On Saturday night, Toonami starts their December schedule by only airing anime films all month long. Their first film is the late- 1980s cult classic, Akira. For many anime fans like me, Akira is an anime classic and because of this film – Anime series and films were introduced to American audiences; however, Akira is not suitable for children under the age of 16. Yet, what is it about?
Akira is an envisioned story that is set in 2019 in a Neo-Tokyo built 31 years later after WWIII. Neo-Tokyo is a detailed city with lights, skyscrapers, and bike gangs. The cyberpunk story follows the bike gang’s leader Kaneda (Bosch) and his friend, Tetsuo (Seth). Kaneda drives a modern and notoriously red motorcycle. His friend, Tetsuo desires his motorbike, but he tags along with their other friends. In the opening scene, there is a bloody persecution among rival gangs and hells break loose when Tetsuo is taken away after he’s badly wounded.
A day later, no one knows where Tetsuo is hospitalized. Kaneda and his friends are arrested including a girl who grasps Kaneda’s attention. Because they are minors, the boys have to face their school principal, yet a savvy Kaneda also includes the strange girl as part of their group; therefore, she’s released as well.
In the meantime, Tetsuo is locked and monitored in a lab. He manages to escape, but he is also develops at a dangerous level new psychokinetic abilities. Then, Tetsou escape, he steals Kaneda’s bike and he is wounded. As a consequence, he’s captured again. At the lab, he suffers terrible nightmares and he meets three odd children known as 25, 26, and 27. The children are not ordinary children because they are elderly children with paranormal abilities. They are under the care of the colonel and he cares for their well-being.
Then, another disaster occurs when Tetsuo’s powers increases. 25 or Kiyoko, the only female child with paranormal powers foresees Tetsuo’s ending and she tries to warn him. Meanwhile, Tetsuo starts looking for Akira since his name repeatedly comes to his mind. In the middle of the apocalypse, the colonel tries to save Tetsuo to prevent another Akira awakening – still, Tetsuo has made his choice.
The film Akira is very violent with a strong lesson behind. What to do if one has God like abilities? Certainly, the antagonist, Tetsuo felt his powers finally made him important and wanted to destroy Kaneda. Without realizing that much like Akira, he cannot control his overwhelmingly apocalyptic powers.
At first, Tetsuo is puny and desires Kaneda’s popularity including his bike. Later on, when his powers start emerging – he’s afraid and he doesn’t understand he has paranormal powers. Then, realizing he’s a mighty being, Tetsuo becomes destructive. Because Tetsuo doesn’t want to become another locked subject like 25, 26, and 27- his death is a result of his stubbornness.
As for the main protagonist, Kaneda, he also changes throughout the film. At first, he’s a carefree and an energetic teenager that likes his leadership in his bike gang, The Pills. He also likes to flirt until Tetsuo is missing. As a result, Kandea’s mature side starts to emerge even though he is upset with Tetsuo for stealing his bike. In the final battle, Kaneda forgets his anger against Tetsuo and tries to save him even at the cost of his own life. Yet, he is saved by the children: 25, 26, 27, and Akira.
25, 26, 27, and Akira: These four characters are key figures in the story. The strange children are sweet and they are aware of their abilities. Yet, as it is revealed towards the end of the film, they have been locked in a monitored lab for their own safety. Although they were subjected to experimentation to understand their powers; however, they never became destructive beings like Akira.
In terms of Akira, he’s history is very short in comparison to 25, 26, and 27. Akira’s powers awakened 31 years ago, then history repeated again with Tetsuo. He develops abilities Akira once exhibited in the past. In the end, Akira’s spirit is resurrected and along with the three children, they save Tetsuo and Neo-Tokyo.
It is not exactly revealed what happened to Tetsou and the children. Yet, it is assumed that they have died or they are living in a different dimension. Before the film credits appears, Tetsuo speaks in a calm voice, “I am Tetsuo.” With his calm tone, it is noted to the viewer that Tetsuo has accepted his fate in a peaceful matter.
Altogether, Akira is an audacious film with an impressive cinematographic animation. The attention to detail creates a realistic scenario of an imagined Tokyo. In addition, it is obvious that Akira has inspired other writers like Tsugumi Ohba’s to create the manga, Death Note. They challenge the viewer with the pro and cons of having God like abilities and how the characters like Tetsuo or Light Yagami becomes antagonistic personas in the end.
In the end, Akira gets an A- because the story is eye catching with an amazing voice cast that differs from the original dubbing. In the 2001 version, Akira acquires today’s best voice over actors and actresses. Akira’s the voice cast has Johnny Yong Bosch (Bleach and Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion) as Shōtarō Kaneda, Joshua Seth (Wolf’s Rain and Cyborg 009) as Tetsuo Shima, Wendee Lee (Big O! and Cowboy Bebop) as Kei, and Michelle Ruff (Bleach and Trigun) as Kaori.
Yet, there were some parts in the story that were unnecessary. For example, in the beginning of the film, during the persecution a police dog dies after several gun shots. Not only this is distasteful, but come on – was it necessary to animate a violent death of a dog?
Another illustration is the character called Kaori. She’s Tetsou’s girlfriend and he treats her badly. Already, the character is in an abusive relationship and then she’s humiliated by the rival gang when her blouse is ripped leaving her breasts exposed. Lastly, when Tetsou’s powers are out of control, he accidentally kills her. I believe the author created this character to live and die miserably. A fair ending for her would have been to be saved like Kaneda or the colonel.
I would not watch Akira again not because it’s a bad movie; at the contrary, it’s a very interesting film, but I kindly say it’s not my cup of tea. I’m not a fan of violent films. But, I recognize its artistry and its intriguing story. I highly recommend this film.
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