001 Pioneer-Geneon Blu Ray features not only a remastered video, but also a complete audio redubbing. Both factors highly recommended for such a deserving title. I highly recommend seeking out this or releases based on this superior source.

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