Akira (1988) Poster


User Reviews

Review this title
454 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Landmark Japanese animation that opens boundaries and minds.
jpt2729 March 2005
'Akira' is an astonishingly influential film, easily as much so as cinema's touchstones Citizen Kane and Pulp Fiction. Its impact is made more difficult to judge, though, given that it was made more than sixteen years ago, and didn't make an initial impact outside of Japan. Oddly, this made its influence even more profound, benefiting from 'word of mouth' and the influx of cheap VHS at the end of the Eighties. It's also gained enough of a following to warrant being digitally remastered, at a cost of over US$1 million, as a 'Special Edition,' which I am basing these comments on.

Rather than suffering the humiliation of being advertised, Akira filtered, like a software virus, into the bedrooms of what would become Generation X. Hollywood began to sit up and pay attention after teens began abandoning the pap of the day like Last Action Hero, and started seeking out something different, dissident, and Akira finally had its audience. Japanese animation now has a firm presence in our media, and so many paths lead back to the cultural genesis of Akira. Finally, its role in the history of film was cemented with the release of last year's mega-hit, the Wachowski brothers' The Matrix. Without Akira, there is no Matrix, and with no Matrix, you have to wonder how very different Western cinema would be today.

So what is Akira? It's a Japanese animated film, an adaptation of 2,000 pages worth of graphic novel by Katsuhiro Otomo and set in the futuristic world of Neo-Tokyo. Rebuilt from the ashes of World War 3, it's a technological dream of neon, computers and soaring science, mated to the social nightmare of corrupt politicians, a rampant military and an oppressed working class. Add to this the rise of a powerful breed of psychics (or 'psionics') capable of various degrees of telepathy and telekinesis, and somehow linked to a top secret military project known as Akira, and Neo-Tokyo seems ready to explode. You can almost feel the heat, the sweat, and the grime, courtesy of the borderline-masochistic attention to detail in every frame of every scene of animation.

Akira is all about hyper-reality, which later became known as bullet time. Animation, and more importantly imagination, allows impossibly kinetic and 'free' camera movement. The style rams home every car crash, explosion and death defying stunt. It's not the easiest film to watch in one sitting, nor indeed, at all, but you'll come away knowing where the inspiration behind so many late Nineties blockbusters came from. More importantly, you'll appreciate how mediums come to influence other mediums, and barriers such as language and culture can be hurdled with ease.

It's not just an action-fest either. The main arc of the story is that of Tetsuo, who begins developing psychic powers but doesn't understand what is happening to him or the responsibilities that come with such godlike power. This opens the door to some genuinely moving scenes of film-making endeavour and artistic triumph, as Tetsuo wonders if he is losing his mind and eventually lashes out against anyone and everyone. The standout scene in the whole film, for me, should be mentioned about here. Whilst under observation in a hospital bed, Tetsuo hallucinates being attacked by childhood toys. Dreams and reality are folded into each other and so it remains for much of the rest of the film. Horizons peel away and reality itself seems to disintegrate, fragment after animated fragment, as Tetsuo battles his way to downtown Neo-Tokyo and prepares to face Akira, whatever that may mean.

The only other character developed to this level is his best friend Kaneda, who in a number of small, well-judged scenes, comes across as bright, breezy, confident and heroic, and on hand to reason with Tetsuo. No matter what point Tetsuo's powers escalate to, and no matter how much he is wanted by the police and the military, Kaneda just wants his old friend back, and it is this hope of redemption which gives the film its emotional backbone.

Other strengths include the intelligent use of sound. A minimum of scoring is used: mostly Japanese drums and percussion, and some voices during dramatic parts. More interesting is the use of silence, absolute flat silence, during key moments. It fits in very well with the themes of psychic/telepathic powers, and in a more general way, the vivid hyper-reality of the film's delivery. Put it this way - when you dream, you dream in a silence of implied words, and Akira knows this too.

I thought the dialogue was excellent too. The street kids have catchy and sardonic street lingo ("Tetsuo's our friend! If anyone's going to kill him, it should be us!") The military are represented by a titanic general whose lines have gained a certain amount of hilarity during translation ("You hedonistic fools! Can't you see it is utterly pointless to fight each other!") I found myself eagerly awaiting the next punchy exchange between players, which is something that Hollywood has been missing recently. In seven out of ten films I see, the dialogue is truly awful. How difficult can it be to get two people to talk naturally?

'Akira' is not for everyone. In the first twenty minutes we have strong language, an attempted rape and the kinetic carnage of a fight between rival biker gangs. Some will simply not tolerate this in an animated movie which is, despite all efforts, going to be viewed by younger children. Even if you can stomach the unsavoury content, you might be beaten by the sheer oddness of Japanese culture. (They certainly have an unhealthy obsession with seeing Tokyo laid to waste.) But if you can skip over these points and see the overall genius of Akira, you may just appreciate Akira's place on the pantheon of modern culture.
305 out of 341 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Trademark Manga for the Western culture
toji23 October 2001
Without a doubt the necessary injection of Manga culture Western audiences needed. Personal objections (or should I say appraisals) aside, Akira deconstructs the form of narrative and character development that we had all become accustomed to through Hollywood and produces a reasonably honest translation of Katsuhiro Otomo's Manga epic, with mass deletions of unnecessary characters and plot avenues. The story is complex enough to keep western audiences attention, yet simple enough to digest whilst taking in the wonderfull animation and excellent soundtrack (a collection of traditional Japanese instruments and modern day synthesised electronica that allow for elements of cinema to establish themselves for the audience) The conflict between the two main characters, Tetsuo and Kaneda is ultimately superceded by the films namesake, the mystery of the boy Akira, and as with very few films Hollywood produces it leaves it's more labour intensive thinking until the end. A delight to follow, with periods of intense action and thought provoking predictions of a neo society, one would like to think of the film as the pipe dream of one who predicted such tragic events as of September 11. Akira, whilst violent for the medium, is a lush metropolis of gang warfare, a psuedo examination into the possible, and a fantasy tale of elements long lost in modern cinema. A cool, entertaining piece littered with cult visions and awesome bikes.
112 out of 142 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A Masterpiece of Epic Proportion.
neoxman11 September 2002
Visually Astonishing, Dark and Original is what best describes Katshuiro Otomo's Masterpiece `AKIRA'. Now here is an animated film that is way ahead of his time, the film was released in 1988 even before Disney created computer FX's in their animated features. AKIRA is one of my favorite movies of all time it has beautiful visuals, great animation, an extraordinary story and a wicked soundtrack. I have read the entire AKIRA manga comics and yes it makes the movie that much easier to understand but with the new DVD edition which contains the correct dubbed version that allows the viewer to understand the film a little easier. I first saw AKIRA back in 1994 when I was 14 years old and ever since then I have collected great anime, at first I was confused but yet intrigued and consumed by the plot, I wanted to know what the story was about. Finally after 4 times viewing the film I understood the plot and the message Otomo wanted to deliver in this feature. The story is fascinating it takes place in the future in the city of NEO-TOKYO were citizens live in a constant chaos of an urban revolution, while the youth lives reckless on the dark streets gathering in bike gangs the government proceeds with the so called `akira project'; a mayor step in scientific discovery based on human energy.

AKIRA is a movie about betrayal, love, loyalty, anger, and fiction. For those who do not understand it is a movie about the universe and how us humans connect with it, we use about 11% of our brains but what if we were able to use 40% or even 100% of it, what then? And what if some of that percentage was damaged by hate, depression, or anger, this is the case of TETSUO who is the center character of this film. The possibilities are far from anything we can imagine, `AKIRA' provides a fictional possibility that self energy exists within all of us and that is just as delicate as it is powerful.

This is an epic proportion animated feature, the action sequences are creatively amazing, the plot is very intriguing, dark and character driven like no other film. It is one of a kind and even after 14 years we have yet to see anything like it whether is an animated or a feature film.
175 out of 229 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Be careful with this film.
Ryuji-216 January 1999
*Stereotype: Akira is a gratuitous bloodbath.

Maybe, but it's also a hard-nosed societal critique. Gore fans get what they want, but they have some morality shoved down their throats, as well. Most people who hate this movie watch it with a predetermined mindset. . . It takes thought and patience to piece together its sophisticated story.

*Stereotype: Akira rocks!!

The animation equals or exceeds Disney's best, the music is awesome, and the characters are complex, but "Akira" has its flaws. Chunked together from a long pre-existing storyline and filled with gritty violence, "Akira" draws fanatics too bloodthirsty to appreciate its message, and scares away critics intelligent enough to understand it. It takes a very open mind to enjoy this movie.

All in all, be careful with this movie; it's not for everyone. Just ignore the hype on BOTH sides and judge for yourself. I recommend the subtitled version; the dub's voice actors suck and anyone who'll understand this movie is obviously smart enough to read.
248 out of 350 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Great Animation Film
prod7422 September 2004
I only recently watched Akira (though I have heard a lot about it) and I must say I am impressed (so much that I bought the DVD). This is, beyond any doubt, one of the best animated films in existence. Visually impressive, solid direction, with a compelling story (if a little complicated), just the right amount of character development, good and very appropriate soundtrack and an extensively detailed New Tokyo, Akira manages to be as groundbreaking as it was when it was first released.

It's only drawback is that most people (including me) will probably have to watch it again (and again maybe) to completely understand the full story. Highly recommended (especially to anime fans). I give it 8 out of 10.
45 out of 60 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The One and only Anime classic -- 10 (classic)
jimboduck22 March 2005
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.


93 out of 132 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An anime that never ages
da-most-wanted15 November 2006
I remember the first time i watched this when i was 14, back then it didn't mean much to me i just watched it because of the violence. Growing up i cant count the number of times i have watched it but it seems as though every time i watched it i uncovered something new in the plot. On to the review then; There are two different dubs for this film in English, the initial one i watched on VHS is much better then the one on DVD. The voices match the characters and bring across emotions very well in the VHS dub. In the DVD dub the voices seem alien to the characters personalities, this may be due to the fact that I'm used to seeing the film with the old dub.

The animation is very fluid, definitely a revolution in animation. The vast range of colours used really bring the metropolis alive. The start of the film where Kaneda and the crew are riding through the city you get to witness all sorts of sub-environments of the city, from tight alley ways where you can almost sense the deprivation to the bustling streets bright from the flashing neon lights.

The characters grow on you the further in to the film you get, at the beginning you can sense friction between Kaneda and Tetsuo, however as the film progresses you understand the past between these two characters and come to terms with their feelings. The colonel is also a very interesting character who seems to represent a beacon of hope constantly attempting to avoid the inevitable catastrophe headed for neo-tokyo.

The storyline revolves around two central characters, Tetsuo and Akira. It is heavily emphasised towards revealing what the next evolution of man is and whether or not the evolution would be in the best interest of man.

Closing comments, Akira is a must watch for any anime fan who appreciates a thought provoking storyline and dense characters.

Also watch; Ghost in the Shell, Ghost in the Shell:Innocence and Perfect Blue
41 out of 55 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Ultraviolent fantasy or eloquent Humanistic statement? Probably both
desh795 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
To many, this is the movie that started it all. But what's interesting about Akira is that, while it is largely credited with introducing anime to the West, it barely raised an eyelid on its initial release. Most Japanese critics' lists from 1988 barely gave Akira a mention, instead deciding to concentrate on films like Grave Of The Fireflies or My Neighbour Totoro, at least as far as animes were concerned. But while these are perhaps (and in my opinion definitely) superior in quality, their success in western countries was more slow-moving and therefore not as much of a shock to the system as Akira was.

When Akira was first screened in Europe and North America in the early 90s, most people had simply never seen anything like it. Distributors, unaware of the tradition of adult-orientated animation in Japan, didn't have a clue how to promote this feature (some billing it as a kids' movie), and equally audiences suffered from the same confusion (in some cases parents taking their children to a film which features scenes such as a person exploding before mutating into a garish cyberpunk mess of flesh and cables). This confusion resulted in Akira being something of an underground success, but it also ensured the movie cult status across western countries, though perhaps for the wrong reasons.

Is Akira a hyperviolent, sadistic fantasy? Or an eloquent statement on modern civilisation run amok, with technology getting the better of its masters and planet Earth having its divine revenge on those who mutilated it? It's possibly both. Most aficionados of Japanese animation (and also some Japanese live action, witness films by Shinya Tsukamoto or Takashi Miike) are aware that stylised violence is nothing particularly new to the genre (for now wanting to avoid the age-old discussion of anime not being a genre in and of itself but rather a style of animation which incorporates several genres like horror, sci-fi, adventure, etc – and indeed, it would do great disservice to the artistic integrity of many anime artists to simply lump them into one category). However, another fairly consistent, and perhaps ironic, feature of these "violent" narratives is the humanistic message inherent within them, and that, as opposed to many Hollywood narratives which use violence in a Biblical way (ie. the Good guys are justified in using violence against the Bad guy), a narrative like Akira, which stems primarily from both a Buddhist- and Shinto background, avoids lazy good/bad categorisations and instead uses violence to make a clear point - That it does not lead anywhere but tragedy. While perhaps the gratuitously stylised nature of the violence ends up clouding this message, the sheer fact is that, unlike in many mainstream narratives, violence is not rewarded in films like Akira. In fact, in Akira it culminates in the end of the world. Some resolution.

As much as Akira has attracted attention for its violent content, so the convoluted narrative has caused accusations of it being confusing at best and incoherent at worst. While it's very likely that some of the Buddhist symbolism within the film (Tetsuo's final transformation into a new cosmos, as hinted at during the final credit sequence, being a case in point) will go over a few people's heads, the storyline itself is fairly simple: Tetsuo, a bullied and insecure individual, is subjected to a genetic experiment which unleashes a hidden power within him, and, in his anger, destroys the world which he feels rejected him. As well as being a somewhat abstract statement on disaffected youth (a rather appropriate topic, given that I'm writing this at the time of the Paris riots), I would regard Akira as a document of its time. Even though it's set in the future (but then any sci-fi is just an abstract futuristic representation of the time it was made in anyhow), Akira excellently sums up the blind and ravaging short-sighted materialism of our age. That aside, Tetsuo's mutation has been described by some as allegorically representing Japan's disproportionate wealth bubble of the 1980s, while Tetsuo himself is the product of a world driven by greed and avarice.

I have to admit that Akira left a huge impression on me when I initially saw it 10+ years ago. In fact, as with so many others, it probably helped to start my fondness of east Asian cinema. I wouldn't be surprised if, ten or twenty years from now, Akira is widely regarded as one of the most influential movies ever made (if it isn't seen as such already, witness the influence it had on Hollywood films like The Matrix), and that future generations will justifiably view it as an all-time classic.
19 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Every Anime fan have to start from a certain place.
Kore-O22 December 2005
I was probably around 8, when I first saw Akira. It was my step dad who asked me if I was interested in watching this Japanese cartoon. I expected something like, my favorite children movies like The Lion King or The Land before Time.

Akira however, was something else. At the time I was to young to understand English, since it was a second language for me. But I remember what kind of an affect it had on me. It was brutal, it was hard, it was edgy. The drums and Neo Tokyo lights flew through my little body as butter, as I witnessed death, gore and sadistic killings. Something my pure and innocent eyes had never seen before. And yet I was strangely excited. I was never tough as a kid. I was a afraid of the dark and often had nightmares about all kinds of things. But Akira, despite it's mature nature, just had me in awe. When I finally re-saw it many years later, when I was an old teenager, I was still in awe.

Akira is simply a wonderful and entertaining sci-fi movie. It was what introduced me to anime, and innovation in a hole new way. If you want to start watching anime or see, what all the fuss is about, then Akira is a good place to start. Even though it's over 17 years old today, it is still a fantastic and visually stunning animation. Even if you don't appreciate animation you owe it to yourself, to check it out. It has spectacular action, motorcycle-chase-sequences, mad scientists and tons of blood and shooting.

44 out of 62 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An animated masterpiece, without the sing-alongs of Disney fare
Brade25 January 1999
It amuses me that so many people are appalled by the "graphic violence" of this film when they are the ones who will turn around and glorify a movie like "Silence of the Lambs" simply because it is live-action. Akira completely dispels the myth that animation must be replete with characters who are super-deformed and randomly break into song. This is a true emotional experience the likes of which Hollywood could not duplicate even if it tried.

A gang of young motorcyclists get involved in a government plot involving the resurrection of "Akira," a force which once laid waste to Tokyo. Now, in the Neo-Tokyo of the future, the youngest and lowliest of the gang, Tetsuo, ends up harnessing this extremely destructive power and goes on a rampage of telepathic mayhem to earn the fear of those who once bullied him relentlessly. Beneath the violence in this movie lies the very touching story of this young man and his reconciliation with Keneda, his best friend.

One of the most moving scenes in the film is a flashback that shows the first meeting between the two when they were very young. Though the other kids had bullied and harassed Tetsuo, Keneda was there to stick up for his now lifelong friend. If those who watch Akira can discard their preconceived notions of what animation should be, they will find one of the most exciting, emotional, and rewarding films they will ever have the fortune of seeing.

As a special side note, I personally prefer the dubbed version, which is executed very well by a talented cast of voice actors. My favorite line in the movie belonged to the Colonel: "They don't teach tact at the academy." Though it was adapted from a huge body of manga work, Akira was executed perfectly, being directed by its original creator, Katsuhiro Otomo.
32 out of 44 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Grossly Overrated
sanjian24 December 2006
For its time, Akira set new standards in animation. However, a movie is more than just visuals. In this respect, while ground-breaking on a technological level, Akira is a failure as a movie. It features unlikeable, boring, often-stereotypical characters with poor character designs. And the plot does little to make up for the lackluster characters. At best, it's a very rough synopsis of over twenty volumes of manga. At worst, it's an utter train wreck.

Rather than seeing Akira as a movie, viewers should consider it an animated "omake" to the manga. If you liked the manga, and always wanted to see certain scenes in action, then it's worth watching. In that respect, it's sort of like the movies your annoying uncle takes of his vacation. If he vacationed in Hell.

One notable thing about Akira is its exceptional soundtrack. Even if you never watch the movie, it's worth giving a listen.
30 out of 55 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
elgronko14 August 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I remember seeing this in my teens and being distinctly underwhelmed. But Akira is a film whose stature has grown with time so I thought it would be worth another look in my thirties. It's taken me five days to get to the final third as I keep falling asleep.

Many reviewers have commented on the beautiful animation that to me looks utterly average. Many have also mentioned the character development, which presumably impresses people who've never read a book. Still others praise the apocalyptic nature of Akira, which is never believable for an instant. Some decry the film for its gore content, which would at least have kept me awake.

I guess I just don't get this kind of film. Seems to me like fodder for culture-starved teens and emotionally immature adults.

25 out of 45 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Akira explode with a lot of high energy action! The results from that, is some highly acclaimed praise! It's well-deserved. Still, it has some miss points
ironhorse_iv29 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
While, this movie wasn't a success, when it first came out during its limited U.S theatrical release, this film has garnered a large following as a cult film since then. Akira led the way for the second wave of anime fandom outside of Japan and is a major influence on live-action films. Now, it's widely considered to be one of the best anime to come to the United States. In Japan, this movie is considered by many critics to be one of the greatest animated and science fiction movies of all time. I wouldn't go that far, into the praise, but I do love the way, Akira use imagery and themes regarding revolution, teenage delinquency, and political/religion incompetence, to show the deep clashes of cultures, between the new age beliefs and tradition values. It all build up to the inevitable destruction of the old and the rebirth of a new society. However, the film relies so heavily on symbolism, surrealism & absurdism, that it fails to connect with everybody. Some people might get lose, with some the film's many motifs, such as the image of a capsule that repeated throughout the story or the double helix shows up several times. Since, most of the character designs and settings were adapted from the original manga, the restructured plot of the movie differs considerably from the print version, toward the last half of the film. Without spoiling it, just note different characters dies and lives than the manga. So don't worry, if you get confused by the odd visuals, because I was also asking 'WTF', was I watching, even after reading the manga novels. Lot of the character development and back-story was left out from the novel. Even, the majority drug abuse concept of the manga seem, to non-existed, here. Instead, it focus on an evolution theory that doesn't really go anywhere. Then, there is the fact, that a lot of the flashbacks, they did use, were edited in the film in the wrong spots. It made the film, so much more baffled. It's doesn't help, that the science-fiction manga in which, it was based & named after, is indeed a long read, so not everything about their world, can be put in the 121 minutes, run-time of the film. No matter if you're a first time viewer or a fan, the film does get a bit messy at times. Directed by the same author, and artist from the manga version, Katsuhiro Otomo; the film depicts a dystopian version of Tokyo in the year 2019, call Neo-Tokyo with cyberpunk tones. It's here, where the odd plot comes into play, focusing on teenage biker Tetsuo Shima (Voiced by Nozomu Sasaki) and leader of his biker gang, Shotaro Kaneda (Voiced by Mitsuo Iwata) being expose to psychic powers from the government, that would wipe out, their world. What a lot of western viewers like myself, was surprised by, is the amount of violence and adult-driven themes. It was very rare to see that, in animation, at the time. The body horror in the night was and still is, visually haunting for me. This Japanese anime film contained some of the most kinetic sequences in animation history as well. All of the action scenes, were really made well. It gave the film, an epic scale of detail, movement, and fluidity. Akira has often been considered the greatest animated film of all time, with advanced technical features, such as highly-detailed scenes with textures, shadows, unusual colors, and seamless animation with over 160,000 animation cels. Computer-generated imagery was used in the film, primarily to animate the pattern indicator used by Doctor Onishi, but it was additionally used to plot the paths of falling objects, model parallax effects on backgrounds, and tweak lighting and lens flares. At its time, it was the most expensive film ever produced in Japan with $8 million. It's kinda cool that movie had the destruction of Tokyo occur on July 16th, 1988, the day that the movie had its Japanese theatrical debut, it was the same way; the manga told their story in 1982. The film has also been dubbed twice into English — once in 1988 by InterSound & later with Streamline Pictures and Geneon AKA Animaze via Pioneer in 2001, leading to a misconception that they produced it themselves. In my opinion, I like the Japanese version with the subtitles than the English version. There is just something, not right with the English dubbing. With the English editions, some of the original Japanese dialogue is lost or mistranslated. I also not a huge fan of the movie's soundtrack by Shoji Yamashiro (pseudonym of Tsutomu Ōhashi). Some of the music on there is very unlistenable. I can hardly stand the heavy breathing mixed with pounding of the drums. It hurts my ears, so much. Overall: While, a live-action film adaptation version might or might come, one day to renew fans, for the most part, this movie will be best known for its sharp animation. Still, the confusing plot and downer feel of the movie, doesn't make it, a great watch. It's still one of the most memorable anime of all time. However, I can't recommended everybody to see it. In the end, if you're a fan of anime, check it out. If not, there is better anime films to introduce you to that genre.
6 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Different, detailed; but a masterpiece? Not really.
WHCernan24 April 2001
I've been a big fan of science fiction and fantasy in both literature and cinema for at least 25 years. I love the cutting edge, yet until the year 2000, I had never seen any anime. My anime-loving friends urged me to introduce myself to the genre with either "Akira" or "Princess Mononoke" or even "My Friend Totoro". Since my friends only had "Akira" on video, I chose that. I watched this in November 2000, so please forgive me for forgetting the character names.

Right away, my viewing frame of mind fell once the English soundtrack came squealing its way through my sound system. What is it about US distributors of Asian movies? Why do they think we want to hear grown women talking in baby imitations? I'd much rather read subtitles and hear the original soundtrack than these peevish, cartoony caricatures.

When my friends had hyped the incredibly detailed, fluid animation style that put American animation to shame, I looked forward to seeing it. In fact, every review here seems to glorify the skill and talent of the animators. Although the frames did contain a lot of detailed artistry and a large number of independently animated objects, the movement was jerky as all hell. It was very easy to see where the frames were linked. It was like playing an action game on a PC when it gets overloaded trying to keep up with the game. Disney may be pablum for the masses, but its theatrical releases certainly are a hundred times more smoothly animated than "Akira".

I had to put the "viewing experience" aside and concentrate on the plot, theme, and characters. I've done it enough times in the age of VHS rentals, so it was no problem here. I found that the character development for everyone except the protagonist was weak and shallow. I never could understand any motivation for the erratic behavior of the friend. Now, this is more like an American movie than some cutting-edge Asian import.

The plot.. well, very poorly explained, especially the last 20 minutes. I think I understood the ending of "2001" better the first time I saw it. I don't want to spoil anything, but there is no explanation for what happens at the end of this movie. Those of you who have seen it will understand... bigger and bigger and bigger... why? Just to be grotesque?

Finally, the theme made sense to me. Our world faces great danger from our misunderstanding of technology and humanity's preoccupation with it. We will be our own downfall if we are not careful. Good message, I get it.

So, overall, I gave it 4/10. I thought it was sloppy in direction and the story was utterly lacking in interest. Those of you here (and on the video jacket) who compared this film favorably with "Blade Runner" are, in my opinion, not paying very much attention to "Blade Runner". That is a hugely superior film to this.

Finally, as to "My Friend Totoro", I saw it too. It had the same problems with animation jerkiness as this does. Is "Princess Mononoke" going to let me down too? I'm going to watch the SUBTITLED version of that anime just to get away from those baby voices.
19 out of 33 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Oh dear
sgt_pinback7 December 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Before I start, let me say that my experience of this movie might have been influenced by the dubbing, which I gather from other comments was the original one which is considered inferior by some. So, it is entirely possible that subtitles or the apparently new DVD version would make a difference. I have also not read the corresponding book; I'm only familiar with one other Japanese manga and might be lacking cultural context.

Potential minor spoilers ahead.

I usually like darkly tinged science fiction stories (the likes of Blade Runner, 12 Monkeys, etc.), but I did not enjoy this movie at all. While it started out mildly intriguing, it became tedious by the time it was only half-way finished. There are all sorts of problems; let's start with what is probably the most severe: the dialogue. The characters seem unable to formulate complete sentences; if they aren't shouting each other's names for the n-th time, they are usually grunting monosyllables ("Kanedaaa!", "Tetsuoooo!", "Huh?", "Grrr", etc.). This leaves most of the characters entirely underdeveloped and two-dimensional. It doesn't help in the least that a lot of them get only a few minutes of screen time without anything interesting to say that would develop them away from the stereotypes suggested by the visuals.

The grunting is augmented by some random pseudo-philosophical technobabble that sounds vague and uninspired even by Star Trek standards. There is nothing deep and meaningful here - it all seems haphazard, thrown together at random from various bits and pieces of stock sci-fi ideas with no coherency whatsoever.

What little there is of an intelligible plot is no more than an excuse to begin the overlong final sequence which consists of escalating scenes of mayhem and destruction. Not that there's anything wrong with a nice bit of mayhem and destruction, of course; but in this case you'll find yourself asking "what's the point of it all, and how long until it's over". Character development in the last 30 minutes or so consists of little more than Tetsuo turning into Pizza the Hutt for no readily apparent reason.

The ending resembles the one in 2001 - a bizarre string of images that, far from resolving or explaining anything, leave the viewer feeling he's just been looking into a kaleidoscope for two hours. I'm sure some will claim that this sort of thing is art; but to me it was just a lot of admittedly imaginative use of colour and shapes. (Some of the music was also quite interesting). Unfortunately it's all style and no substance.

Tired of Disney? Want to watch animated movies dealing intelligently with "adult" themes? I'm sad to say you're more likely to find that sort of thing in "South Park".
33 out of 63 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Is your head hurting? An acting disaster protocol ...
badtothebono11 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The truest words spoken in Akira are when Kaneda screams (Kaneda does nothing but scream) "Where the hell am I friggin going?". By that time this thing has gone off the deep end. I have to give it a few points for the fine animation and for having influenced other, future, better movies. But, beyond that, geeeeez. This thing consists of violence, screaming, violence, swearing, violence, some Blade Runneresque neighborhoods, violence, and more screaming. When the lead characters are punks with inferiority complexes who ride around trying to smack people on the head with lead pipes, well, who gives a ($*@$*#($!! It really does need some kind of theoretical physical framework, because all systems are definitely not nominal in Akira.
14 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A stereotypical anime blood bath
washuu13 December 1998
I feel that Akira is a highly stereotypical anime blood bath. It has decent artwork and an underdeveloped plot line. Watch the movie for blood and guts action, not much else. All in all it lacked the depth and thought of other anime.
14 out of 25 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Above average anime, but merely average film.
blmulholland3 July 2000
Akira is the kind of movie that seems to inspire extreme loyalty from the vocal minority who have seen it. Overall though, it's only an average movie. The story is pretty weak, and like all anime, the drawn characters are guilty of 'over-acting'.
11 out of 19 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
I really wanted to like this movie
UsernameHype19 August 2015
I really wanted to like this movie, I heard from everyone that it was an anime classic and I had seen screenshots that looked really cool. In the end I was disappointed.

The movie was hand drawn and it looked amazing no doubt about that, I could stare at still from this movie all day long, it's the other things that bothered me.

The story is a mess. I loved the first act, seeing this cyberpunk city was really cool, seeing the gangs and everything. After that the movie turned into a anime horror movie, which I don't feel fit the tone at all. The whole Akira thing was confusing as hell, they never explained it, everyone was asking the whole movie "What is Akira?" The third act dragged out so much, things that were happening didn't make sense at all. The end was just a mess with destruction everywhere, but no story to tell about it.

The soundtrack was also annoying. Some of the songs were cool, but they play them almost 7 or 8 times in the movie, which wears out the song and just makes it ambient noise.

This might be only the English dub, but the dubbing was horrible. The words were off the mouth movements and the voice actors were bad. In intense scenes the voice actors never gave an intense feel.

For a classic there were some big problems. The story could have been more direct and made more sense. In fact, they could have just made the movie about the city and the gangs fighting and that would have made it better. With the movie how it is, they could have cut it down to take out the dragging on of the end. Akira just ended up losing my interest near the end, making it not as interesting as I thought it would be.
7 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Do you seriously think this is that good?
darkmax19 May 2002
Well, firstly I have to say that perhaps the American audiences were not exposed to too many Japanese anime. For one, I think this animated movie has been over-hyped by the American public. Frankly, I grew up watching anime and think this is one of the most mediocre. Many other anime have better story, graphics, character-developments and following. If you ask enough Asians about this movie, they would probably have the same comment. This is seriously not as good as you really think.
24 out of 50 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Unlikeable characters & Lousy Plot
jesse-reinhard3 December 2014
Warning: Spoilers
It is my opinion that Akira is no masterpiece for several reasons:

I can't find any likable characters in the movie. Kaneda and Tetsuo are members of a biker gang, and when I thought about it they're just sociopaths and aren't any better than their rival gangs. By the end none of the characters really develop or learn anything, and the ones that were killed off I assume is because they simply weren't useful anymore.

I find the movie visually unappealing and confusing. Most of the youthful characters were so plain and similar, they looked like they were made with a cookie cutter and I couldn't tell them apart. Kaneda and the female protagonist looked like they could have been siblings if not the same person. In contrast any character in their twenties or older was positively hideous for whatever reason. And you'll here this from every poor review: it is pointlessly gory and full of confusing grotesque creatures.

The plot is full of unanswered questions some of which include "what's with the kids who look like old people?" "what's with the killer stuffed animals, and why are they bleeding milk?" "Where did Kaneda find a laser gun without anyone stopping him?" And I felt cheated by the end when I spent the whole time thinking: "Akira? who's Akira? When are we going to see Akira." Only to find out Akira was dead the whole time... At this point in the movie I feel they ran out of ideas so they just filled it with grotesque nonsense and nothing was accomplished.

I give it a 2.5/10
12 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
So ugly it's impossible to like, no matter how hard one tries.
vkn10 April 2001
I'm all for supposedly intelligent films and series, that contain hidden meanings you have to search for. And it's only on the Japanese market that one can find some good examples of these. I've greatly enjoyed pondering over Evangelion, Jin-Roh, and many others. So why can't I be bothered to do the same for Akira? Simple; Akira is just so... ugly.

The big mistake Akira makes is that, if a movie wants to make people think about it's "hidden meaning", for people to try hard to understand it's point, the film should at least offer something to draw the viewer in. Likeable characters, interesting concepts, or at least -something- just plain nice to look at. Some positive elements that can make one grow to like a movie.

Akira does none of this and is, from start to finish, deeply detestable. It may be just a matter of personal taste, but the character designs struck me as especially repulsive. The film is populated by doughy-faced goblins with bad dressing habits. Ugh. How can one possibly be interested by such a cast of characters who look like radiation-deformed Hiroshima toddlers, let alone remotely like them?

Even worse is the way the film hurls a constant slew of sickening and really needlessly gory images at the viewer's face. Sure, violent gore-fests can be fun in a mindless way if you like that sort of thing, but they seem badly out of place here. If it's supposed to be a deep and intelligent film, how come it feels as if you're watching something from Troma studios? These two sides of the film co-exist in a very uncomfortable way. As if Fellini was trying to direct Attack of the Brain-Eating Zombies. Bottom line; the exaggerated bloodlust of a random violent horror film doesn't go hand-in-hand with anything remotely refined.

Still, deep beneath all the tasteless violence there's the kernel of some kind of -point- to all this carnage. Trouble is, it's terribly patchy and impossible to make sense of. Every now and then, there's a small flash of lucidity and a few brittles of a deeper meaning are thrown around, but it seems so random and rushed that it ends up just adding to the confusion and the unpleasant overall feel of this film.

The overall impression one gets from watching Akira is about as pleasant as staring at a badly-treated, crusty fleshwound dripping with pus. And very few people will want to stare at something like -that- several times in order to be able to make sense out of it (all for a deeper meaning which doesn't even look all that interesting from what I can make out). Sorry, but no way am I going to willingly watch such a repulsive film again, I've been put off for good. Akira is not "gritty", "haunting", "menacing", or any other cool word the marketing bods might want to slap onto it, it's just ugly.

And for some reason, there are still people out there who claim that this is the be-all and end-all of the Japanese animation industry. Let's just be grateful that it's -not-. If every Japanese production was this dreadful, we'd have been denied the joys of the most graceful and aesthetic animation in the world. The way Manga video marketed Akira gave a bad, and lasting first impression of Japanese series in general to occidental audiences, which qualifies as a valid enough reason to hold a grudge against this movie in my view. You're better off watching Macross Plus, Honneamise, Gall Force, Jin-Roh, or even Saint Seiya instead of this sick and messy effort. Simply because those, and many other films are thought-provoking as well as plain enjoyable.

(fans of mindless and truly disgusting gore will love Akira, though).
30 out of 65 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Lame anime garbage
qwigs16 December 2005
The fact that this movie is animated, and it comes from Japan for most people is enough to give it a good mark. The story is typical of an anime. It's the future.. and things are rough. A bunch of powerful people want to unlock some long forgotten power to make everything better. However, things don't go as planned. That's about it. The direction in this movie was my biggest gripe, it was way too sporadic and the story didn't flow well at all. People like to say 'well you know.. it's the first anime to get 5 stars in North America'. Those are the same folks that think effeminate greased up men with giant swords are the coolest thing ever.
16 out of 32 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
I find this movie grossly overrated.
ataru moroboshi19 October 2000
The problem i had with this movie is that it came off as a plotless mess with very superficial characters. I'll admit it was well animated but there was nothing to make me want to see it again nor recommend it to anyone else. I think the reason it is so highly acclaimed is that when it was released to the west, it was so fresh to viewers equating animation with Disney that it automatically became "good." I think it gets 1.5 stars
22 out of 47 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed