Akira is often regarded as one of the most defining works in the world of anime, and it isn’t just because of it’s unprecedented attention to detail when it comes to hand-drawn animation. It is an allegorical representation of one of the most heinous atrocities in the history of mankind, and the mass hysteria and anxieties that might stem from living in a post-apocalyptic world. While I have watched Akira countless times, it’s a film that continues to enthrall me to this day.
The first moments of this animated film is a startling scene of Tokyo being completely demolished by a destructive bomb of unparalleled proportions. While the opening text credits state that this explosion signaled the start of a third World War, I think it is definitely an allusion towards the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings during the second World War. This introduction really resonated with me because even though World War II might be considered a bygone era since it happened a long time ago, it still shows that the fears of a potential nuclear fallout is still something that lingers on in the minds of many individuals today; especially in the country of Japan.
Considering that this film crams nearly 2000 pages worth of manga material into a two hour movie, I think that the way the narrative was told was well-done for the most part, even though some potentially interesting plot tangents and character development had to be either condensed or removed entirely due to time constraints. Akira explores an alternate-reality where a city that was once destroyed is now going through a period of transition and immense societal upheaval. While the megacity of Neo-Tokyo has long since recovered from the nuclear fallout and became an economic powerhouse, it has been overrun by decadence, moral decay, and political infighting where many world leaders and conglomerates are vying for control.
One aspect that really grabbed my undivided attention as a viewer when I watched Akira was it’s eclectic soundtrack, which I found to be very captivating and eerie at the same time. One notable scene in particular where the musical score shined was the motorbike chase sequence near the beginning of the movie. Usually it takes awhile for me to feel fully engaged with some films that I watch due to untimely or poorly chosen music, but the industrial and ambient soundscape of Akira had me attentively glued to the screen almost immediately.
In terms of artistic value, I think Akira was definitely ahead of it’s time, and is still absolutely spellbinding today. The color palette is very vibrant and oozes with stylistic flair that is uncommon even in anime today, the animation is exceptionally fluid and never appeared stiff or jerky, the environmental backdrops are gorgeously framed and shot, and the overall atmosphere of this film is incredibly absorbing to behold. I could go on and on when it comes to how much I adore this film on a visual standpoint; It’s truly a feast for the eyes that gets better with each viewing.
All in all, I highly recommend Akira and I consider it to be a landmark achievement in anime. In addition, it also bears a lot of social and cultural value since it brings to light the unspeakably terrible atrocities that nuclear warfare can inflict upon the world if it’s ever utilized again in the future. Even as the years go by, I believe that the influence that this film will have on future animated works will continue to live on for many more generations to come.