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Kaneda is a bike gang leader whose close friend Tetsuo gets involved in a government secret project known as Akira. On his way to save Tetsuo, Kaneda runs into a group of anti-government activists, greedy politicians, irresponsible scientists and a powerful military leader. The confrontation sparks off Tetsuo's supernatural power leading to bloody death, a coup attempt and the final battle in Tokyo Olympiad where Akira's secrets were buried 30 years ago. Written by
Tzung-I Lin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
When I first grabbed the cover box for AKIRA off the shelves of my local video store, I had never heard the word "manga," (Japanese comic book) nor "anime" (Japanimation) for that matter. Back then I would have given that movie a 9 (excellent), since it was like nothing I had ever seen before, was true graphic violence, but was still a bit too long and too hard to understand. Ten years later, having watched a slew of other anime productions, I would have given this movie an 8 (very good) from memory had I not seen it again yesterday. After seeing AKIRA for the first time in the original Japanese language, I have come to fully appreciate its cultural and artistic merit.
Ten years ago, I watched the English dubbed AKIRA and understood absolutely no Japanese. Ignorance of the language made for funny jokes with my brother ("Just as my bullet was reaching the red line! You think you're so tough") but added nothing to the movie. Ten years later I understand both the language and the country, thanks in part to AKIRA, and I have finally realized that Katsuhiro Otomo had created a classic. While critics may know the director Kurosawa, it may take another 10 years for the name Otomo to make its way to the forefront of American cinematic consciousness.
From here on out, I have nothing but praise for this historical milestone. No other hand-drawn movie I have ever seen is done as meticulously. The pillar lined coliseum comes to mind. It's apparent on first viewing that an immense amount of effort was put into the hand-drawn animation. It seems as if every detail within the frame is in motion. This stands out in the ANIME industry, where so many directors don't bother with effort and instead choose to have a still frame frozen over five seconds. In my mind AKIRA's animation is peerless on an international scale.
Second, the Neo Tokyo depicted in AKIRA is definitely the one that should exist today. Nightlife is dark and violent. Fundamentalist Buddhist sects roam the streets chanting dogma and searching for answers. And most importantly, the medicated punk teenagers speak a crooked, thuggish Japanese slang that I haven't heard in any movie of recent memory. 1988 was Japan's heyday, what with the bubble economy and all, but since then the artistic vision of Otomo's AKIRA seems to have gotten stuck in an economic recession. I feel as if modern Tokyo and its Anime has diverged quite a bit from the Neo-Tokyo depicted in AKIRA.
My final comment is DO NOT rent the English dubbed version, as I did long ago. If by chance you've developed a familiarity with Japan's language and culture, AKIRA makes so much more sense, as it was animated for the Japanese language. The poor English dub job does nothing but distract BIG TIME. As Japan's economically exuberant and excessive 80's heyday fades further into the past, AKIRA will prove to be a relic of a cult imagination that may be fading as well. To watch it in English would be sacrilegious.
In homage to this classic, I've titled my homepage AKIRA-TETSUO, which is named after that demonic anger and guilt you feel when you fail -- the emotion that you can harness to wreak atomic havoc upon this green planet earth. No happy ending with this cataclysmic movie.
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