Thursday, September 10, 2009

Akira (1988)


In 1988 a huge explosion engulfs all of Tokyo, destroying it amidst World War III. 30 years later the life of street thug teenager, Kaneda (Mitsuo Iwata) is drastically changed when his childhood friend Tetsuo (Nozomu Sasaki) is involved in a bike accident, nearly running over a child with psychic powers. Quickly thrust into the world of revolutionaries, and deep government secrets, Kaneda must face fearce challenges as he tries to save his friend.

Like so many films I watch these days Akira's been one of those movies that I've had on my "oh I need to watch that" list forever. Revolutionary in style, depth, and adaptation, Akira is a power house anime classic, that sinks its teeth into you and never lets go. Utilizing the best aspects of anime, and the darkest aspects of humanity, Katsuhiro Otomo manages to craft a hard to swallow film, with lots of moral ambiguity, judgementalism, and harsh looks as societal struggles.

Bringing to life these wonderful characters, from the page of his graphic novel, Otomo takes on the very difficulty task of condensing his saga into film form. He does this quite wonderfully, maintaining the dark tone, and at the same time the questionable nature of the film. Perhaps most surprisingly is Otomo's willingness to not explain everything, to leave some things up to audience interpretation, but of course leaving a few hints (as long as you can read) as to what is really happening.

The only downside to the use of anime in this film is that at times it feels as if the mood is a bit off. Certain scenes feel a bit to light-hearted in the middle of such tragedies, but these moments are sparse, and hardly worth throwing a fuss over. At the same time, it did take me a while to get into the musical score for the film, which felt a bit weird at first, but as the film evolved, the music grew on me.

Make no mistake about it, Akira is character driven, dark, and will grab at your moral center without apology. It's a reminder of how impactful, and wide ranging, anime films can be done when in the hands of those who know what they are doing. I look forward to seeing more of Katsuhiro's work, as I continue my dwelving into the world of anime films (mostly since I've seen all of Miyazaki's work).

Though of course watching this now comes with the dark reminder in the back of my head that's it going to get a live action remake, something of which I believe will be a massive failure (see Speed Racer). In the end we can only hope for the best.

Dark, gritty, and impactful, Akira is by many accounts one of the forefathers of modern anime, well worth the view.

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