Friday, 17 February 2012

Akira (1988)

In a post-apocalyptic Tokyo a young biker gang member named Tetsuo is transformed by a secret government experiment. Tetsuo gains extraordinary telekinetic powers which eventually lead to his rampaging downfall.

Fig 1: Tetsuo
Akira’s Neo-Tokyo is a highly atmospheric and grimily stylistic megalopolis that echoes the cyberpunk style of Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner (1982). The films rich atmosphere is arguably derived from visuals only achievable in animation, “gusts of wind from chopper blades, ground shattering in blocks, ka-tooming bursts of fiery explosions, the strobes, lights, and neon of Neo-Tokyo in 2019, even the rush and squeal of racing motorcycles. And there are the visions of Tetsuo.” (Gibson 2010).  This, along with the epic scope of the film itself, understandably makes one cynical about the prospects of the 2013 live action remake. The films gritty, pulpy, visceral and sometimes violent sense of atmosphere makes it a visually engrossing experience.

Fig 2: Neo-Tokyo
Akira also boasts a soundscape with an equal level of engrossing power to that of its visual landscapes. The booming, industrial ambience fills one with a tense and potent sense of a society on the edge of collapse.  

The film explores the themes of youthful rebellion, atomic disaster and powers corrupting influence. These themes are heavily rooted in Japanese culture but have international resonance.  Akira is yet another example of how animated film does not need to conform to the family friendly, Disney model. Critic Jay Cocks describes the film as, “a violent adventure tale, a head- bending sci-fi morality play and a venture into the higher realms of animation art that kicks all the squishier conventions of the genre right in their well-upholstered butt” (Cocks, 1993). The film, although dark in tone, does not succumb to the worst excesses of the animi genre. 

Image List
Fig 1, Tetsuo, Available at:

Fig 2, Neo-Tokyo, Available at:


Jay Cocks, 1993, Time Magazine,  A Pulp-Style Pop Epic, Available at:,9171,977583,00.html

Brian Gibson, 2011, VUE Weekly, Neo-Tokyo, Available at:

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