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22 August 2011

Akira (1988)

Directed by: Katsuhiro Ôtomo
Genre: Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Drama, Animation
Runtime: 124 Minutes 
I am not a big animé fan; In fact, I have only seen few animé films. This has opened my eyes to a wonderful set of films. I am very impressed with this one however, for many reasons. This is a landmark of entertainment and animation that shows animation can be gripping and dramatic for adult standards on a scale even larger than Pixar’s achievements. Pixar definitely know what they are doing, but for the adult characteristics of seriousness this animé achieves great drama. Director Katsuhiro Ôtomo knew what he was doing with the story here definitely.  With plenty of blood and violence “Akira” is a huge step for animation that is thrillingly entertaining and has a kinetic energy.

The story is set in the post-apocalyptic community of Neo-Tokyo in the year 2019. Tetsuo is a fiercely individualistic member of a scroungy motorcycle gang. The despotic authorities, the robot-like police, and even the cycle gang pursue Tetsuo when he is bombarded with a new, insidious energy source that has rendered him telekinetic. 

To begin with, the animation is ground-breaking. This is 1988 and the style is overwhelming. What makes it so great is it is doing the things that most animators avoid, nighttime shots and explosions. These things take a lot of time to do and doing nighttime scenes are very expensive. The film has some excellent action sequences and the animation is revolutionary without a doubt. This one thing I have admired about anime films, the style while the characters mouth movements are cheap, the detail they capture in things like architecture, clothing and vehicles is amazing. 

Even in comparison to today’s CGI animation, this film looks remarkable. This is some of the finest hand-drawn animation of its time. One thing I loved was Tetsuo’s bike, which “The Dark Knight” must have got inspiration from for the motorbike Batman uses. His bike has a big wheel at the back and the front and has a red chrome design, which looked very cool.

If you are not much of a Sci-Fi fan then this film is probably not for you. As a Sci-Fi, drama anime “Akira” is surprisingly good. The Sci-fi elements here are off the scale and in the film’s final 20 minutes, it is a weird, strange and standstill experience. The film takes place in 2019, after ‘World War 3’, and event we have only had dreams (or nightmares) of. When Tetsuo gains his powers, it will remind you of Dragon Ball Z, only t is better here. This is there kind of Sci-Fi fantasy many people dislike, but here I thought it was great.

Whoever says that animation cannot create emotions like a live-action film is very wrong. The film is rated “R” and with good reason. There is plenty of violence, blood and adult themes (and a few bits of bad language). The animation was so good it made the film immerse like a live-action film and I love it when animation directors create adult themed animation. It serves out like live-action entertainment while still being animated which gives it a different kind of energy.
At times, the film has quite disorientating and strange scenes, such as Tetsuo’s reams and illusions, one being a giant bear, a giant rabbit and a giant car that break through the walls of his hospital room. Later in the film, these illusions are partly explained. The ending sequence is unbelievably strange and if you have seen it, you could not deny it. I am not saying it is bad, but just very strange, a good strange. 

The characters are very gripping, and with the English dub I had, the voices were not too bad. The children that seem to look like old people are quite a surprise to you at first. At first, I thought it was just the animation style, and then soon things are explained. All the voice acting in the film was well executed and was not too bad in synchronisation either. The characters all summed up to this film being excellent without a doubt.

The dazzling and cutting edge animation presented here gives the film its excellent feeling. The Sci-Fi world it creates is an excellent influential example of animé. Before this film, animé wasn't nearly as popular and on its release it blew minds. One thing for sure it blew mine. Over time, the film has gained a cult status being a cult favourite in the States thanks to generous midnight-movie exposure and its availability on video and cable TV.  Even if you are not an animé fan, I strongly recommend giving this one a watch because it will not disappoint. In its 124 minute runtime (considerably long for an animated film) “Akira” has amazing animation, gripping drama and plenty of beautiful Sci-Fi elements.

My Rating: 9/10


  1. You mention you have not seen much anime, and you also mention Pixar. A huge influence on John Lasseter at Pixar has been director Hayao Miyazaki. If you have not seen any of his films I highly recommend them, especially Spirited Away. They are not as adult as Akira in regards to violence, but they have themese that adults can enjoy

  2. Akira has to be one of the best (and one of the few) anime films I have ever seen, it really is proof that cartoons aren't just for kids. brilliant review

  3. thanks for reading. I have heard about him and is considered the Walt Disney of Japan. I look forward to seeing spirited away soon :)

  4. Great review! It has been several years since I last saw this landmark film. I need to rectify that soon.

  5. One of the greatest anime features. Well said.

  6. Great review! I definitely need to see this.

  7. Your Review is great. I love Akira very much not just for it's incredible story line but also it's fine details. Truly a work of art

  8. Lasseter is a friend of Miyazaki and since Miyazaki's masterpiece My Neighbor Totoro (1988) came out, Lasseter has been influenced by his each and every film of Miyazaki's. Ghibli is my favorite animation studio. The way they create anime is exceptionally different.



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