Monday, November 12, 2012

Akira (1988) - The Best of Japanese Animation

"Akira" (1988).
"Akira" (1988) depicts Japan in 2019, after an apocalyptic event that has left society in ruins. It is a stellar example of Japanese anime that has stood the test of time. It is hand-drawn, unlike, say, "Toy Story" and "Shrek," so it has a unique look and feel. gang sitting

"Akira" is about a Japanese biker gang in a dystopian setting. That is a popular topic in Japanese anime, starting with 1980's "Crazy Thunder Road." It may have something to do with Mel Gibson's "Mad Max" series that began around that time. Directed by Katsuhiro Ôtomo, along with screenwriting help from Izo Hashimoto, it tells the tale of the "Capsules," a biker gang led by Shotaro Kaneda. The gang battles a rival gang, "The Clowns.' The Capsules encounter a child with special powers who has run away from a top-secret military installation. The remainder of the film follows the gang's adventures in fighting the government operation and freeing dissidents. motorcycle in garage

It turns out that several people develop psychic abilities during the course of "Akira," and that leads to all sorts of complications. There are mystical and supernatural effects of all this, altering human destiny and the fate of the universe. post-apocalyptic landscape

Akira himself is a small boy who developed god-like psychic powers as a result of government experiments. Problems with controlling that power is what led to the destruction of Tokyo. Ultimately, he was dissected and placed in a cryonic chamber for later investigation. Kaneda angry face

Tetsuo is Kaneda's best friend. However, he deeply resents Kaneda. Eventually, he develops his own psychic powers and battles Kaneda for control of the gang. He has trouble controlling his power (as Akira before him did) and this eventually leads him on his own bizarre adventure. Kaneda driving motorcycle

This is a quality hand-drawn animation. In Japan, it has a reputation similar to Disney's classic "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," though it is relatively unknown in the United States except among Asians and aficionados. People "in the know" speak of "Akira" with reverence. photo of actual replica of animated film motorcycle
The "Akira" live-action movie motorcycle.
Plans to make and release a live-action version come and go. As of this writing, they appear to be dead, but by the time you read this, who knows. Casting is very political because many expect only Asian voice actors to be used in such a respected tale, but that generally isn't the way that Hollywood operates. This insistence by some may be what keeps the live-action version from appearing, though other factors undoubtedly are involved as well. The recent controversy over Scarlett Johansson starring in a live-action version an anime classic engendered a lot of criticism. So, it may be some time before we get a live version of "Akira." bloody face in front of Japanese flag

"Akira" is highly recommended for those who like anime and want to learn more about truly great animation in general.

James Bjorkman

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