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Akira – Review March 10, 2009

Posted by Cello in Anime Reviews.

Akira is the one that started it all for me.  I was about 8 years old and a friend of mine had a copy of it on VHS.  What happened next was very strange and has yet to happen again in my life.  I sat and watched a movie I had no idea what was going on yet I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen.  It wasn’t until I grew up over the years and watched it multiple times that I really got to grasp the concept of Akira.

On July 16, 1988, Tokyo was destroyed by what was believed to be a new type of bomb, triggering World War III. Thirty-one years later, in 2019, Neo-Tokyo has arisen from ashes under Japan’s new political system; but the glittering city is built on foundations of poverty, ignorance and despair. Kaneda and his friends, a bunch of juvenile delinquents, rumble with a rival group of bikers. While the police attempt to disperse a riot with tear gas, the rumble continues. Tetsuo takes the lead and, after disposing of his opponents, nearly runs down what looks to be a 100-year-old baby. Tetsuo’s bike suddenly explodes and he is taken prisoner by the top-secret Akira Project where he is subjected to a series of tests which unleash his latent psycho-kinetic powers. But he is really more powerful than anyone imagined and breaks out, creating a swathe of destruction across the city as he mutates into another life form. That synopsis is quite the mouthful but Akira is arguably the most popular anime title of all time, and rightfully so.


Tetsuo is the most interesting of it–an everyday angry kid gifted with psychic powers of truly frightening scale and as tortured by them as he is hollowly empowered. His torment, god complex, and desperate breakdown give an emotional center to events that are otherwise drastically out of human scale. That scale is, perhaps more than anything, what makes Akira so memorable. As has been well documented, Akira was created through a painstaking process that took creator Otomo Katsuhiro 10 years to complete. All the hard work over in Tokyo paid off, because Akira, in terms of vision and story, is a flawless, well-executed anime film in every sense of the word.

I rewatched this film on blu-ray format and it doesn’t cover a wide spectrum, but they appear to accurately reproduce the original print. However when I say this, I mean just that: Best. Sound. Ever.  You have to hear it to believe it. This is one of those tracks that uses every speaker to envelope you in the on-screen action. A helicopter pan across the soundstage is appropriately loud, but never noisy, and the rumble of the film’s many explosions resonates with an oomph you’ll feel in your chest. The sticker price is quite expensive for the Blu-Ray, but it is still worthy of a purchase. In conclusion, I must say that regardless of how much of an anime fan you are you must see this movie, rent it, borrow it, buy it, etc. because an anime like this only comes along once in a decade.  Highest Recommendation.


1. njpr231 - March 10, 2009

Ahh this gives me back my old memories…
Back then I was called wierdo for the only kid who likes this kind of show…
Heck this is worth to re-watch.

2. movietwit - March 10, 2009

i wrote a comment, but i got a 504 – yay.

the short of it – akira was a stepping stone for a lot of the western culture into the world of anime. parents deemed it ‘okay’ because it was cartoon, even though it was one of the most violent things i’ve ever seen (which is what appealed to me in the first place).

from there, i loved things like ‘ghost in the shell’ and old ones like ‘castle of cagliostro’, while also appreciated studio ghibli’s efforts. in a lot of ways, spirituality plays a big part in both anime and live action films from japan, which builds a good sense of national identity to the rest of the world.

3. cello85 - March 11, 2009

I was lucky enough to have weirdo friends who introduced me to said films. Yeah, if this movie was a fond memory of your childhood I would suggest a rewatch, preferbly in high def!

I couldn’t agree more, 10-15 years ago parents didn’t know squat about anime. They just saw it as animation and let their kids watch it. Akira introduced me to nudity and violence at a young age. God Bless America lol

4. jo - March 11, 2009

you watched it when u were 8 and actually kind of enjoyed it? i watched it when i was slightly older than that and got thoroughly freaked out (barely got what was going on too). never did revisit it.

what do you think of the upcoming hollywood remake?

cello85 - March 11, 2009

I heard some things here and there about the Live Action Remake. I heard something about Leonardo DiCaprio doing this movie and Ninja Scroll. It is one of those things I’ll have to see to believe, because I don’t think it’ll turn out good. I may be in the minority but the new Dragonball movie looks terrible and I don’t see an actual worthy live action anime movie coming out anytime soon. Akira is just a tough act to follow.

5. jo - March 11, 2009

yea, i have to agree.. haven’t seen the dragonball movie, but i’ve read that it’s pretty disappointing.

there is a japanese live action movie of the anime yatterman which was just released. actually had it’s first screening in new york. directed by takashi miike. u might want to check it out. it’s doing really well at the japanese box office so far.

6. theplasticgear - March 11, 2009

Beautiful website. Great info. Nice pictures and videos.

7. Emily - August 11, 2009

Fantastic write up as well. :]

8. Azria - December 10, 2009

I appreciate the great review handed to this movie. Although it couldn’t hold a candle to its Manga in length, Akira has a compelling story that swallows its audience be it words or picture.

I first saw Akira when I was five years old, I snuck out of bed to watch cartoon network and as I was flipping through the channels I found Kaneda zooming through the streets with the others after the Clownz. I was totally encompassed, the scene that stuck with me most however was when Tetsuo evolved and begged for Kaneda’s help.

Seven years down the line that was the only thing I remembered as I went searching through anime after anime to find that incredible piece of work again.

I’m glad that the live action remake was canceled. From what I read of it, it was supposed to be set in Manhattan and oodles of the original awesomeness was to be changed into americanized…well.. garbage.
If we could ever take a japanese movie and not butcher it in live action, that’d be sweet.

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