Akira is a landmark piece of Japanese animation. It was responsible for bringing both manga and anime to a far wider audience. But its impact doesn’t stop there. Akira was the most expensive anime film made at the time. Since it was one of the first to give its characters fully expressive facial features. Not to mention the highly detailed world that was crafted. Akira impacted the cyberpunk genre, adult animation, and a whole lot of modern pop culture (both Japanese and American). Although my experience with anime is limited, I knew this was a film I just had to watch.
The subtitled version is probably better than the dubbed version though. Akira takes place in the far future of 2019. Neo-Tokyo is a very R rated post-apocalyptic city full of street gangs, corrupt politicians, violent protests, and terroristic threats. One particular gang is lead by Kaneda. A youth that looks after his friends and fights off more violent gangs. His friendship is put to the ultimate test when Tetsuo discovers he has telekinetic superpowers. From there they encounter rebel factions, secret government conspiracies, psychic children, and even the mystery behind the titular Akira.
Some of the imagery in Akira is recognizable even if you haven’t seen the film. From Kaneda’s red motorcycle to Tetsuo’s villainous red cape. Along with other disturbing moments, Akira ends with Tetsuo losing control of his powers and turning into a giant grotesque blob. With its fast-paced energy, boundary pushing animation, and complex themes, it’s easy to see why Akira is one of the most influential anime films ever made.