Guest Author - Lesley Aeschliman
Originally released as a manga in 1982, and then as an anime film in 1988, Akira has become a landmark in anime. For its time, the animation was highly advanced; it was also one of the few productions done in Japan at that time using prescoring. Akira has also been considered a forerunner of the anime fandom that developed during the 1990s.
The story of Akira begins in 1988 in Tokyo, when a mysterious explosion destroys the city. After the explosion is blamed on a nuclear bomb, World War III begins. However, the explosion was actually caused by the powers possessed by a boy named Akira. Then, the film moves ahead in time to 2019. Neo-Tokyo has been built on an artificial island in Tokyo Bay. The city is led by a corrupt government, and a group of terrorist insurgents stage attacks in an attempt to destabilize the government. The style of the animation in the film definitely gives the viewer a sense of being in the future, and all the dark colors used throughout the film help emphasize the corruption in the city.
We meet teenage bikers Kaneda and Tetsuo, who, along with their biker gang, have a run-in with a rival bike gang called The Clowns. Tetsuo chases one of the Clowns into old Tokyo, and nearly crashes into a child with wizened features; however, before Tetsuo's bike can hit the child, the bike suddenly explodes. When the rest of Kaneda's gang arrives on the scene, they find military helicopters landing. Colonel Shikishima takes the boy (who turns out to be one of three Espers involved in the same secret project as Akira), as well as the injured Tetsuo with him, while the rest of the gang is arrested.
During questioning, it is determined that Kaneda and his gang are not involved with the terrorist insurgents and are released. Kaneda spies an attractive young woman (named Kei) that he recognizes from a mug shot he had seen, and convinces the authorities that she is part of their gang. Once they're outside, Kei ditches Kaneda. Tetsuo, meanwhile, is being observed by Doctor Onishi; the doctor notices that Tetsuo's mental frequencies are reminiscent to Akira's. The Colonel orders the doctor to kill Tetsuo if his power should grow beyond control. At this point, the viewer realizes that something is going to happen in regards to Tetsuo.
Tetsuo escapes from the hospital and finds his girlfriend, Kaori. They try to run away on Kaneda's bike, but it stalls. They are attacked by the Clowns, but Kaneda and the gang come to the rescue. Instead of being grateful, Tetsuo resents Kaneda's leadership role; this establishes that Tetsuo feels inferior to Kaneda. Tetsuo then gets a strong headache and sees a hallucination that includes seeing Akira and Neo-Tokyo's destruction. Scientists and bodyguards find Tetsuo, swoop down onto the scene, and take him away.
While hanging out that night, Kaneda and his gang end up in the middle of a terrorist attack. Kaneda sees Kei again and pursues her. By the end of the evening, Kaneda ends up becoming instrumental to the terrorist insurgents.
The storylines for Tetsuo and Kaneda converge together later in the film, and ultimately build up to the film's climax. This climax includes a confrontation filled with unexpected twists.
While watching Akira, the viewer finds themselves marveling at the quality of the animation. Itís easy to see how the style of this film's animation would later influence films such as Princess Mononoke and The Place Promised in Our Early Days. The storyline is fascinating, yet at times, it can also be a bit confusing. Probably the biggest mystery of the film is the last scene. What exactly does it mean?
Even with its somewhat confusing storyline, viewers can still understand by the end of the film why Akira is the anime classic that it has become.
In order to write this review, I checked out a copy of this DVD through the King County Library System.