Creator/Studio: Katsuhiro Otomo/Tokyo Movie Shinsha
Running Time: 2 hours, 1 minute
Suggested Age: 17+
My Rating: 4/10
Summary: This movie is set 31 years after World War III in Neo-Tokyo. Its main characters are Tetsuo and Kaneda, members of a street gang called the Capsules. One night, Tetsuo is kidnapped for an experiment that gives him psycho-kinetic powers and causes him to form a psychic bond with three children who also have his abilities. Tetsuo becomes a danger to everyone in Neo-Tokyo, as his new-found powers become more uncontrollable.
Review: Before I go into my review, I must set the stage. Before this anime was released to America, animation was largely considered something only meant for children to enjoy. Sure, Fritz the Cat (released in 1972) was the first X-rated cartoon and Heavy Metal (released in 1981) was also an R-rated title, but neither of these had as big a following as Akira has generated to this day. Before Akira, anime was edited for television in order to make it more kid-friendly. Akira was the starting point that showed everyone that animation is a medium for any age. Today, anime is still edited on television, but not nearly as much as it used to be, and the home video and internet markets are its strongest presence. Akira was the biggest step in that process.
The art style is very good. I really like the cityscapes and gritty depictions. This is not some cheerful kids story like you’d see from Disney. And that is the main reason it made such an impact. There were two lessons learned from Akira. The important one was that adult-oriented anime can make a profit. The bad one was that people like gory stories.
But here’s my biggest problem: I can’t say I like this story. Akira is a BIG story. It has SIX volumes, totaling at over 2,000 pages. On top of that, the manga wasn’t even finished at the time the anime was made. A two-hour movie isn’t long enough to cover that much story (and Akira is actually 1 minute over the 2-hour mark) I haven’t read any of the manga, but I still feel like I missed something. That is not the mark of a good adaptation. A good adaptation stands alone and does not need its source material to tell the rest of the story.
However, I do appreciate Akira‘s legacy. Both Japanese and American animation has been influenced by this movie, for better or worse. I would actually still recommend Akira, solely because it is an important part of the history of anime. It’s just not a part I like.
Sub/Dub: There have actually been two dubs of Akira, both by companies that no longer exist. The original dub by Streamline Pictures (owned by Carl Macek) is no longer available, which is good because it was legendarily awful. The second dub was made by Pioneer (which later became Geneon), and has since been picked up by FUNimation. FUNimation has even released a Blu-Ray version!
Music/Score: This was a gritty score that fits the story well, even with the out-of-place choir that shows up midway through.
Violence: 10/10 This is not a pleasant story. Graphic violence is prevalent and SPOILER! Tetsuo’s body mutates into a goopy mess. Armis are no match for his power.
Nudity/Sexuality: 5/10 There’s a near rape onscreen.
Religion: 1/10 SPOILER! A religious zealot leads followers to their deaths.
Related Media: As I stated, this is based on Katsuhiro Otomo’s manga, which is currently published by Dark Horse. There has been talk of a live-action movie, but that has been in development hell for quite a long time and may not even come to fruition.