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Akira: Review and Discussion (1 Viewer)


Raebus Raiftel

(my first attempt at a review of any kind so feedback would be appreciated)

Akira (1989)

It always seems odd to me that Akira is now used as the lynchpin for elitists to dismiss other anime enthusiasts. It seems to me that if you say your favourite anime is Akira, Spirited Away, Monokoke, or Ghost in the Shell you will most likely get laughed at in some circles. The reason is that Akira is seen as something of a lowest common denominator, the fact it was internationally popular meaning that no ‘true’ anime fan can hold it as their favourite.

Which brings attention to myself, an anime lover for the last decade or so, a person whom I respect very much, and whom will quite proudly state that his favourite anime is Akira. Despite having seen some of the less well known anime films, the ones that ‘elitists’ gush over, such as Graveyard of the Fireflies, Millennium Actress, Love Hina, Naruto, Spiral, Geneshaft and Full Metal Alchemist, I still think that Akira is possibly one of the greatest films ever made.

Essentially Akira is an anime conversion of Katsuhiro Otomo’s Manga from the 1980s, a Manga which was as insidiously large as it was groundbreaking. The 2000 page Manga was converted into an animated feature in 1988, six years after its initial release.

Akira starts out with Tokyo devastated by a nuclear blast, an explosion of darkest black highlighted against a clinically white background. From this point onwards we are thrust into a near future world, where a sprawling new city has been built on the ashes of the old. Neo Tokyo.

I am not going to go into too much detail about the plot, it can be basically surmised as follows; bikers find out about rivals and stage attack, during the course of the attack one of the bikers is involved in an accident due to a freaky kid in the middle of the road, biker is taken to military research institute and has his latent power and desires enhanced, he breaks out and is recaptured, goes mental and kills tons of people, turns into a homogenous blob and essentially implodes.

Where Akira succeeds more than anything else is a sense of visceral energy that is generated, everything from the biker wars to Kaneda and Tetsuo’s final standoff is brutal and almost barbaric. A sense of violence pervading every scene as revolutionaries are beaten to a bloody pulp by totalitarian police, a man is gunned down in the middle of a crowded street, soldiers are ripped limb from limb by Tetsuo and his growing power, and Tetsuo’s girlfriend is raped by a rival biker gang.

Everything has a tangible desperateness to it and often displays a level of nihilism which is only comparable to Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. In the end the film can largely be seen as a parable about human failing in dire situations, Tetsuo turned into a vicious monster through his lust for power being a major example. Kaneda is another interesting character, as he is in a conventional sense the hero of the piece and yet he is motivated either by his affections for Kari or what appears to be a jealously at Tetsuo’s power. Indeed the final standoff seems to be a product of Kaneda feeling his position has been usurped rather than through any heroic principles.

What sets this apart from other films is a level of art design which is still not beaten, there are scenes in this 16 year old movie that are still as powerful as they were when the film was released. Chief in my mind is the opening biker fight (the standoff between Kaneda and the Clown Chief being a particular favourite), Tetsuo’s nightmare scene, and the military satellite blasting off Tetsuo’s arm with silent menace.

This is all aided by a simple fabulous score by Geinoh Yamashirogumi, a vocal troop which give what is essentially a cyberpunk parable a does of almost mythological grandeur through their use of chanting and traditional instruments. Particular standouts include Battle Against Clown, Shohmyoh, and Requiem.

All in all Akira is a classic movie which is possible the best anime film ever made, the only really bad points is that in condensing the Manga down they miss out on some of the more subtle plot points and some of the more interesting aspects (in the Manga for example Tetsuo becomes the leader of the Clowns, gets hooked to drugs to stop the headaches, and has a full on biker war against his old gang…)

But that doesn’t stop this from being a film of almost poetic majesty, and one that any anime fan (or movie fan for that matter) should be proud to call a favourite.


Great review. Makes me want to watch the movie agian. You took time ot speak of the moives origins as well as its major strengths, but in this regard I think you missed a bit. You should have mentioned a flaw or if there are none that you couldn't find one.
I also think the the opening although catchy (and horribly true -_-) isn't as nessasary and potent to the actual anime review. It takes away from what your actually trying to tell us about the movie. (although I think you could write a whole piece about it.)

Okay. that was very good work. can't wait to read more reviews ^_^


Senior Member
I am a fan of anime/manga, and would say that Akira was one of my favourite animes, but i feel it is in the manga of Akira that the true classic lies. if only they weren't so expensive...

Very nice essay, you put forward a well structured arguement and err, sorry, i'm not very good at reviews.

all that remains for me to do is dig out that DVD...



I dug akira.
I've seen some anime, not a ton. I've seen a lot of the 'uncool' anime's, and a couple of the lesser knowns.

I still think all you anime folks are a tad militant about who is and is not 'cool' in the anime lovers world.

Akira rocks and I don't think it would be unreasonable to say I would challenge any full blown anime geek to a fist fight over just such an injustice and win. (heheheh)



Interesting review. What are everyone's thoughts on that one interpretation of Akira as being this symbolic film, that supposedly represents the introduction of Western culture to Japan?

Personally, I don't see it. I think it lessens the emotional impact of the character development if you're thinking of everything in terms of "it's all supposed to relate to this big statement..."