Monday, April 12, 2010


Director: Katsuhiro Otomo
Year 1988

Akira is an artistically graphic and dark Anime that weaves a story full of Sci-Fi elements and horrifying visions that delivers an epic masterpiece on a grand scale. The story exists in an alternative universe where an atomic bomb has been dropped on Tokyo on the date of July 16th 1988. We then skip ahead to the year 2019 in Neo-Tokyo, 31 years after World War 3, where we get our first glimpse of what the city has become since the dropping of that atomic bomb all those years ago. The designs and look of the city are amazing and it's a great locale for this fantastically twisted film.

The beautiful lights of Neo-Tokyo.

We are then introduced to our main character Kaneda as he gets involved in a gang bike race across the city. This is where we get our first glimpse of how violent the society of this film is. The blood flies and bodies are tossed from their bikes as they scatter across the pavement in a blood trail, like a paintbrush across a canvas. This is definitely an adult Anime and one that proves that point, over and over again as the film progresses. This is what first caught my eye when viewing this film years ago and its brutal effects have never diminished since that first viewing. There's also a sleek style that is presented throughout the design of the film. The animation moves in a dynamic style giving many sequences of frenetic action that really set the pulse of the film rushing with adrenaline.

Kaneda showing us some cool tricks on his futuristic bike.

The story is actually intriguing and quite original with its strange complexities. The story is centered around a small group of strange children that look like shrunken and wrinkly senior citizens. These odd kids have immensely powerful abilities and are being studied by the government in able to find a way to harness their power. In the beginning of the story, one of these kids have escaped by the help of an underground resistance, and Kaneda and his gang end up colliding with this faction in a very chaotic way. One of Kaneda's friends, Tetsuo, ends up running straight into the escaping kid at full force on his bike. The impact sends an explosion sky high on the freeway, but amazingly enough the child is not hurt and stands there untouched. Tetsuo on the other hand is mangled by the wreckage, but surprisingly enough he is still alive. In a freak accident, the strange child's powers are transfered over to Tetsuo and that is when things start to get a little crazy.

Kaneda and friends are stupefied at what they are seeing.

After the accident, the government sweeps in and scoops up the child and Tetsuo and then they quickly disappear in their helicopters, leaving Kaneda and his gang to wonder what happened to their friend. Determined to find out the truth, Kaneda searches for answers and ends up joining with the underground resistance to find his friend and get to the bottom of things.

There are some very entertaining action sequences throughout this film and each one progresses the story to its ultimate finale that really blows anything you've seen out of the water. The scale of this film is big and it shows in the closing segments of this off the wall piece.

Kaneda the bad-ass.

The gore is also present in this adult tale of a government controlled city where people can disappear in a drop of a hat. There are limbs ripped, faces disfigured, bones broken, people exploding, and even people imploding. It really runs the gamut in showing new ways of how this society really is out of control and heading for a breaking point. The tone of the film really sets it apart from its more relaxed brethren and I believe it started a new trend in the Anime world, bringing more adult content to the forefront and introducing new people to this animation style. I for one started my dive into Anime with this film and I've had a hard time finding a film that topped the quality in this one. It really is in a world of its own.

There goes your face dude.

There is also some trippy sequences that occur when we are officially treated to the group of powerful children that are now under the governments watchful eye. They have an ability to get inside your head whether it's through dreams or just presenting something to you in the waking world. The visions that they bestow on to their intended targets are quite visceral and nightmarish in their content, that many of these sequences will leave you squirming in your seat on how unsettling they are. It's definitely nothing that you've ever seen before, when a giant teddy bear is attempting to crush your skull in while your drowning in what appears an ocean of milk. Weird stuff and something that catches you off guard when it finally comes crashing onto the screen.

Another hellish moment is when Tetsuo imagines that his body is disintegrating before his eyes, like he is being ripped apart by an atomic blast. This scene is downright creepy and the scream he utters is chilling. It's all very serious stuff and it's treated with a serious respect to the material making it that much more thrilling to see played out.

These hands used to be such strong hands.

Another one of the impressive action sequences that this film throws at you is when Kaneda and the resistance are trying to infiltrate the government's headquarters to save Tetsuo and they are in a kind of sewer system that spans for miles under the facility. They are ambushed by a security force that flies around on a kind of speeder, like from Star Wars. These hovering bikes are fast and deadly, as we are shown when a resistance fighter is splattered with gun fire and is left bleeding in the sludge filled waters. The movement of the frame and applied angles from the director are very impressive and give chase to a slew of great sequences that make the mind race. The film brings some highly memorable and kinetic moments that really make an impression.

Everyone hold on to your butts!

Visually this film is stunning and the things they are able to accomplish with their animation is quite impressive. The display of Tetsuo as his powers grow, really bring an impact to the audience. The force that he wields always seems lethal and on the brink of taking him over. The scenes of him as he attempts to escape the government facility is both brutal and astonishing as he rips apart hallways and spontaneously explodes a group of soldiers, showering their innards from the ceiling. Crazy stuff and all really impactful on the overall viewing of the film.

When Tetsuo has a tantrum you better watch out. The big baby.

There's also a fare amount of emotion that the characters display, giving the piece some dramatic flare to stand on. The scenes are highly entertaining as they struggle to come to terms with all the supernatural occurrences that keep happening to them. There's a main story arc that threads itself throughout the film that deals with Kaneda and Tetsuo's brotherly relationship. Tetsuo has been jealous of Kaneda's abilities and skills his whole life and after obtaining these super powers he then proceeds to abuse them, trying to show Kaneda that he is much more powerful then him now. It's a childish perceptive that is taken into gargantuan proportions, but it is reasonable that Tetsuo would choose this path after being the little guy for all of those years and living in the shadow of Kaneda. This little added touch with their relationship really helps to flesh out their connection with each other and gives us more information about them to help bring us deeper into their world.

The remaining gang tries to wrap their head
around Tetsuo's newfound power and attitude.

These powers that rage inside Tetsuo start manifesting themselves within his mind as he believes he is a god, unbeatable and uncontrollable. As the film progresses we can see the toll that these powers take on him. His persona grows more bold and demented as he takes on the government in a balls to the walls fashion, yet you can still feel this inner struggle that battles for the old Tetsuo to come to his senses and stop the rampant destruction that he has been unleashing within the city. 

We don't need no water let the
Tetsuo burn. Burn mother Tetsuo, Burn.

All of this devastation and destruction comes to a head as the final confrontation between Tetsuo and Kaneda commences upon the tattered landscape of Tetsuo's unchecked power. The film has been building up to this point like how professional boxing matches are promoted to the brink of insanity, piling on the anticipation for the inevitable bout. Well, unlike boxing, this match does not disappoint and it morphs from one round to the next as the stakes keep getting raised with each new confrontation.

In this corner, wearing a red cape and spiked hair,
is powerful demigod Tetsuo. In the other corner is
laser rifle wielding Kaneda in his red jump suit.
Let's get it on!

The battle is paced at a break neck tempo as the earth is cut apart from the devastating blows that are delivered upon it. The war rages up into the stratosphere as the government's satellite laser joins the carnage, raining beams of death from high above onto the battlefield. It's fun to see Kaneda, a normal guy, dealing with these two other superpowers as they display their muscle with earth shattering force.

Kaneda, wondering what the hell he's gotten himself into.

There's no shortage of limbs lost in this battle and each exertion of Tetsuo's power seems to increase his descent into madness all the more. At this point he has totally lost the person that he was and is now exuding his full strength in all its glorious and reckless abandon. The impact of this fight is on a global scale as the city of Neo-Tokyo is literally torn apart. The interesting part about this stupendous finale is that just when you think it can't get be any more of a spectacle, something happens that dwarfs the previous encounter and leaves it looking like an ant from a human-being's perspective. In other words, this shit is starting to get nuts.

Someone give this guy a hand. Oh and an arm while you're at it.

As the battle reaches it's climax, Tetsuo's powers become so uncontrollable that they begin to consume him and all the surrounding landscape, as it begins taking on the image of a giant blob. This grotesque and obtuse mass is quite disgusting with veins throbbing and pink fleshy chunks overlapping its bulbous form. If there was anything to make you throw up, this would be it, but that in fact would just be adding to its mass, because it looks like a giant ball of barf. This nightmarish creature threatens to consume all life around it, that is unless Kaneda can save the day and possibly his friend's life, which lies somewhere in the fatty bowels of this puke come to life.

Holy shit is that gross.

Of course I won't give the ending away to this over the top battle, but it's safe to say that you won't be disappointed with this film. It does everything right in making a stupendous vision and an impactful film, full of so many original ideas that it's literally busting from the schemes by the end of the movie. After viewing this film, you'll never believe that a cartoon is just for kids, or that an animated movie can't bring you such visceral images of a nightmarish world, where horrors of unimaginable scale dwell. This Sci-Fi blend is so satisfactory that I highly recommend it to anyone that wants to view something that they've never seen before and will likely never experience ever again. This movie is a must and it truly is an animation masterpiece that has set the bar too high to be topped.

5 out of 5 stars    A Classic Anime That Is A True Masterpiece!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Classic anime, yes. 5 out 5 stars, check. This movie is so cool but perhaps not appropriate for young children. Yet when I was a kid I was watching the most gruesome stuff. It's part of the reason why I have such an affinity for the horror genre.

  3. Classic is right and yeah it's definitely an adult focused story. I'm with you on watching some gruesome stuff at a young age and I wouldn't have it any other way because I grew to love the genre of horror and its demented ways.