Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Review: Akira


Director: Katsuhiro Ôtomo
Cast (English dub): Johnny Yong Bosch, Wendee Lee, Joshua Seth
Year: 1988

I saw the original English version of Akira once in middle school. I somehow managed to forget nearly all of it. Now I got my hands on the 2001 DVD, with new English dubbing and extensive restoration.

When motorcycle gang member Tetsuo becomes part of a secret goernment program called Akira, his gang leader and friend Kaneda works to rescue him. In a future Neo-Tokyo full of student protests, greedy politicians, and military obsession, Tetsuo develops a supernatural power that builds to an explosive conclusion.

Oh, and by the way, this is the best anime film ever made.

Without the benefit of modern computer graphics, Akira manages to invoke incredible visuals as Tetsuo is transformed by his power. Buildings crumble, people die, meyhem ensues. I especially love the first few scenes after Tetsuo is awakened by the Espers' stuffed animal forms. The spherical "personal force field" that crumbles walls is an effect I've always liked, and it was well-executed here.

The story is complex and engaging. Questions are left unanswered for the viewer to figure out, and the issues are often only hinted at. The only negative is one that generally can't be helped: the voice dubbing. The acting was over-the-top in places, putting it mildly, but I know that such things are often neccessary to get the lip synchronization anywhere close.

I would definitely recommend Akira as an introduction to anime for the uninitiated. It's got the widespread distruction, the gore, the science fiction plot, the future Japan. I'm not an anime nut, but there are a handful of anime films that I truly enjoy, and this is one of them.

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  1. I like your diplomatic term "complex" for describing Akira's plot. Although I love anime, they usually don't have very clear and direct plot lines. Last month I took my teenage brother and a friend of his to see "Steamboy", the maker of Akira's "comeback" film. I was sure it would be great, and I have never been more wrong. Besides a convoluted story line, it had long periods of utter dullness. Much better anime I've seen recently includes Ghost in the Shell II, Blue Submarine #6, and any of the Cowboy Bepop series.

  2. I saw and enjoyed GitS2. I caught one episode of Bebop on Cartoon Network and thought it looked like something I would have liked had I understood what was going on. I also liked the new version of Appleseed, though entirely for the visuals. The story I could take or leave. Those and the GitS: Stand Alone Complex series are really the only anime I've seen as an adult.

    In our middle-school years, frequent blog-commenter Luke and I watched some stuff, but I can't remember all of it. Gunbuster, the first Appleseed, Battle Angel Alita, Vampire Hunter D (?), and probably a few more.