Movie Time - Akira (1988)
So recently I have watched the animated movie Akira. A cyberpunk based anime about a world filled with corrupt governments and cities filled with biker gangs. As a first I can explain what cyberpunk films are. Cyberpunk is a subgenre of science fiction, a world dominated by cybernetic enhancements or advanced technology in general. Though what makes it different from futuristic views is the societal views in cyberpunk films. The society is rampant of crime and illegal acts, along with the general idea of a profit driven government, hell bent on power and money than the people they rule. Back to Akira, we are first introduced to the main characters Tetsuo and Kaneda. Both apart of the Kaneda biker gang. Kaneda is the face of the movie with his awesome red motorcycle tuned to his riding style. So it shows Tetsuo, the runt of the group who was envious of Kaneda’s bike, try to ride it but fails. Their introduction is a motorcycle chase against the Clown biker gang. Which really does consist of masked clowns on bikes. The biker gang decides to go hunt the Clown gang. This is a fantastic introductory scene as it is a bike chase through the city of Neo-Tokyo where holograms and tall buildings are at every turn. As they chase through Neo-Tokyo we get a second story introduction of a little boy running away from the army with a strange man with a gun. The kid’s name is Takashi, which is oddly the color green. Which in my head raised flags as he must be something special to be running from the army with a strange unnamed man. The two run through a parade eventually getting cornered. The man gets shot down and they kid witnesses a death which pushes him over the edge. The greatest part about the animation is the feeling portrayed in the shockwaves and emphasis on the character’s body movements. All of this combine to make you feel the child’s power when he decided to destroy buildings nearby and blow up the army. The kid runs to a close highway as we resume back to
Tetsuo chasing the Clown gang ahead of Kaneda.
In Tetsuo’s perspective we see how the confrontation with the Clown gang wasn’t for a birthday and more of a violent drive by. Kaneda’s gang is one of orphan kids in a poverish school with teachers who don’t care about them and they could care less about the school. So they cannot afford weapons of high caliber so they make do with bats and pipes they find on the streets. Kaneda ends up slowing down after a bit warning Tetsuo of crossing territories is dangerous. Tetsuo being the impulsive kid he is wanted to show his strength and pushed on to get one Clown and chase a Clown onto a highway… Long story short Tetsuo ends up getting the Clown and meeting Takashi in a very bad way. The way Tetsuo says hello is by crashing his bike directly into the kid ending in a huge explosion. Kaneda ends up catching up to see his friend Tetsuo unconscious on the floor. A second later the army surrounds Kaneda’s gang and Takashi. Tetsuo and Takashi get taken and Kaneda and his gang get sent to prison for questioning. While in the police station Kaneda meets a girl named Kei who is coincidentally in a rebellion against the government’s secrecy and corruption. They all get released and Kaneda’s scene gets faded into Tetsuo being detained and tested on. Takashi is revealed to be an esper, or ESP project guinea pigs. Takashi is not the only one as there is 2 others, Kiyoko and Masaru. A trio of experiments who have unexplainable power like telepathy and telekinesis. Through them they awaken Tetsuo’s power and he goes on a drunken rampage. He is confused with his power and goes around the laboratories killing many army men and scientists to get to the espers.
Kaneda is resumed to be hanging with his friends and spots Kei trying to rebel by killing a corrupt governor and follows her. After this he meets the rebellion Kei is in and teams up with them to get Tetsuo back and end the government with a swift covert mission. As he does this Tetsuo is destroying the facility and Kaneda with Kei traverse the sewers to get to him. Tetsuo is about to kill the espers but Kaneda comes in time to try to calm Tetsuo down but that just enrages him more as Kaneda tries to calm him with tough love. Which in my opinion is something Tetsuo is not too hot with as he was left from his parents and was the punching bag of the group as he was the youngest kid in the gang. Which I can see why Tetsuo is so motivated to show them he is not a mistake. Tetsuo ends up storming off and into the streets of Neo-Tokyo. This is where we learn why the movie is called Akira. Akira was a young boy who had extreme universal powers, powers that ended half of the world. The espers told Tetsuo before he left that Akira was held at a secure point near the colosseum.
Then we get a shot of Tetsuo destroying everything in his path to get to Akira. At the same time Kaneda gears up with his laser rifle he gets and his iconic red bike. Kei however gets taken from the espers who try to use her to stop Tetsuo. Tetsuo however is already too powerful and destroys the army in his way and religious people following him. To go in deeper of the religious people, they are mostly a cult based around the idea that Akira was the second coming of god and worshipped him as so. So seeing Tetsuo destroy buildings with a yell made them think their god is roaming this streets as a calling. Though they follow Tetsuo he ends up killing everyone including the military on a bridge battle which ends with no bridge. Kaneda is too late as Tetsuo gets to Akira. The only thing is the huge twist which was that Akira is “dead.” The only things kept in the huge chamber Tetsuo destroyed was Akira’s organs for testing. When Kaneda comes he ends up putting up a good fight with Tetsuo before getting shut down from the disadvantage of not being a telekinetic wielder. Eventually Tetsuo gets his arm blown off from a military satellite weapon which Tetsuo ends up destroying. Then he goes on to replace his arm with a metal prosthetic one. Tetsuo who was very much confused goes to the colosseum and the espers follow him. Tetsuo brings along all of Akira’s body parts confused of what he’s found. Surprising the military general follows too and explains to Tetsuo Akira has been long dead. Ever since the huge explosion which wiped out Tokyo in the final battle of World War 3. Tetsuo gets distracted from his girlfriend Kaori who was barely in the movie. He sits down in a throne like chair and has headaches beyond belief. Which is all because while Tetsuo was distracted from Kaori the espers were awakening or calling to Akira through his organs. Oddly enough Tetsuo ends up mutating and growing in size. Which multiplies his body mass by 100 fold and which was quite weird as it eats Kaori and the general. Last second Kaneda comes and here is where we see their care for each other show. Though Tetsuo has killed his friend, girlfriend, all the chaos in Neo-Tokyo and abandoned Kaneda, Kaneda still cares for him enough to help him. So to “help” Tetsuo Kaneda ends up shooting Tetsuo with his laser rifle on his red bike which I’d say first time was the most confusing and awesome scenes I have ever scene. Akira’s organs end up emitting a white light which is not just a calm lamp. It’s the same explosion which happened at the end of WW3. This explosion ends up eating up Tetsuo and Kaneda. Takashi as his last scene goes in to retrieve Kaneda and get him to safety. The movie comes to a close with scenes of Akira and the espers pre-experiments. As it is about to fade to black we see Kaneda riding off with Kei on his red bike with the apparent last remaining biker gang member.
That is a whole lot of summarizing of a 2 hour movie which adapted a 2000 paged manga. As explanations I want to say I got most of my knowledge from a Youtube video explaining the metaphors in the movies (cited below). Tetsuo first off is the living embodiment of Tokyo’s rampant mutations due to the radiation poisoning. He also shows rapid change from being the runt of the gang to the worshipped unstoppable being towards the end. The explosion at the end was not just an explosion but more of a result of a transformation of a being to god. Tetsuo essentially made his own universe as did Akira. Which represents Japan wanting to create a world of leaving behind their terrible past of WW2. The colosseum was a literal representation of the olympic stadium Tokyo holds that was present for the 1964 Summer X Games. Which shows the stadium also is a representation of the fast revival of Tokyo after the war. Tetsuo’s prosthetic arm symbolizes Japan’s integration of modern technology. All and all the entire movie was very much enjoyable aside the body horror. I’d say for bare movie and no deep meaning the movie is quite confusing and takes a few watches to understand what is going on. Through all of that I can clearly see why this 1988 anime film is still appraised. I’d give it a solid 9.5 green man childs out of 10.
WiseCrack. Akira. YouTube, 29 Aug. 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=4iGnPZp6_-Q.