Japanese animator Makiko Futaki of animating powerhouse Studio Ghibli passed away this month at age 57.
You may not recognise her name but you may recognise some of the films she worked on – My Neighbour Totoro (1988), Akira (1988), Princess Mononoke (1997), Spirited Away (2001) and Howl’s Moving Castle (2004).
In honour of Futaki redmangoreviews will be reviewing five of her films over the next five days in chronological order. Yesterday I did the fantastical My Neighbour Totoro and today we delve into the sci-fi world of Akira.
I remember watching this film on the Sci Fi Channel (currently Syfy Channel) and my young mind was like “what is this?!” It was so violent and bloody and explosive and…pretty cool. When it came out it changed the way anime would be viewed forever.
So I rewatched it for the purpose of this review and I had to repeatedly remind myself that this was made in 1988. This movie looks like it was made THIS year. The animation of dystopian Neo Tokyo is gorgeous and the ridiculously detailed art work really brings the seedy and garish city to life.
We first meet the two main characters, delinquents Kaneda and Tetsuo, as their biker gang clashes with the brutal “Clowns”. It is an action packed introduction that is thrilling and hints at what is to come later. We hear a labored breathing sound effect which is weird but hypes up the intensity.
We also meet the creepy man/child espers, see the first displays of psychic power and the oppression by the police and military. To stick a pin here, Akira is a very violent film and there is also some brief nudity. So for the kids, Finding Nemo would be a better pick. Moving along now.
After the bike battle a wounded Tetsuo is captured by the military and they begin experimenting on him. And that’s when the fun begins.
The story splits off into Tetsuo’s gaining of psychic powers and descent into madness, and Kaneda getting involved with resistance terrorist Kei and her group. We see Tetsuo exploding people like balloons – imagine the Scanners head exploding scene but whole body – and in sweet psychic battles against the espers. The imagery is disturbing but beautiful, aided by a dramatic chanting that becomes his theme.
Tetsuo seeks out the titular “Akira”, an imprisoned psychic with even greater power than him. The best part of the film is Tetsuo’s psychic rampage in the city. IT IS EPIC. If it seems familiar it may be because Akira either inspired these scenes in other movies or they were straight up ripped off from it.
The confrontation between Tetsuo and a laser blasting, motorcycle riding Kaneda – the time old friends turned enemies – is an epic climax. And Tetsuo’s final transformation is some body horror that would make David Cronenberg drool. The ending also gave me a 2001: A Space Odyssey vibe.
It may have come out 28 years ago but Akira still holds up very well and remains one of the best sci fi animated films. I enjoyed it more when I was younger and did not feel much attachment to the characters but as a piece of anime art it is splendid.
Rating: Akira gets 3/4 psychic city demolishing screams.
So have you seen Akira? What do you think of it? Feel free to comment below.
For pt 1 of 5 from Futaki where we reviewed the magical My Neighbour Totoro you can click here and for part 3 where we reviewed fantasy adventure Princess Mononoke you can click here. And for more epic movie reviews you can follow me on Twitter @suprememango012 for updates.
I’m outie like a navel. l8rs