Akira, the film that introduced anime to the western world.
Akira is considered to be one of the most influential and a must watch for any anime fan. Because of this, I figured it would be a good place to start with my anime endeavor, and it was the first feature length anime film that I had seen, but did it live up to the legend? Also note that most of this review was written directly after watching the film, since then I have seen upwards of 30+ anime movies.
Akira opens with Tokyo apparently being nuked, and is followed by a fast forward to 2019 Tokyo, which is now a dystopian society. After that, we see the lead the characters Kaneda and Tetsuo, and their biker gang fight some members of a different biker gangs. Since it would be nearly impossible for me to actually explain the rest of the plot without sounding like a crazy person, I will stop here and just say either read the plot description below or watch the movie.
Now for the quality of the film, well that is a difficult question. Some parts are great and if the entire was like it, Akira would be one of my favorite animated movies ever, as I had expected it to be. However, other parts of the film just did not work or make sense for that matter. Near the end of the film, it goes completely off the rails into absurdity. Typically, weird and trippy type movies are usually something I enjoy, only if there is a reason for it, Akira, however, does not always give a solid reason for it. After doing some research, the reason why the movie drifts away towards the end is that it attempts to pack a Six Volume Manga into one movie, thus the reason for the lack of coherent story at times. Fans of the Manga would probably be able to fill in the gaps.
On a side note, Leonardo DiCaprio was attached to a live-action adaptation of Akira a few back, but I believe that fell through.
Directed by: Katsuhiro Otomo
Genre: Sci-Fi, Action, Anime, Animation, Cyberpunk,
Release Date: 16 July 1988
MMPA rating: R
The Bad: Goes off the rails in the last 20 minutes, Rushed, Attempts to pack too many ideas into a two-hour movie,
Warning: Even though the movie is animated, Akira certainly earns its R rating for gore, language, and other mature content.
Plot: The following plot summary is copied from Wikipedia.com.
On July 16, 1988, Tokyo is engulfed in a massive explosion that obliterates the city, and starts World War III. In 2019, 31 years after the explosion, Tokyo gets rebuilt as Neo-Tokyo to recover. In Neo-Tokyo, Shotaro Kaneda leads the Capsules, his bōsōzoku gang, to fight against the rival gang known as the Clowns. However, Kaneda's best friend Tetsuo Shima is injured when he almost crashes his motorcycle into Takashi, a small esper sprung from a secret government laboratory by a dissident underground revolutionary organization. Takashi is captured by armed soldiers and Tetsuo is hospitalized. When Kaneda and his gang are interrogated, he encounters Kei, a member of the revolutionary group, and arranges her release along with his own gang.
Watch the movie to see what happens next.
Plot: 7.4/10- OK, the world building and setup for Akira is excellent. I was invested in the characters to a certain degree and the story was intriguing. However, in the last 20 minutes, all of what made the previous parts good, where thrown out the window. Other than the last 20 minutes, there are some themes that the film was attempting to convey, but failed to accomplish it in the end. As stated above, Akira tries to pack Six Volumes of Manga into one film, and because of this, the movie feels rushed and many plot points are not explored as much as they should have been.
Action: 8.9/10- Akira's action is one of the stronger aspects of film. The biker gang battles are well animated and realistically brutal. Towards the latter half of the film there are some inventive powers used in the action scenes as well. Additionally, the trippy mind bending sequence is rather impressive.
Acting: 7.5/10- While accurately critiquing Japanese voice actor is not a precise art, the acting was fine, but not on the same level compared what I have heard from modern series and films. There are two different dubs, but I only watched when is considered the "Good Dub" by Pioneer-Geneon with Johnny Yong Bosh, who sounds different than he usually does, and Wendee Lee. Even though it was not the best dub with some actors lacking emotion in their delivery, it is entirely serviceable and watchable, mostly thanks to the aforementioned actors. So watch which ever you typically prefer.
Art Style: 8.5/10- Consider the time, in which Akira was made, the animation is quite good. While the character models take some time getting used to, the actual animation is surprisingly fluid for a 80s anime film. It is important to mention that Akira is an extremely gory and violent animated film, therefore the movie is not recommended for the faint of heart.
Soundtrack: 7.8/10- Occasionally Shoji Yamashiro's score is distracting, but most of the tracks are quite good and eerie.
Non-Otaku Appeal: Considering that Akira essentially destroyed any interest my brother had in anime and that he now refuses to even try another series or movie, Akira is not a good place to when watching anime, unless you are open to mend bending weirdness. On the flip-side, if this was your introduction to anime films, and you actually ended up liking the movie for the most part, then you should be ready to handle most of what anime has to throw at you until Evangelion or FLCL.
Overall: 7.7/10- Despite feeling rushed and lacking some areas, Akira is still praise worthy for introducing western audiences to how animation can tell mature stories and for influencing many other works of fiction, not just anime. Overall, it is a very good movie, just not quite a great one.
Closing comments: Even though later films such as Ghost in the Shell and Kara no Kyōkai have done a much better job with this type of film, if you are a hardcore fan of the medium, Akira is most definitely a must watch at some point.
Jacob the Movie Review Opinion: 5.0/10- Anime is not something I have ever enjoyed, and I felt that the art style in the first half of the film was not typical anime, which I liked. I did not like the direction the plot took in the second half. Overall, the some parts of Akira were cool, but it ultimately fell flat towards the end.
Recommended for: Anime fans, Sci-Fi fans, Manga fans, Animation fans,
Below is a great review by my favorite YouTube anime critic, GRArkada, aka Tristan Gallant that I mostly agree. Warning, however, there are three uses of strong language in the video.
Below is another review talking about how the Manga is much longer.
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