The epic cyberpunk film based on the over 2, 000 page manga of the same name. Akira is everyone’s favorite anime. It’s the anime that introduced many of us, gaijin, to Japanese anime.
Roger Ebert selected Akira as his "Video Pick of the Week" in 1989 on Siskel & Ebert and the Movies. For its wider 2001 release, he gave the film "Thumbs Up." The film has an 87% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 7.4/10. Metacritic gives the film a score of 76, indicating "generally favorable reviews." Channel 4's 2005 poll of the 100 greatest cartoons of all time featuring both cartoon shows and cartoon movies, Akira came in at number 16. On Empire magazine's list of the 500 greatest movies of all time, Akira is number 440. It showed again on Empire's list of The 100 Best Films of World Cinema, coming in at #51. IGN also named it 14th on its list of Top 25 Animated Movies of All-Time.
AKIRA - Directed by Katushiro Otomo, the author and artist of the source material that was serialized in the issues of Young Magazine. The manga spanned six volumes and completed two years after the premiere of the film. Yes, the film is a companion piece for the entire saga. The story is set in a dystopian Japan still recovering from WWIII. The government is struggling to keep order as society is hanging on the edge of collapse; religious cults are evident everywhere; Teenagers are turning to drugs and biker gangs; Political demonstrations are more frequent and becoming more violent as tensions between activists and police continue to grow.
Enter our lead characters, members of The Capsules: Kaneda, Tetsuo, Yamagata, Kaisuke. They’re a bōsōzoku gang involved in various criminal activities, including drug dealing, vandalism, and, being a biker gang. One night at the Harukiya bar, the gang mobilizes to confront rival gang The Clowns in a fast speed battle on the highways of Neo-Tokyo. Tetsuo earns his stripes by turning a Clown into a vic before, crashing his bike into a strange looking kid. The military quickly appear in their helicopters and rapidly close off the area and take away both the mysterious boy and Tetsuo. The rest of the movie hits the accelerator and touches on themes such as government black ops, top secret research, human guinea pigs, police states, political corruption and the power of the sub-conscious and human potential; leading up to the final climax of apocalyptic glory and the destruction Neo-Tokyo.
AKIRA was at the time, the most expensive anime ever. The first Japanese animated feature to record the vocal performances and score before any pencils touched a sheet a paper. Otomo is claimed to have filled 2000 pages of notebooks, containing various ideas and character designs for the film, but the final storyboard consisted of a trimmed-down 738 pages.
The film has gained a massive Cult Following and even sold out a limited theater re-release in the 2000’s with a new English dub and pumped up soundtrack in select US cities. There have been numerous releases on every home entertainment medium from VHS to Blu-Ray. The film has been in Hollywood development limbo for years, years, after the rights were secured for a live action film. Spielberg and George Lucas have even gone on record calling the project “Unmarketable in America”. Currently, I believe Leonardo DiCaprio has the rights to a live action film. At one time DiCaprio was set to star as the lead with Josh Gordon Levitt co-starring. No new updates as of late 2014.
Akira is Otomo’s critique of post war Japan. A Japan devastated by two Atomic weapons; dealing with issues of overcrowding, political power struggles, the rise of juvenile delinquency, a country trying to get it together in a new era of fear and technological evolution. Akira was once science fiction but, look around you, it’s here and it’s today. Hi-Tech Low Life; keep your hand on the throttle and your finger on the rewind button.