Movie Project #9: Akira [1988]

The 50 Movies Project is a personal “marathon” of mine. In June, I compiled a list of 50 movies that I felt I needed to see by the end of the year. Old, new, foreign, English — it doesn’t matter. These are all movies that I have heard a lot about and have been wanting to see for some time. This project gives me a way to stay focused on the goal.

Akira [1988]

Akira [1988]
Directors: Katsuhiro Ohtomo
Genre: Anime/Action/Fantasy
Language: Japanese
Country: Japan

When it comes to anime, I have no problem admitting that I am very much a novice. I have seen a few Studio Ghibli films, and a handful of random TV show episodes here and there (mostly Ranma ½ and InuYasha), but never fully explored the genre. One movie that I have heard come up time and time again whenever anime is mentioned is the 1988 film, Akira.

Based on the massive eponymous manga series, Akira is a cyberpunk-themed sci-fi film set in dystopian Neo-Tokyo. The story revolves around Tetsuo, a motorcycle gang member who develops powerful psychic powers. He’s not alone in having these abilities; he comes to find out that there are multiple youths who have unique powers, including Akira, the child who caused Tokyo’s destruction 31 years ago. However, Tetsuo soon becomes megalomaniacal and begins to threaten the city in his own way. His buddy and fellow gang member, Kaneda, sets out to stop the potential devastation, all while getting caught up in the middle of a battle with the city’s oppressive government. Naturally, there is a lot of violence and crazy shit happening throughout.

Akira [1988]

As someone unfamiliar with the original manga, I couldn’t help but get lost during the movie. The story moves along at a fast clip, and I had no idea what was happening at times. I had no interest in the main characters, and couldn’t empathize with Tetsuo, even as he was fighting back against the evil government. From what I have heard, it really helps to have read the original material before watching the movie, and I certainly got that feeling myself.

The animation, while obviously dated, still looks cool and I thought it was a strong suit for the movie. I dug the cyberpunk feel, as the visuals do an excellent job portraying a gritty city that is still feeling the effects of its previous destruction. For a 20+ year old film, Akira still looks sharp.

I feel like I may need to watch Akira again to appreciate it more, but I am also wondering if I am just not a fan of this style of anime. I liked the visuals and the environment they portrayed, but I felt hopeless as the story began to spiral out of control.

Akira fans, what am I missing here?

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15 thoughts on “Movie Project #9: Akira [1988]

  1. jsicktheslick says:

    Watching it again is a good idea; you can appreciate things a lot mire. Akira is one of my favorite animes, but admittedly I haven’t seen many either. Also, the anime/manga is just plain weird and confusing in general. You probably didn’t miss much, so don’t worry.

    • Eric says:

      Ah, good to know. It seems most of the complaints I read elsewhere stemmed from the fact that they tried to condense such a large manga into two hours, and therefore they had to cut out some major plot points. I’ll probably give the movie another shot someday then.

    • Eric says:

      It’s reassuring that I’m not the only one who didn’t pick up on the movie after the first viewing. You’ll have to let me know how the manga is when you read it!

  2. John says:

    I watched this again yesterday. Like I previously commented I originally watched Akira a long time ago, now that I’m older I can follow along with the revolution, political turmoil, and the general sense of dystopia much better.

    It also seems like there’s a “message” to be gotten from the movie. What it specifically is I don’t know, but a lot of the movie seemed to deal with how power corrupts.

    • Eric says:

      Yeah, there definitely seemed to be some deeper meanings to Akira, but I just had a hard time keeping up with everything. Maybe that’s partly because I am not familiar with this style of anime, I’m not sure. I will give it another chance someday.

      Glad to hear you enjoyed it more this time around!

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