Akira translates as Bright, Intelligent and Clear...and that perfectly describes this Japanese masterpiece..
I remember being in my early teens and my brother brought home a video tape from Japan. We watched it to this day I am still blown away by its beauty, brutality and brilliance.
Firstly, some context. Akira was originally a comic book that was adapted to the big screen in 1988. Japan has an intimate understanding of the damage and the dangers of nuclear attack. Having been victim to two atomic bomb attacks in 1945 it is something will never ever be forgotten.
If you also bear in mind that in the 80’s the threat of nuclear war was very real - with both America and The Soviet Union coming very close to initiating mass destruction.
So like most great dystopian art it is often a reflection on the current state of life, and Akira is no exception.
Akira is the brain child of Katsuhiro Otomo who created the original comic book and also the film adaptation. You may of heard of Steamboy which also came from the brilliant mind of Otomo
Set in a post apocalyptic Tokyo (now called Neo Tokyo) in 2019 the rebuilding of the city is rife with injustice, corruption and government prescribed force.
Akira kicks off in dramatic fashion. A motorcycle gang led by Shōtarō Kaneda are involved in dust up with their arch enemies the clowns.
During this exhilarating encounter Kaneda’s oldest friend and fellow gang member Tetsuo Shima, crashes in to a frail blue child. But this is no ordinary child, this kid is part of government program that is harnessing and encouraging the powers of ESP or Extra Sensory Perception.
This incident awakens incredible psychic powers in Tetsuo and the viewer is shown how great power can corrupt.
There is a ubiquitous theme of nuclear damage throughout the film. Damage to society, to the governing power, and an everlasting damage to youth.
The bomb dropped on Hiroshima was nicknames little boy, which is precisely what Akira himself was a little boy, a little boy responsible for the destruction of Neo Tokyo.
There are theories that Akira is in fact a representation of the Atom, with the character of Kei stating "Like atoms – Akira is present in all things”
Mutation is everywhere in the film with Tetsuo spilling grotesque innards and appearing to have an incurable fever and sickness...
The Espies are pale, frail and haggard. Aged beyond there years - weathered malnourished children are gingerly animated and they could easily be mistaken as cancer patients.
Akira is beyond rich, the movie consists of 2,212 shots and 160,000 single pictures, 2-3 times more than usual animation of the time. It also utilises 327 different colours, 50 of which were exclusively created for the film.
The sound effects are jarring and uncomfortable. They keep you on the edge of your seat...And the score...well the score is simply beautiful.
Akira is a challenge to watch, its gory, violent and pushes your boundaries, but…you leave ultimately challenged.