Film Review : Akira (1988)

IMDB Score – 8.1
Rotten Tomato Score – 87%

Directed By – Katsuhiro Ohtomo

A secret military project endangers Neo-Tokyo when it turns a biker gang member into a rampaging psionic psychopath that only two kids and a group of psionics can stop.

Up until now my experience with Japanese anime has only consisted of a few films and every Miyazaki film ever made. I’ve never really been into the fantasy element that accompanies such anime shows as “Full Metal Alchemist, “Bleach”, and “Dragon Ball Z”. I’ve read about “Akira” in articles detailing the history of sci-fi and have read on multiple accounts that it is the best anime film ever made. When I was browsing Amazon a week ago I noticed that “Akira” has recently been released on blu ray and I decided I could afford to spend a moderate amount of money on a blind buy. I’m glad I did. What I ended up witnessing is in fact the greatest anime film I have ever seen and one of the finest animated films of all time regardless of country of origin. I only thing is that I don’t really understand what the hell I just watched.

The film is set in 2019, thirty years after World War Three. Tokyo was devastated but has only recently rebuilt its city center. The setting in the city is one of light dystopian future. While there aren’t raving lunatics trolling the streets, there are street gangs and more specifically, street bike gangs. This is where were find our main characters. The gang is run by Kaneda, a member who may be in possession of the coolest bike in the city. Along with him, Tetsuo, Yamagata, and a few others attend their run down high school during the day and prowl the streets at night invading bars and looking for fights. During one of these street fights the gang runs into demonstrators fighting the government over the use of human experimentation and general imperialism. Tetsuo, trying to create an identity for himself, takes Kaneda’s bike and runs into a local gang. Tetsuo is saved by a mysterious boy who comes into contact with Tetsuo, possibly transferring over some kinetic energy to him. Tetsuo is then taken by the government after they learn he has come into contact with the boy.

Got it? It may seem complex as hell, mostly cause it is, but the overall plot of the film is laid out pretty well during the film. What follows next cannot be explained in detail because it was that fun to watch it all unravel. I can say that it was an animated experience unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The film goes down a rabbit hole into psychotic masterpiece and never looks back. The cover of the box claims that without this film there could never be a Matrix. I happen to agree. The concept of perceived reality is questioned about twenty times throughout the duration of the film but also keeps the entertainment factor high with excellent violence and breathtaking hand drawn animation. The colors, which are important considering most of the film takes place at night, are vibrant and unrelenting. It;s a gorgeous film rendered perfectly on this new blu ray disc.

If you’re a fan of anime I’m sure you’ve already seen this film but if you’re into science fiction or animated films at all I suggest giving this a watch, hell maybe two viewings would do it. It’s a fever dream of a film that I can’t begin to comprehend but will certainly try over many more viewings.

5/5



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