Anime has become vastly popular in the Western World. Despite originally being unknown, kept to the confines of Japan, Anime has since grown in strength globally. The way I see it, there are two sides of anime watching: There’s the hardcore and serious anime fan. watching the likes of Ghost in the Shell or Ghibli’s best (Grave of the Fireflies, obviously.) And the gentle anime fan who only watches cute little creatures battle it out in television serious. And do I mention Hentai? You know the anime porn? Of course I will and I just have. See, anime has infected our culture and we aren’t letting go of it anytime soon (much like the penis tentacles in Hentai….ok, I’ll stop.) This wave of love first came in the 1960’s due to the Godfather of Anime Osamu Tezuka. But in 1988, a new obsession with anime was born as the legendary and now cult favourite, Akira came to our screens – mesmerising the world.
Akira is based on a whopping 2181 page Manga of the same name, so understandably follows a bit of a different version of events. Set in Neo-Tokyo of future 2019, Akira centres on Tetsuo, a member of motorcycle gang the Capsules lead by his best friend Kaneda. They rival other gang, the Clowns. However, when Tetsuo crashes his bike after near crashing to an esper (a person possessing psychic abilities,) Doctors at the hospital soon find that Tetsuo possesses psychic powers too. But Tetsuo’s powers are stronger than most and are likened to that of a great esper named Akira. Akira, now gone, was responsible for the destruction of Tokyo. And Tetsuo is heading for the same destiny if only his loved ones around him would stop him. Or he will stop the world.
Akira has left such a large imprint on the globe; it is hard to skip past its influence. Many Manga and Anime artists now cite it has a major part of their inspiration. Voted constantly in not only best animation lists, but best film lists, Akira is by far a striking and gritty anime. The stylish and slick Tokyo awash with colour, sound and life is as real as anime gets and sticks long inside your mind. The artists really pour their strength into the drawings and make the characters breath without the use of CGI or 3D. You are instantly absorbed into the story by the hand drawings alone. But that is just a plus: Akira is a fantastic fantasy that has a strong pulse driving through it. From the twists and turns of the plot, Tetsuo’s rampage and the horrific climatic scene, Akira has striking imagery. This is not only by the artwork, but through the earnest, well-driven plot that keeps you hooked.
The Japanese film is the perfect adaptation of superheroes and horror. The superhero elements can easily be brushed aside with “powers,” “psychics” and “espers” while the vivid colours of red act like Tetsuo’s costume. The horror? Because some of the drawing is so brutally graphic that it is more sickening than a lot of gory movies. The epic detail that is saturated in Tetsuo’s final transformation is gruesome. It plays a role of realism and grit within the movie and drives the horror forward. Just because Akira is technically a cartoon, does not mean it is for children. There is definitely an essence of dystopian destruction within Akira: A future where devestation is the only end of civilisation and every moment of your life can lead you down a great path, or one of anger. Anger beyond your control.
Akira still stands head strong along sides the newest anime that is pouring into our culture. And if you dig past the Ghibli’s (as much as I love a bit of Ghibli,) you’ll see it is overwhelmingly one of the greatest anime movies ever. In fact, I agree, Akira with its fight against the government, rebel destruction, rapid moving yet strong story and just intense drawings, is one of the greatest movies ever.