I watched my first anime back in my early teens, I think I started with the bizarre and rather extreme Fist Of The North Star. Now I am no Anime aficionado, but I like to think I know great animation and story when I see it. Akira (the film) was adapted from a comic book and released in 1988 and I remember renting it from a local video store in the early 90’s and I remember distinctly being blown away by the entire film. I will say that I didn’t exactly understand the movie when I first saw it but since then I have seen it several more times and now understand the storyline and appreciate the whole movie just a lot more than I did in the first place.
Last week I went to see it again on the big screen at the Cube Cinema in Bristol. A small independent little cinema with lots of character and a few flaws. There is nothing wrong with the screen itself but the seats and legroom leaves something to be desired if you are a tall person. Tickets for the film only cost me £4 plus a £1 fee for a lifetime membership. I want to tell you more about the Cube, but I think we should do a full article on them so we shall save that for later. All I will say is keep your eyes on their film list and aim to watch something there to support this small indie cinema in the heart of Bristol! Anyway, back to the film.
Akira is the story of what happened after Tokyo was destroyed in 1988 which caused World War III. A new city was built in its place (called Neo-Tokyo) but the city is rife with anti-government terrorism and gang violence. The year the story takes place is 2019 which is a year before the XXXII Olympic Games. Again consider that this comic book was originally released back in 1982 they had no idea that the actual 2020 Olympics would be held in Tokyo. Talk about a pure Nostradamus moment. Our main protagonists are two guys who are still in school (I guess it’s college or university) named Kaneda and Tetsuo. These boys have been friends for a very long time and you can tell that immediately from the relationship they portray on screen. During a night chasing the clown gang through the streets of Neo-Tokyo Tetsuo barely misses what he believes is to be a child in the road and crashes his motorbike. The story then turns as Tetsuo is taken away by government officials and put under heavy surveillance as the encounter with the strange child has altered him.
Akira went through a bit of a re-master in 2004 for the Blu-ray release and for once (unlike Star Wars) they did not mess up the original. It was re-coloured and a few things were re—rendered to give the film an updated vibrancy. The best thing for me about Akira is the use of sound. The soundtrack itself is, in my opinion, incredible, you know when you have a soundtrack that not only compliments a film but actually enhances it, well it’s one of them. They use a lot of rhythmic devices like drums and xylophones to give Akira it’s driving feel and there are times when the film is very loud indeed, so much so when they turn all the sound off during one particular scene your brain will take a moment to adjust before it gets aurally assaulted once more.
Akira’s animation for its time was incredible. I am sure it made thousands of people wish that they had a bike like Kaneda’. In fact, somebody actually made a replica of the bike and I have to give the creator credit for accuracy on looks even if the thing does sound like your average 125cc scooter, check out this video.
If you have never seen Akira then I can really not recommend enough that you do so. You need to see it in its original Japanese form with subtitles if you can. I am slightly biased because it is by far one of my favourite Anime films ever. Pay special attention to the way the music fits the animation and the way the animators subtly use computer generated techniques to add depth and movement to the whole film. Again like most Anime, there is a love story in there too. Kaneda’s attempts to convince Kei that he is worth her time and effort are hilarious. I think that the animation is an accurate representation of the original comic book artwork so if you have read the comic book I would love to know if you agree with that. I wonder when you first saw Akira did you understand what it was all about or did you like me need to watch it a fair few times to pick up on some of the subtleties. If Akira is not your favourite then we would love to know which one is. As usual get in touch with us via the comments section, Facebook or Twitter.
Love and rockets