Akira

Akira

Akira anime movie cover art featuring Kaneda
Akira Cover Art

Overview

A few hours after finishing Neon Genesis Evangelion and making that the oldest anime I’ve watched to date, I decided to watch Akira, which is even older. Despite being from 1988, Akira holds up surprisingly well, although it doesn’t look like modern anime.

While the art style may be part of the reason Akira doesn’t look like a modern anime, I think the main thing that sets it apart is the animation. It seems like at least something is happening in every frame of the movie.

Neon Genesis Evangelion used still and almost still frames, as do many new anime such as Boruto, however, every frame of Akira is packed with movement. In a number of scenes there’s so much going on that you need to watch it multiple times in order to take it all in.

However, while I enjoyed the animation quality of this movie, the plot wasn’t really for me. Sci-fi is fine and all, but the psychic powers weren’t really ever explained and I’m not much of a fan of the “big blob of flesh” monster at the end which reminded me of A.I.C.O.: Incarnation.

Also why did the psychic children all look like zombies? I get that there’s a lot more information in the manga, but you’d think that maybe that should be touched on in the movie. I also assume Akira was an actual character in some way in the manga, because he wasn’t here.

I felt like naming this movie “Akira” is kind of like if they titled the Naruto “Minato.” Yeah, Minato is an important character as far as the back story is concerned, but he’s not really relevant to the plot, mentioned for most of it, or alive. Akira is the same way.


Characters

The protagonist of the movie is Shoutarou Kaneda, the leader of a biker gang in Neo Tokyo. I think he’s also supposed to be a high school student even though he has a custom-built motorcycle and gets in violent gang fights.

I don’t really feel like there’s much more else to say about him, he’s a fairly standard main character.

Tetsuo Shima is the primary antagonist of the movie and is a much more interesting character than Kaneda. He’s also Kaneda’s childhood friend from back when they were both orphans.

It seems that Tetsuo has always been bullied and picked on his whole life, and Kaneda was always the one coming to his rescue. Because of this, Tetsuo feels inferior to his friend, which naturally angers him.

However, after coming in contact with one of the aforementioned psychic zombie children, Tetsuo gains psychic powers of his own and no longer needs to rely on Kaneda for protection. This change is symbolized by him stealing Kaneda’s motorcycle which he was told is too powerful for him.

Another one of the main characters is Kei, a girl who’s a member of an anti-government rebellion. Kei is Kaneda’s primary love interest for the movie and the two of them work together to bring down Tetsuo.

The fourth and final main character is Shikishima, a military colonel who’s in charge of the psychic zombie children. It was unclear to me whether or not he was supposed to be a bad guy.

Sure, he want’s to capture Tetsuo and use his powers, but he also protects the other children and seems to be doing what’s best for the people of Neo Tokyo at large. I’m sure his character is flushed out more in the manga, but in the movie I wasn’t sure if I should be rooting for him or not.

In the end, what we get are three different factions and four different reasons for each of the main characters getting involved in the situation.

Tetsuo wants to show off his new strength and works alone for himself. Kaneda and Kei work together to stop Tetsuo, but for different reasons. Kaneda wants to save him, while Kei wants to stop the military from gaining his power. Shikishima wants to increase the strength of the military.

Shoutarou Kaneda from the anime movie Akira
Shoutarou Kaneda

Conclusion

In the end I feel that Akira is a 6/10, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad at all. It was a genuinely good movie, but had some things it needed to work on like any other movie, and simply wasn’t for me.

I think the best part of the whole movie was the beginning where we get a high-speed motorcycle chase and fight between Kaneda’s gang and their rival gang. Honestly, if the whole movie focused on a war between these two rival biker gangs that would have been better.

Just change Kaneda’s name to “Akira” so the title can still be used (Akira is a better title than Kaneda) and remake the movie as a biker gang war movie. Someone could even just edit out all the other parts and it would probably be good without even adding more content.

The opening scene for the movie Akira can be found here.

Rewatch Update (May 25, 2019)

After rewatching Akira I’ve come to appreciate the more sci-fi aspects it has to offer, as well as the latter half of the movie in general. I appreciated all the gang members a lot more this time around, especially Tetsuo. You really do get the feeling that these teenagers are just being caught up in something way out of their control.

The title, Akira, also felt more meaningful this second time around because I already knew who Akira was. I think the first time around I was a bit disappointed that the movie was named after someone who wasn’t even a real character.

Also, the animation still held up and is the best part of the movie, but I found the soundtrack to be a bit off. Don’t get me wrong, the soundtrack has some absolute “bangers,” as the kids would say, but they felt out of place sometimes.

Overall I’d say Akira is actually a 7/10, and I’m actually looking forward to the newly announced live action movie coming in 2021. This may be the first time I’ll actually watch a live action adaptation of an anime.

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