Mind-blowing, jaw-dropping anime that set the benchmark almost
20 years ago and remains the jewel in the crown. Adapted from his original manga and directed by Katsuhiro Otomo.
Quality seeps through every pore of Akira. The visuals are stunning - from cataclysmic explosions to the infinitesimal detailing of smoke wreaths and ghost flares from bike lights - everything rendered with style and precision. The score is eerie and atmospheric, but never obtrusive. The scale is epic; Tetsuo's transformation at the end of the film and the subsequent fallout is a wonder to behold.
Thematically, it's in a league of its own: you could write pages on
the meaning of Akira... an imagining of the future evolution of Man, in the vein of 2001, as much as it is a reflection of Man's nuclear past; about the mysterious, transformative power of the atom as much as its potential for destruction. Akira is a film that retains its enigma and fascination through repeated viewings.
Perhaps the greatest thing about it though, and something that merely good anime like Ghost In the Shell lack somewhat, is that kinetic energy and drive - never a dull moment, or any sense of expository overload. It's the kind of film that reminds you why anime, at its best, is unique. When it's done as well as this, with a seriousness of intent you'd normally only find in feature films outside of Japan (especially at the time of its release), it tells you a lot about the way comics and animation are deeply embedded in Japanese culture - seen as a valid, mainstream medium, not just the flickering-light basement preserve of geeks and misfits.
Dir. Katsuhiro Otomo, 1991