Written By: Katsuhiro Otomo
Akira is an animation movie created based on the manga of the same name written by Katsuhiro Otomo. I had been postponing to watch this movie for quite some time. I don’t know where I found the name, probably when I was trying to search for good animation movies to watch, I had read about it on Wikipedia. I never actually found the time or will to watch it. Then suddenly my WiFi was acting up and I couldn’t connect to the internet at unexpected times for long duration and that led me to fumble around in my laptop and see what I could watch that was already downloaded. (don’t ask me where I downloaded it from though :P)
So that’s a little backstory of how I watched Akira last night. Now to the meat of the story, how I liked it? Well, I loved it! It’s nothing like I have ever watched. It breaks the conventions and preconceptions in my mind about anime and manga in general. I did learn the basic difference between manga/anime and comics and so I knew in the back of my head that anime would be more like live actions movies, as in it will not be just for the kids. But, Akira caught me off guard! I was like, what! This is basically cartoon! Why is there so much blood, violence, and in general adult stuff going on! I loved it!
Akira is a story of Kaneda and his biker gang. You can probably learn a lot about it from Wikipedia. Read it there. I will write here what I felt when I watched it. At first, during the initial bike chase of the rival gangs, and the appearance of the espers, the special beings with extrasensory perception powers, I felt a bit confused. I didn’t know what was going on. But I did love the sound track a lot during the chase. It was unique, and I have never really heard anything like it until now. These days we have epic background music in superhero movies and action sequences, but the track that Akira uses to build tension is something else! It does build the thrill and give goosebumps but it’s also a music that is very new to the ear and so it was a pleasant surprise! Another piece of music that stuck to my mind was the one played when the crazy doctor looked at the gene sequences of Akira and Tetsuo. I looked it up and it seems the production house used traditional Indonesian gamelan, and Japanese Noh music. I wish animators today would also experiment more with music. It adds a whole new level to the experience. Or maybe they do and I just don’t know it because I’m a beginner. I will keep discovering in that case.
The quality of the animation is so good, it makes me feel like it wasn’t really made thirty years ago! Yes, it was released first in 1988, so it’s been more than 30 years, and still when you watch the movie, it keeps up with all the technological advances made in three decades and wins my heart. I was born in 1988, so Akira is even older than me, which blew my mind! The depiction of the cyber punk city Neo-Tokyo is perfect. Don’t forget to notice little details like the flickering lights of all the buildings at night in all the windows, and the trailing lights of the bike’s tail light when the guys drive off! It’s the little details that are amazing to notice. I am not sure about the translation or dubbing as I don’t speak Japanese, but I read that it was done as close to the original as possible. I watched it with subtitles because I wanted to listen to the original voices. That might have made me miss some details perhaps, I am not sure. Now that I have had the original experience, I am planning to watch it again soon with English dubbing so I can notice more visual details I might have missed in the time I was reading the subtitles.
Coming back to the blood and gore, my favourite anime up until now are Naruto and Avatar the air bender and at most, our beloved super saiyan, Goku. Even in the most intense fights in the Dragon Ball or Avatar you don’t see gore! Not in the way you see in Akira. So much so that I was a little scared when Tetsuo turned megalomaniac and started killing everyone. The first surprise was when the guy rescuing the first esper being, got showered with bullets by a group of policemen. He was already down on the ground, bleeding! They just opened fire and it was like a bloodbath, literally! And I got shocked when Tetsuo tried to escape from the confined room to search for the other three espers, he just blasted off all the guards into tiny bloody pieces which stuck to the corridor walls. His killing spree and craziness only kept increasing. Most disturbing time was when I found out that he had killed his own friend as well when things didn’t go as he had planned. Tetsuo turned from silly to pitiful to annoying to scary at the end! The end sequence when Tetsuo turns into a giant oozing mass of muscles and gobbles up everything in his sight is truly insane. He eventually ends up killing his girlfriend (crushed to death!)and almost killing his best friend Kaneda. His power gets out of his own hands, as everyone had been constantly telling him would happen eventually. He is scared and it breaks my heart when he calls out for help from his best friend Kandeda at the last desperate moments to be saved. He is saved, in a way I guess. Just not how we expect him to be saved.
Akira comes back, Tetsuo is subdued, Kaneda survives, Kei is a hopeful for another esper, and we learn the age old lesson to not fuck with the powers that we are not capable of understanding or controlling. A little bit of which Kei tries to explain to Kaneda when they were confined to the holding cell. I was impressed by the level of explanation there. It also made me think. Those thoughts are not clear enough to write about yet. All in all, I was on one hell of a roller-coaster ride. I am beginning to learn more about the depths and creativity involved in creating anime and making animated movies and it is making my love for it even stronger. The movie has piqued my interest to read the manga as well. I read that the story line differs from the manga, and so I’d like to know what happens there as well.
To those who have not watched or read it yet, I’d say don’t delay it anymore. Just go for it. Be prepared to get your mind blown by a story that inspired a generation of Sci-Fi and cyber punk animations.