13 reviews - 51.5 total score (Explanation of the rating system)
avg score: (4.0)

Alternate Titles
Publishing Date1988
Animation Studio 
Genre(s)Action / Sci-fi
Crew/CastCreator/Director - Katsuhiro Otomo
Music - Geino Yamashiro
AvailabilityR1 - Pioneer
Related Works

13. Kohlingen

Japanese animation has steadily become a staple of mainstream Japanese pop culture. The cyberpunk movie Akira, released in 1987 by Otomo Katsuhiro stands alone and above all others. Considered a classic already, and a masterpiece at that, Akira revolutionized anime, creating a world that vaguely resembled Tokyo but was much darker. The gritty action, original characters and concepts, and the amazing animation itself all made the movie a hit. But it is its ability to blend the old and new Japan, just as the culture has been doing for years, which allows Akira to be a symbol of Japan itself as well as one of its most popular art forms

The story of Akira takes place in Neo Tokyo, after World War III. It is a very futuristic place, but does resemble the Tokyo of today, complete with neon lights and towering skyscrapers. Right from the start, you can see a city in chaos. Neo Tokyo's government is in shambles, while rioters protest fervently and meet with violence from police. Amidst all the disorder, a kamikaze biker gang (bosozuko) rides through the city stirring up mischief. This gang, led by a biker named Kaneda, is but a small representation of the larger scale chaos and disarray in Neo Tokyo. They are also the centerpiece of the movie, at least Kaneda and his friend Tetsuo. Already, the movie has all the trappings (futuristic city, post-war, reckless adolescent rebels, violence and mayhem) of the cyberpunk movies people know now. But Akira was one of the first.

The opening scene grips you. Dynamic camera angles showcase the impressively rendered buildings and streets of Neo Tokyo. Traditional, yet still charged, Japanese music plays, offsetting the action as Kaneda and his friends pursue a rival bike gang in a high-speed chase. The combination of music, movement, and setting creates that chilly sensation up your spine…or at least it should. Immediately the viewer is hit with familiar things in Japanese culture (in this case the music), as well as new things that aren't (Energized motorcycles, fantastic technology). And it works.

In an anime context, Akira is a classic masterpiece because it is groundbreaking. The animation is beautiful and at the time was about the best that could be yielded with studio technologies. It introduced as well the cyberpunk, body-horror theme and made it popular. The heroes were rebels, not totally good; the villain was a boy confused and out of control but not totally evil. This “gray area” between good and evil was pretty new stuff in the time of Tezuka's more children friendly anime. Ghost in the Shell , Evangelion , and countless other anime trace their roots to Otomo's work. The movie Akira can be considered a classic, and a masterpiece for many reasons. It is a masterpiece of storytelling, and character development. The animation is excellent, and the art itself breathtaking. The violence and nudity are central to the story, as they are not grossly overdone as many anime that followed Akira have. The movie is a classic because of its innovative ideas. It blends traditional ideas with a kind of new spirit. Ideas like rebirth and rebuilding have always been a central theme of Japanese culture, a culture that has had to rebuild itself numerous times. Another theme of the movie is disaster, something Japanese have known all too well. The Colonel is a symbol of traditional order and custom, Kaneda and the bosozuko one of youthful rebellion, but one strangely responsible in the face of adversity. Along with music, familiar and unfamiliar visuals, and psychic power, the atmosphere of Akira is a mixture of the old and the new. Therefore, not only does the movie represent a revolutionary masterpiece of Japanese animation, it represents Japan as a country and a culture as well.

12. Chris

Akira is one of those “classics” in anime circles. It is also quite old at this point, and it really does show. However, it is actually pretty good with some very interesting effects and ideas.

Animation: The animation is quite good, but horribly dated. You really can see the leaps that anime has made in the last 15 years as far as the actual animation goes. Still, it does get the job done, and has some pretty cool effects.

Sound: This goes from good to mediocre. Some of the sound effects are quite creepy, while some of them are a bit weak (again, probably due to the age.) However, they do fit pretty well with the feel of the movie, so I really didn’t have any problems with anything. Oh yeah, and giant teddy bears are freaky as hell.

Story: For the first 1/4th of the film, the story is a bit weak (and really, I could care less about motorcycle gangs.) The middle 1/2 of the movie is great, though. It has some really twisted effects and situations that are very nice. The last 1/4th of the movie goes a bit downhill again as it goes into some strange, completely nonsensical ending. It certainly looks cool the entire time, but I’m fairly certain that the ending made no sense.

Overall: While I wouldn’t recommend this one to most anime newbies, it is quite good to watch as far as the history of anime is concerned. The fairly good (if odd) plot is something that you’ve seen in other later animes, and the overall feel of the movie is good enough that most people will probably like it.

11. Marshal of Manga

I watched this when I was 12, 15, and 17 years of age. Though I'm not part of the "legions of fans" described on the DVD box, the fact that I came back for further helpings says something about its magnetism.

Everything exists for a reason so what's the reason for human existence? Why do algae and amoeba exist for that matter? And where does mankind's inventive and creative energies come from? Just as monkeys evolved into man, can man turn into super-beings? What's the furthest extent of human biological advancement? I'm sorry to disappoint you, but Akira's not THIS deep, though you can't help wondering.

The movie explores the notion of human essence - how we all possess a sort of energy within us that grants us the powers of a God. This energy remains dormant until we can find a way to tap into it, or alternatively wait for it to manifest itself, as in the case of Tetsuo Shima. An oppressed element of society who is always treated by his supposed best friend as an inferior, what's to stop his ego from overcoming his rationality when he attains more power than even Superman himself? The plot tracks the tragic events leading to Tetsuo's power subsidising even his vast ego, and literally turning him into a monster that spirals out of control.

What amuses me is that Kaneda (the aforementioned 'best friend') tries to kill super-Tetsuo but every time he fires his laser-gun, he calls out Tetsuo's name! Now if you really wanted someone dead, you wouldn't be exposing your intentions would you?

The music is no heaven to the ears, but certainly creates a bleak and eerie atmosphere about it all. Visuals are crisp, though colour, as you would expect for something created 16 years ago, looks rather faded.

Not everyone's cup of tea, but an interesting cup nevertheless.

10. 3rdEyeVision

I have a bit of a beef with shows like this. Yes the animation is cutting edge for it's time and most people hold a nostalgic place in their heart for it because it was " their first" or for whatever reasons. I on the other hand do not feel that Akira is all it could have been. Maybe I'm just stupid, but I did not really get the ending of this movie. I'll admit , I need to watch it again since it's been a while, but I seem to recall this being one of those anime that leaves you hanging and lets the viewer come to their own conclusions. That is fine, but just once I would like to see a well made anime have an " american movie " ending. Is it too much to ask for them to spell it out to me? Again, maybe I was just too young to get it , all I know id , I didn't. By the end of the movie , I was confused as to what had happened, but maybe if I watch it again now, it will make more sense. If nothing else, this was the first anime to show me that not every story gets wrapped up in a neat little package by the end. Sometimes you have to ponder what you just saw and/or watch it again in order to figure out what it means to you . I'm off to go watch it again right now.

9. XxSwtDreamerxX

Akira was something for it's time, I have to admit that. The story was pretty good but there was room for improvement. The ending was a bit mind bottling and the manga is much more detailed. I watched it when I was REALLY young, but I then recently got the DVD and I have to say that I'm definitly not disappointed. It's worth watching and it's worth your money if you bought it.

8. X-MAN

The most famous Anime movie ever in America. It's been said that it's one of the main reasons Anime is popular today in the US. Akira takes place in the year 2019. It's thirty one years after World War III. Neo Tokyo is the location for the battle against the underground rebels. The story follows the relationship between Kaneda and Tetsuo who are in a motorcycle gang . Tetsuo becomes very bitter towards Kaneda leading into trouble.

I felt the movie was rushed and many things were left unexplained. Akira is fairly boring at times and the characters are lacking development.

The visuals are quite impressive for a 1988 film. A great soundtrack as well. I found this movie enjoyable but nothing special. I'm sure I'll watch it again. Akira is worth seeing.

7. Leliel

The timeless classic of biker gangs and military experiments in a postapocalyptic near-future. Featuring a unique soundtrack and stunning animation that still holds its own today, Akira is a truly a landmark title. The overly convoluted storyline suffers from compression (an ongoing manga to a two-hour movie), but repeated viewings will show you more and more. Ultraviolence, political maneuvering, super powers, and even a bit of comedy; many consider this their first "real" anime title and I can think of few better ways to introduce someone to the medium.

6. Yogi

The point to this movie was . . . . ??? There was lots of pretty eye candy, but the theme of the movie was . . . . . ??? WHAT? To look scary? To impress the viewer with special effects? To captivate them with a gripping and compelling storyline?? Actually, scratch the last one.

5. Konoha

After years of hearing about this movie, I finally watched my roommate's new DVD (note - remastering looks awesome!!!). I was floored. The plot is engaging, the music fitting, and the gritty feel of the city makes it seem so real. There is plenty of action, an intriguing mystery, and I really found myself on the edge of my seat wanting to see what would happen next. This is an extremely good movie, do yourself a favor and see it!!

4. Tempy

Akira is still, 13 years after it was released, one of the best animated anime titles out there. Katsuhiro Otomo managed to take his manga series containing well over 2000 pages, and condensed it into a 2 hour long movie. Kaneda and Tetsuo are members of a motorcycle gang in Neo Tokyo, 30 years after old Tokyo was destroyed. Kaneda is the confident leader, while Tetsuo rebels at being treated inferior. These emotions get out of hand when Tetsuo acquires mysterious psychokinetic powers. His rampage across Neo-Tokyo, in search of Akira, the most powerful of the test subjects with these powers, is animated extremely well. While there is an interesting sci-fi story here, as well as the nice flow of varying emotions between Kaneda and Tetsuo, Akira is foremost a pleasant visual and aural action trip through a violent apocalyptic landscape.

3. hakootoko

You can't call yourself an anime fan without having seen Akira at least once. Kid given telekinetic powers; kid gets loose; government goes after kid; kid destroys everything. Top animation for its day that still holds up quite well. The problem, though, with Akira is that it is compressed from a quite long manga and loses a lot of comprehensibility in the process.

2. cron

One of those anime that stands out in a lot of peoples minds. Either it was one of the main ways they were introduced to anime (how I started), or it's just one of those movies that's considered a classic. Its a decent story (as Mechaman said.. the manga is better, same for GITS) with some great animation of the transformation, and the bike =)... It's definitely a must own... just wait a little longer for the release of the DVD by Pioneer (cannot wait to see Pioneer's menu work for it). Oh btw Kaneeeeeeeeeeeeeda... Tetsuoooooooooooooooo...

1. Mechaman

Surely everyone who is in to anime has seen this. And surely everyone has their own idea about what the ending meant (or they just don't care). And surely this could have been a lot better. There are problems with the pacing and you need to have read the original manga to fully understand the story (I haven't read it,so I can't be sure about that though). What Akira has is some of the best animation I have seen and lots of great ideas. The soundtrack is great as well, really original and fitting.

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