- Katsuhiro Otomo
- Reviewed by
- a.k.a. Coffee
- Review date
- Wednesday, August 08, 2001
Of the many innovative and colorful films that Asian cinema has to offer, one of the great classics is certainly Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira which was first released in 1988. Akira is not just a Japanese movie, it’s an anime – the anime, the single most influential piece of the entire genre some might say.
Set in the year 2019, Akira tells the story of the two go-go-gangers Tetsuo and Kaneda. The two bikers have known one another since their childhood, but while Kaneda has advanced to be the leader of a merciless gang, Tetsuo is insecure and regarded as a weakling by his buddies. One night as they prowl the streets of Neo-Tokyo on their bikes, Tetsuo has a strange encounter with a child that seems to have superhuman powers. Suddenly he finds himself in the midst of a power-struggle involving the government and a group of zealous terrorists. On his way to save Tetsuo, Kaneda has to face the anti-government activists, greedy politicians, irresponsible scientists and a powerful military leader. The confrontation sparks off Tetsuo's own supernatural powers leading to bloody death, a coup attempt and the final battle at Tokyo Olympiad where the body of a mysterious boy called Akira was buried thirty years earlier...
Visually Akira is extraordinary, though not for the faint-hearted. It displays a level of violence which is unknown to western film and a plot that is so bizarre you won’t be able to forget it. Otomo sees the future as dark and anarchic – a world where the individual doesn’t count yet in the end the existence of this world can be challenged by a single individual. In the film the young generation is assaulting every authority and refuses to follow even the most elementary social and moral codes.
The two most important characters are Kaneda and his antagonist Tesuo who struggle with one another to settle a deep-rooted rivalry. Both of them are outlaws but still seem far more human than the leaders of the government and the armed forces who are only puppets manipulated by even stranger denizens. Like I mentioned earlier, the plot of Akira is simply insane compared to the tame likes of Hollywood’s animated pictures. At the beginning the viewer will find it quite impossible to piece the story together but as everything falls into place one can only marvel at the complexity of the synopsis.
Akira is essentially a movie that depicts the hybris of man – his ability to transform himself into something else and lose his humanity in the process. It’s one hell of a ride and manages to be both visually intriguing and bizarre in it’s concept, even though it might confuse at times. Although the film has been in hibernation for the past decade the release of a new DVD special edition with digitally re-mastered picture and many extra features such as an English translation of the grafittis that decorate the walls of Neo Tokyo’s backyards brings this unique movie back into the spotlight.
Buckle your seatbelts!
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