Akira, an animated sci-fi epic


James Martinez, Staff Writer

An explosion and white noise. The start of World war 3, and the end of many people’s lives. This is how the 1980s sci-fi epic Akira starts. In its first few moments, Akira has already got the viewer’s gaze and does not falter. Troubled with a rushed production and an incomplete source material : Akira is not perfect. While this much is true, the beauty, music, and impact of Akira are close to perfection.

Akira’s animation is unlike any film of its kind, with 24 frames per second, Akira is gorgeous. “These choices likely resulted in Akira’s enormous — at the time — budget of 1.1 billion yen…  Akira used over 160,000 animation cels to create the detailed scenes and fluid movement in the film,”(Karla Clark, Fandom Writer, https://www.fandom.com/articles/why-akira-was-such-a-groundbreaking-film). All of this contributes to the spectacular visuals of the movie, with not a single second of the film wasted. This vision was all at a cost though, with the full movie not matching the comic since it was in creation.

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To give some examples of what I mean, there were just too many cuts. I think there were more than two thousand cuts in the end.”

— Katsuhiro Otomo

The soundtrack of Akira is one that matches the story’s off the wall and chaotic feel. It mixes the future aesthetic but stays true to the roots of Japanese culture. The composer of Akira, Geinoh Yamashirogumi, was a school teacher and was past his composing days. He agreed to do two pieces for the film even so. In all reality, Otomo needed far more for the movie. But something happened with Geinoh. “So when I brought over the rush animations of the whole movie and all the storyboards, Yamashiro fell in love with it and he ended up composing the entire score for the movie.”(Katsuhiro Otomo, creator of Akira and director of the film adaptation, https://www.forbes.com/sites/olliebarder/2017/05/26/katsuhiro-otomo-on-creating-akira-and-designing-the-coolest-bike-in-all-of-manga-and-anime/?sh=643220ff6d25). 


Akira’s impact on pop culture and creatives around the world is also a high note. Akira is an old film, that much is clear, yet its inspiration and themes are still felt today. The violence and rebellious spirit of the main characters Kaneda and Tetsuo intrigues the viewer. Both are a product of their environment : the same story of civil rights today. We’re protesting in the streets, bracing for the next violent attack and debating how civil to be in confronting a government some say is wildly overreaching.”(Hau Chu, Washington Post writer https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/why-the-pioneering-japanese-anime-akira-remains-relevant-30-years-later/2018/07/12/b7577c74-813f-11e8-b851-5319c08f7cee_story.html). 

Akira’s theme is strong, but so is its inspiration to pop culture. As seen in Kanye West’s ‘Stronger’ video, Akira impacted West in the creation of the video, taking iconic scenes such as Tetsuo’s hospital visits or the several cityscape looks of Neo-Tokyo. West is only one of the many visionaries that is inspired by Akira though, with  The Matrix and Looper being a few more examples. In short, even those who do not know Akira, know the blood of the film. In short, Akira is a ‘must watch’ for anyone who enjoys sci-fi, animation, and film. 

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