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Entry updated 10 May 2021. Tagged: Film.

Animated film (1988). Akira Committee. Directed by Katsuhiro Ōtomo, from a screenplay by Otomo and Izo Hashimoto, based on the graphic epic Akira (December 1982-June 1990 Young Magazine) by Otomo. Animation studio: Asahi. Chief animator: Takashi Nakamura. 124 minutes. Colour.

In its day Akira was the most successful attempt yet to transfer sophisticated, state-of-the-art Comic-book graphics to the screen. Story-boarded in great detail by the Manga comic's own creator, it is set in the teeming edginess of Neo-Tokyo in 2019. The convoluted story deals with two ex-orphanage kids in a biker gang, one tough and one a loser; the "weaker" one, Tetsuo, develops Psi Powers, discovers the remnants of superbeing "Akira" stored at Absolute Zero below the Olympic Stadium, metamorphoses, and becomes (along with others with whom he melds) the seed of a new cosmos. The link between persecution, adolescent angst and psychic power seems to come straight from Theodore Sturgeon's More Than Human (fixup 1953), and the opportunistic plotting draws also on Philip K Dick, Ridley Scott's Blade Runner and many other sources. Though Akira oscillates too extremely between bloody violence, sardonic cynicism (about Scientists, the military, religious cults, politicians, terrorists) and dewy-eyed sentiment, and though the novelistic narrative – which despite weepy moments is rather low on human feeling – is unfolded awkwardly and at too great a length, much can be forgiven. Its sheer spectacle and the density and stylish choreography of its apocalyptic, Cyberpunk ambience made Akira a major landmark in cartoon films. [PN]

see also: Cinema; Japan; Tetsujin 28 Go.


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