Film Review: Akira

Akira, directed by Katsuhiro Ohtomo,  is a action-packed anime, and a classic science-fiction tale. It centers around a biker-gang in a cereberal-looking Neo-Tokyo, where they ride and fight-off competitors of the road, like Mad Max. The boys in the gang have a long history together, with trouble in school and their natural recklesness sending them in unwanted places. They are detailed characters, with a group-hierarchy that is ultimately put to the test, when Tetsuo is involed in a government-run project called Akira, which turns him Psionic; he is a super-powered boy, with a head that can’t contain his new pulsating brain. The film looks at Kaneda and his leadership after Kaneda is super-induced, and the relationship between them turning into revenge, and intense action sequences.

The thing about Akira, is that it is really, really cool. With glossed bikes and a sense of rebellion that is always welcomed by younger viewers, it packs a punch as a psychological and tough-kid movie, with a real sense of upcoming danger, especially with the future-seeing babies that hone Akira. Military and political choices intertwine, and the Millitary becomes the decisive decision-maker, looking at results in scientific labs researching Akira, an unusual take on the call-to-arms.  The film can be slow at times, but the visuals are always arresting and the action-induced relationships are well dimensioned.

The movie takes a super-power and an end-result, and makes it into a close study of how the characters deal with it: We know it will not end well for Tetsuo, whose cravings for power are surefire and destructive. The visuals show a sense of space and time, like some eerie city shots of crumbling skyscrapers, and expose a culture of a city not ready for the technology they bear. A timeless anime classic, and an inspiration to other punk anime in later times.

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