Akira, the animated film written and directed by Katsuhiro Ôtomo which came out in 1988, is still impressive for its incredible strength and its amazing technical department. It doesn’t look 30 years old at all!
In Akira we see a post-World War III world in which the Japanese society is sick and corrupt and violence reigns supreme. We see high school students roaming around Tokyo with their motorbikes and engaging in gang wars. We see terrorists, unscrupulous soldiers, powerless politicians and scientists without any sense of ethics. The plot centerw on the friendship between Tetsuo and Kaneda, with the latter trying to save the former from the army that is using him as a laboratory guinea pig.
And to all this let’s add discourses on the nature of humanity, on its purpose in the world and its future, on the decadence of society… and without the confusion which characterizes similar products such as Kôkaku Kidôtai (Ghost in the Shell , 1995) by Mamoru Oshii! In a word: incredible. And it’s incredible also because everything is visually spectacular, with a wonderful animation and with an imagery that lies between Blade runner (1982) and Black rain (1989).
The soundtrack creates an incredible atmosphere, and in general the whole sound department of the film is excellent: the helicopters, the shootings, the motorbikes speeding through the streets of Tokyo… everything is totally realistic!
And what about the themes of the film? Friendship, of course, but also violence as an undeniable and unavoidable presence in our society. And then the visionary finale that for me is close to one of the most important topics of Star Trek, which I adore: are we human beings destined for something “higher”? Can we evolve and become different beings and aspire to understand fully the universe? In Akira I think that the answer is ambiguous: Tetsuo seems to succeed in evolving with the help of the three guinea pigs-children, but only with the help of governmental experiments and synthetic drugs… is this the way? Or maybe it’s too early for this evolution and we have to wait a little longer?
But the purpose of the film is not to answer all these questions. Akira must be watched and re-watched to enjoy its spectacular nature, as well as to try to explore more and more the themes developed by Ôtomo. Ciao!