Readers Recommendations: “Akira”

akiraHey everyone, we’re back with another entry in the Reader Recommendations series!

The Reader Recommendation series is intended to help me formally pursue all the great films that commenters bring up each week in discussion which I’ve never seen. If there’s a movie that comes up that I haven’t seen, but you think I should, email me @ or let me know in the comments that you’d like to participate.

BigBrikThis time up, our recommendation comes from our buddy BrikHaus over at AwesomelyShitty. He’s recommended the Anime Classic “Akira”. In the ongoing attempt to strengthen my basic anime knowledge, I’m more than happy to check it out.

Click through to read a little more about why he felt it was worthy of recommending, followed by my thoughts on the film!

My questions in bold. Brik′s answers below. 

1) Do you remember when you first saw the movie?
The first time I was exposed to Akira was on the Sci-Fi channel when I was young and impressionable. It must have been heavily edited, I didn’t understand what was going on, and I didn’t even watch the whole thing. Nevertheless, I was mesmerized. I couldn’t believe I was watching a cartoon that looked like a movie made for adults. I watched the movie properly when I was first getting interested in anime in college. My friends and I rented the old dubbed VHS and devoured it. We were all blown away by the film.
2) Why do you think that it’s recommendable? What do you like about it?
Akira is definitely recommendable. There is so much to like, it’s hard to be succinct. First and foremost, the animation quality is outstanding. Everything is hand drawn, yet it is incredibly detailed. All of the grime, crushed cigarettes, and peeling paint of the world is shown. The attention to detail is amazing. Not to mention the fact that the motion of the animation is very fluid. A lot of anime cuts corners by being very sparse with actual moving animation, but Akira goes all out. Second, the story is cool. It’s entertaining with action, interesting characters, and some philosophical overtones. It has much more depth than most Hollywood fare. Third, the music is very distinct. Everything from the drums to the chimes to the chanting creates a chaotic, dark, and unique flavor. It is by far the most original movie soundtrack I have ever heard.
3) Is the movie underappreciated, do you think? Or does pop culture have it fairly rated?
Among anime enthusiasts it is not underappreciated. It’s probably the Holy Grail of anime. It introduced the rest of the world to Japanese animation, and is considered a classic. The general public is likely not aware of it, but that’s to be expected, I suppose. Usually, if anyone is interested in anime, I always tell them to check out Akira. It’s a high water mark for the entire animation genre, and everyone who considers themselves a fan of film should watch it.
4) Is there any particular reason you thought I should watch it, or were you just surprised I hadn’t seen it?
Akira is awe-inspiring. Forget the fact that it has nudity and ultra-violence (although that adds to its charms). It is also a very nuanced movie; every time I watch it I pick up something new. The ambiguous ending leaves things open to interpretation, and I usually have different thoughts each time I finish the film. It is incredibly unique. No other movie, including other anime, is anything like it. That alone should be worth the price of admission.
5) Have you written about the movie yourself? (Insert plug here! LOL )
I haven’t, but I did proclaim it the greatest movie of 1988!

Thanks, Brik! My review is below!


When Tetsuo, a member of a biker gang in post WWIII Neo-Tokyo, encounters a strange, psychically powered child, he finds himself endowed with psionic powers as well. He’s quickly captured by the government and held for observation, however. Kaneda, his best friend, is left to try to free him.

Kaneda joins forces with a group of rebels to attempt to break Tetsuo out of his imprisonment, but it’s too late. Tetsuo’s powers have begun to rapidly manifest themselves, and he’s broken himself out. Government troops pursue him into the heart of the city, as Tetsuo leaves a trail of carnage in his wake. Troops and tanks are no match for his telekinetic prowess, and Tetsuo marches through the city undeterred. He’s after the mysterious Akira, an individual who’s rumored to hold the key to all human power. The only thing standing in his way is his friend Kaneda, and the three espers… the child-like mutants empowered with the same sort of abilities that Tetsuo has.

Right up front, I’ll lead with the fact that Akira is the type of movie that kept me away from Anime for so many years. It’s a fantastical story of a military state, a scientific conspiracy, and a mutating psychic superpowered monster, all rolled into one. It’s set in a “near future” that isn’t too far from our own, with motorcycles, cityscapes, tanks and stadiums, but from there all bets are off. Biker gangs race through the streets beating on people, toxic sludge runs through the sewers, and Tetsuo has hallucinations of giant stuffed animals while under examination by the government’s science team. It’s all very strange and foreign feeling in its sensibilities.  

The art is substantially different in its style from what we’re accustomed to in the west. Scenes race by, and everything is very kinetic, but there are times when I felt more attention was paid to the hyper detailed backgrounds than to the characters. Kaneda and his girlfriend look exactly alike. It certainly all is set to a very distinctive, cool soundtrack, though.

“Akira” is very much an adult oriented animated film. It’s hyper violent, and occasionally gory. The themes within are certainly adult as well, with the selfish seeking of power leading to mass destruction serving as a parable for nuclear confrontation. It’s very much an animated action movie, with one battle leading to the next, interspersed with pieces of sci-fi strangeness. It all culminates in one of the most bizarre finales you could wish for, complete with a sprawling, all-engulfing monster, flying psychic children, phantom apparitions, orbital lasers and some cosmic scale events that only add to the confusion.

While I didn’t connect with it entirely, I can see how this movie influenced an entire genre. It is bold and imaginative and violent and strange. I can see how so many people latched on to it. It might not be for everybody, but certainly fans of anime will cherish it.


Daniel Fogarty

65 thoughts on “Readers Recommendations: “Akira”

  1. Awesome. Glad you finally saw this…a true anime classic.

    How do I feel about it?? One of my cat’s name is Akira–and yes, she is a BADASS! 😀 I even say her name like they do in the movie sometimes…A–KEE-RAA!! LOL!


  2. I had a hard time getting into this film. I despised Tetsuo, and the constant name screaming drove me nuts. I can see its appeal, I guess, but it just didn’t click with me. Glad you got more out of it than I did, El Fogs.

    • Yeah, I didnt fully connect with it either, but when it came time to obvjectivey grading it out, I saw its positive attributes.

      To me, it wasn’t so much the name calling as it was the weirdness. LOL. There was some strange stuff going on in this one man!! 😯

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