Genre: Sci-Fi, Animation, Action/Adventure
Cast: TETSSSSUUUUOOOOOO!!!, KANEDAAAAA!!!!
Synopsis: A teenager who is also a member of a biker gang in dystopian Neo-Tokyo acquires psychic powers after a run in with an anaemic child. With his new powers, he sets out to release the mysterious entity known as Akira.
I’m back! That’s right loyal readers. I have returned to you after a five week sojourn to the USA. It must have been very difficult for you to process my absence. Lord knows it kept me awake at night. I am sure you have asked yourself, fist shaking at the sky: “Why did Baked leave us?” The simple truth is I decided not to update my blog while I was in the US for one key reason: I didn’t have access to weed. I didn’t want to compromise the integrity of my method…if ‘integrity’ is the right word. I would hate myself if I didn’t stay true to the basic tenets of this blog; namely get high and watch movies. Fortunately, I am back in London where the weed is plentiful and the police don’t give a rat’s ass. For my first review back, I’ll be reviewing the anime sci-fi mind-fuck classic: Akira.
If you thought Paprika and Perfect Blue were bat-shit insane, then you were right. However, as Japanese game shows have demonstrated, there is no limit to the sanity black hole that is Japan. Akira is a film that reflects that generality. The film is set in a dystopian Tokyo in 2019, 31 years after a nuclear explosion destroyed the city. The city is overrun with juvenile delinquents on bikes and nut jobs. Throw in psychic sickly children who look like they’re 80 and things get weird very quickly. I’m talking giant killer teddy bears and an oversized throbbing tumour monster. For the last one, imagine an inappropriate Power Ranger villain but with added sexual symbolism.
Although the weirdness is certainly a hallmark of the film, the thing that makes Akira a brilliant film is that it speaks to sentiment that is 100 per cent Japanese. To date, Japan remains the only nation that has had a nuclear weapon used against it in war. In 1945, two Japanese cities were wiped off the map. Akira is a film that is very theme heavy with the central ones being: the fragility of civilisation and cities; the repercussions of using God-like powers for destruction; capitalism and urban wealth inequality; adolescence and coming-of-age; and spirituality and rebirth in the modern age. When watching this movie for the first time, these themes may escape you because it’s such a complex movie and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. I watched Akira for the first time when I was 15 and only ‘got it’ when I was 22. However, it’s still worth the watch and the re-watch because the themes this movie tackles are still relevant for today’s world and will continue to be so for a long time. Also, let’s not forget that Japan is hosing the Olympic games in 2020 so I fully expect Akira to actually happen by that time.
The amazing thing about this movie is that it is over 25 years old and it still holds up by today’s standards. The animation is as fresh and remarkable as it was when it was first released. I don’t think anyone could ever dream of criticising how Neo-Tokyo was designed: it’s a sprawling metropolis with shining lights and gleaming towers as well as dark corners and decay. The level of detail is, quite frankly, astounding and no scene does the craftsmanship justice quite like this one.
While the visuals are just as amazing as they were in the 80s, the sound effects have maybe aged a bit. I mentioned something similar in my review of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. However, you can’t let these small blips ruin what is an otherwise brilliant film. My advice to you readers is that you should watch this film as soon as possible, as a US remake could be on the way. The remake has been in development hell for years but that could change soon so you’ll want to experience the original before Hollywood shits all over it by including heavy-handed 9/11 references and Milla Jovovich in a skin-tight cat suit.
- The animation. Wow. That is all.
- Complex but not without reason. The film is all about nuclear war, evolution, and spirituality in an age crippled with capitalism.
- Probably the best representation of romance in an apocalyptic scenario. I always find it weird how people are always shagging each other at the end of the world in these sorts of films….surely the characters have other more important things on their mind…like not dying.
- Watch it with a friend and assign roles so that one can shout ‘Tetsuo’ and the other one shout ‘Kaneda’ at appropriate moments.
- Poor Kaori. Poor, poor Kaori. She got clothes-lined by a guy on a motor bike. That’s got to hurt.
- Slightly outdated sound effects.
When you first watch this movie, you might not get it. In fact, you might hate it. However, I am begging you to come at Akira with an open mind and maybe a little context because if you do that you will see why it’s such an important moment in Japanese cinematic history. Sure it’s a weird film, but when that weirdness comes together with purpose it becomes art. That’s what this film is, pure and simple: it’s art.