About 31 years after World-War III, even after slowly crawling from the ashes of the fallen capital of Tokyo, people have now begun to live in hedonism and there looms a growing social recession. Between the student protestors and anti-government aggravators, the religious fanatics and the politicians that are either lining their own pockets or thinking only of their future careers, there really seems to be nothing else to do but watch civilization fold over itself. But in the darkness that is societal atrophy shines a brilliant light, the light known as Akira. Does Akira hold the key to the restoration of Japan to its former greatness? Or is it simply the destroyer in the dusk that need not be let out from Pandora's box?
What is probably the most hyped anime film of all time, has actually been pretty much an on-going mystery for a decade to many people that can only speak the English language primarily because of the incoherent nature of the earlier release. Now here we are, years later with a brand spanking new release and an accurate dub and translation.
My how this movie makes so much sense now.
I'm amazed that it stayed hyped long enough for this DVD re-release to actually happen. But thankfully, it did, because this is a great movie, and now I actually know specifically why.
The story of the movie focuses on the excerpts of the leader of some biker gang named Kaneda and how him and his apprehensive friend, Tetsuo, get dragged into the seedy world of secret underground political scientific experimental movements. Soon after though, we find out that Tetsuo is actually endowed with incredible abilities and that he can be used to figure out how to harness such power for practical application, which in itself may very well solve the mystery behind Akira. Of course, being someone who has been bullied around almost his entire life, it's logical to assume that he wouldn't say yes to experimentation and testing that will only benefit other people on the foundation of his suffering and effort. So naturally, what does an oppressed teenager with the divine powers of the universe do? He goes around blowing stuff up of course.
Having finally understood the story, this is actually a really funny movie. I mean the vast majority of people found in here are complete dolts. The movie as a whole is a very contemptuous look at society in a future where people are holding protests or inciting riots for no real apparent reason either than to invoke dispute. At one point, they probably did it because of the corrupt government, but the way it's portrayed here is as if people in the long run have this sort of pack mentality in which they must have absolutely nothing better to do and have lost all coherency of what they were actually trying to do. Even the religious cult followers that supposedly serve a Lord Akira probably don't even know what the hell it really is to begin with. It is simply all a long set of baseless fanaticism or ideals that serve little to no purpose. But THAT is specifically what makes this all so very entertaining. And the politicians that govern these people for that matter are very negatively (yet hilariously) portrayed also.
At this point though, the saying "All good things in moderation" comes into play. For very sensible reasons of decent story-telling, a movie, to some extent, cannot be completely soaked in the idiocy of its own populace. Most of the immediate cast members actually have their heads screwed on correctly. Sure Kaneda is a biker punk and he gets into fights with rival gangs, but for the most part, he isn't really involved with the more massive (and more violent) baseless fanaticism. In fact, he initially gets involved in the thing simply to chase a girl. And the Colonel, with his ironclad soldier morals, is quite admirable throughout the movie and is the centerpiece badass character. He willingly bears the responsibility of the mistakes that were committed by the idiot politicians that preceded his time.
On the production side of things, the animation quite frankly hasn't really aged. The movie still looks quite nice even by today's standards. Much entertainment can be derived from the meticulous detail of the destruction of various objects. The general character animation is smooth, even getting some nifty gestures in here and there. The lip sync in fact was specifically animated for the pre-recorded dialogue, as opposed to how most anime is produced in Japan. Even while watching the dub, this gives the animation that extra little flair. The only thing people may not enjoy too much is the very down-to-earth character designs, but then, they do indeed look like Asian people when you think about it.
While it can be said that the animation, atmosphere and shock-factor derived from its gratuitous violence is probably what maintained its "baseless fanaticism" (Sorry, I can't help myself, the irony just seems too great) over the years, I can safely say that the actual movie is a great piece of work that isn't really all that confusing like I initially thought it was. It was never meant to be a mind-numbingly deep foray into the human collective consciousness (or whatever the hell everyone initially thought it was), it was simply a commentary and satirical portrayal of society, politics, religion and so on that was relatively entertaining to watch since there was enough laughs, pwnage and explosions to go around.
In conclusion, this has apparently always been an excellent movie. But the fact is that up until seeing Geneon's re-release, I had absolutely no idea why it was and was living in almost complete ignorance. While I do feel the shame of being in the dark for this long, much enlightenment comes with the knowledge for the better; I still need to read the manga though.
If you haven't seen the movie since Streamline/Orion's older releases, do yourself a favor and see this movie again in its new and improved form. The experience is THAT different.
Deduct two stars you think it's impossible to do the manga (which I haven't read) justice with just a 2-hour long movie. — Dominic Laeno
Recommended Audience: There wasn't too much profanity in the dubbed version, which surprised me a bit. There are some pretty violent scenes interspersed throughout the flick, though, and the last third of the movie will no doubt spook little kids. They wouldn't understand it, anyway.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Akira © 1988 Katsuhiro Otomo / Akira Committee
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