Akira is a post apocalyptic, science fiction, and Japanese animated feature film directed and written by Katsuhiro Otomo, made by TMS (Tokyo Movie Shinsa), and originally released theatrically in Japan in the year 1988. The movie is also adapted from Katsuhiro Otomo’s own manga series of the same name.
The setting of Akira is that it is the year 2019, and Japan (more specifically, Neo Tokyo) is going through a massive economic crisis due to them trying to recover from the aftermath of World War 3, and spending most of their money for the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Sports Olympics (the reason for why World War 3 happened in the movie is explained, but no spoiler about that will be said in this review). The movie’s basic plot is about a boy named Kaneda Shotaro who gets worried for one of his best friends named Tetsuo Shima after Tetsuo is taken by the Japanese military after an incident in which the biker gang that Kandea and Tetsuo are members of were fighting another biker gang (to clarify, this isn’t the very start of the movie. This only happens during the beginning of it).
The reason why Tetsuo was taken by the military is because when he got injured in the incident, he ended up getting physic powers (I recommend watching the movie for more details as to how and why he got the powers). Because of these powers he’s gotten, Tetsuo falls into madness, and is determined into re-awaking a character named Akira (who he keeps hearing about in his head) even if it means destroying the world just to do so (and yes, the movie is actually named after that character). Later on in the story, Kaneda finds out about Tetsuo’s powers and goal, and is determined into stopping one of his best friends in order to save the world.
When Akira was released in 1988, not only was it met with high critical praise and financial success, it also served as a landmark in Japanese animation (or Anime to say it more simply), and is also one of many animated products from Japan that helped introduce Anime into the West (with the others being the 1995 Ghost in the Shell movie, and Ninja Scroll from 1993). So with all that info about Akira said, does the movie live up to all of that recognition? Indeed it does, and I’m going to try talk about all the aspects of the film so that you can know why I think it is a spectacular movie (also, there will be NO spoilers in what I’m going to say, so you don’t have to worry about that).
-The Story and Writing: While the story of Akira (for the most part) ain’t anything new (even for the time that it was originally released), the story is greatly supported by a strong script that contains solid pacing, excellent character development, and just overall all the aspects good film writing needs. All the important characters are each well-written, and entire movie in general just has an epic feel to it thanks to how the script was written into allowing that. I must also include that the movie also has a satisfying ending to it (and ending I won’t go into detail about for the sake of this review). Earlier in this review, I did mention that Akira is a movie adaption of a manga of the same name by same person who directed and written the movie adaption of it (Katsuhiro Otomo). I bring this up because to anyone who’s read the manga, would know very well that there are a lot of changes made for the film adaptation in regards to some of the characters and the ending of the story (stuff I will not spoil). For how the movie adaptation of Akira was made, the changes work very well, and help the movie maintain its legendary status without alienating people who read the manga. Before I forget now I’ve just remembered, while the story and writing in Akira are very good, the film is (at times) a very dark plot that contains a lot of scenes of violence, so I certainly CAN’T recommend watching this movie if you are under 18 years of age (trust me. The movie is rated R for a reason).
-The Animation: For a animated theatrical released movie from Japan that came out in 1988, It felt more like a movie that came out in 1998. The animation in this movie truly is revolutionary as for the time, this film utilized backgrounds and character designs with strong amounts of detail put into them. All the characters have excellent facial expressions for whenever they are happy, mad, sad, etc. This a good for the animation because it helps the characters feel alive. The animation regarding the movements is also very impressive, and helps make the animation in the entire film work. I should also talk about this movie’s use of colors as I’m sure that even the colors used in the animation for this film were also revolutionary. I say this because there is just so much detail put into this movie’s colors that helped make the animation look even better.
-The Music/Score/Soundtrack: The soundtrack in Akira was made and provided by Geino Yamashirogumi, and Tsutomu Ohashi. This movie’s music is without a doubt one of the greatest movie scores of all time thanks to all the instruments, notes, and how it fits the tone of the film very well. The music is also another novelty as (at least to my knowledge anyways) I don’t think any other Anime film at the time of its release (or possibly even before that time) had music this epic. So overall, Akira’s music is great, and definitely worth listening to.
-The Voice Acting: I must state that for this review that I am going to talk about both the original Japanese language and English Dub. While I myself don’t speak Japanese, I have watched numerous movies made in Japan to the point that I am able to notice how the performances are. With that said, the Japanese voice acting in Akira is great with each voice actor and actress fitting the character they are voicing very well. The English Dub by Pioneer/Geneon is also excellent with each voice actor to voice their characters in English fitting the roles perfectly without a single one standing out. In conclusion, the voice acting in general in Akira is good.
-The Subtitles: Originally, I didn’t feel like talking about the subtitles for this movie that were included in the Pioner/Geneon DVD that I own, but to those who are reading this review, and are interested in watching this movie with the original Japanese speaking language with English subtitles, the good news about that is that the subtitles for this movie are solid. The subtitles for the DVD that I have are colored yellow, and the way that all the words are presented whenever a character is speaking look well enough for the watcher to easily see them. The words also stay on screen for a good amount of time for the watcher to see them without them having to pause the movie just to read the subtitles. So if you are looking for good English subtitles when watching Akira in Japanese, expect the subtitles to do their job just fine.
Now that I have said and pointed out all my reasons for why I believe Akira is a fantastic movie, I can certainly recommend giving it a watch as the film truly is a legendary groundbreaking work of cinematic art that has helped introduce Japanese animation to Western audiences thanks to its very strong story and writing, fabulous animation, and epic soundtrack.
I give Akira: The Movie 5/5 Stars, and Two Thumbs Up.