Akira (1988)

akira poster 1988 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 10/10

Great visuals, perfect example of good anime

The story gets a little sidelined near the last third of the film.

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Akira

Studio: Akira Studio/Akira Committee Company Ltd/TMS Entertainment

Genre(s):  Animated/Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s): July 16, 1988 (Japan)/December 25, 1989 (US)

MPAA Rating:  R

akira kaneda motorcycle slide

Slide into anime!

A war has rocked the world, and in the crumbling Neo-Tokyo, crime and gangs run while.  When the Capsule gang led by Shōtarō Kaneda encounters a strange boy named Takashi who is on the run from a laboratory, Kaneda’s friend Tetsuo Shima finds himself whisked away by authorizes.  Tetsuo’s contact with Takashi has unleashed something inside of Tetsuo that could lead the unstable Neo-Tokyo into another war that could destroy it and even the world.  Kaneda could be Tetsuo’s only hope…but who or what is Akira?

Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, Akira is a cyberpunk animated adult action film.  Based upon Otomo’s classic manga which ran in Weekly Young Magazine form 1982 to 1990 (finished after the release of the film), Akira was a crossover box office hit and is often credited for the increased popularization of anime on a worldwide level.

akira tetsuo nightmare rabbit bear car

I’ll have what he’s having!!!

Akira was anime, and anime was Akira when anime really started popping up in the United States.  Before Akira there was anime like Speed Racer, Astro Boy, G-Force, and even series like Super Book, but it was largely aimed at kids.  Akira was like a magic bullet that showed the potential the genre and elevated anime here in the United States and around the world.

R-Rated animated movies weren’t a new thing, but Akira was a jolt to the system.  The story was both gruesome and action filled.  The story was adult (and complex…it might take more than one viewing to follow it) and despite not being an incredibly long film, it manages to feel epic.  It isn’t a Disney movie.

Like the plotlines, the characters feel more adult.  You have the lab, Takashi, and the other espers that display powers bigger than men, but you also have the sympathetic Tetsuo who goes from being a follower to the most powerful character in the film…turning him into a monster.  Kaneda starts out rather unlikable but becomes the unlikely hero of the film as he takes on his former friend.

akira ending tetsuo mutation kaneda

Real friends don’t try to absorb other friends into their gelatinous mutating body…don’t be a Tetsuo

The movie is visually stunning and ratchets up the quality of animation.  Akira is such an iconic work of Japanese anime that even those who haven’t seen the movie probably can recognize some scenes from it.  The movie’s visuals were also influential and have been mimics and had various homages to the movie.

Akira is a must.  It can be a hard sell to those who don’t like anime, and opposed to some anime, it is pretty classic anime in style, performance, and storytelling.  Unlike something like Spirited Away which has a broader all-ages appeal, this movie takes work to watch and appreciate…but taking that effort can be well worth it…and soon you could be screaming “TETSUO!!!!”

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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