It’s the End of the World, but it’s the Beginning of the Universe

Akira (1988)

I was thinking the other day about the movies I like and the ones I’d written essays on and I noticed a theme.  I had the thought that maybe I only like movies with beautiful women in them.  Is this true?  No, it can’t be true.  But…maybe it is?  The overwhelming majority of movies do have beautiful actresses in them.  And God bless the movies for granting me the ability to gawk at all manner of beautiful women without fear of the disgusted reproach, pepper spray in eyes, or jealous  husband knifing me in my considerable gut.  Is that the only reason I like the movies?  The women?  This cannot be.  I thought of the manliest movies I like.  Blade Runner?  Yes!  I LOVE Blade Runner.  But, wait…Sean Young plays Rachael, the “more human than human” replicant of my dreams.  Is she my favorite part of the movie?  Yeah, probably.  But I’m on the right track, I know it.  Blade Runner…I’m close…something like Blade Runner…BINGO.  I do know a movie I love without a beautiful woman.  It’s kinda like Blade Runner, except there is no Sean Young.  There are no women at all.  There aren’t even any men.  The movie’s made up of little drawings!  It’s a cartoon!  It’s the 1988 anime classic AKIRA!!!!!

Anime has a reputation for being weird, and I mostly think that’s because it is weird.  I don’t know too much about anime.  I know Hayao Miyazaki is good and generally acceptable fare.  Being into Miyazaki will not get you the nerd status that being into several anime series that are like 900 episodes each will.  It’s normal good movie stuff.  Which is what I like.  There’s an anime movie called Perfect Blue I like too.  But none of the wondrous Miyazaki movies or the dark thriller Perfect Blue stuff will ever come close to being as awesome as Akira.  It’s insanely good, and if you can handle a bit of scary oddness (see picture below) it’s essential viewing.

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“…and if I die before I wake…” Tetsuo’s bad news bear

    Akira was a very critically acclaimed and widely read comic book first.  Katsuiro Otomo wrote and illustrated the book, which was first serialized in 1982.  Then, in 1988, he cowrote and directed the movie version.  That is pretty cool, you don’t usually hear about an artist jumping genres completely like that, or at least not with such a measure of success.

Like Blade Runner, which clearly influenced the visual style of the movie, Akira is set in the year 2019 and tells a futuristic tale in an urban setting.  Instead of the neon, bloated and bleak Los Angeles of Blade Runner we have the neon, bloated and bleak city of Neo Tokyo.  It’s “Neo” because the old Tokyo was blown to hell by a nuclear attack in 1988.  But the similarities between Blade Runner and Akira are mostly superficial: the year, the setting, the futuristic vehicles, the mood.  For one thing, Akira is a way more violent movie. Also the themes are different.  Akira is a story of young people in trouble, a super duper power, friendship, jealousy, corruption, gifted children, the end of mankind, the origins of mankind.  It’s a wild movie.  I know this is a phrase that’s thrown around a lot, but for real, Akira is visually STUNNING.  The motorcycle chase scenes are probably the coolest action sequences of all time.  I love them so much.

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Kaneda living dangerously on his cool motorcycle

Contrary to what DVD covers and posters would have you believe, Akira is not the name of the kid in the red jacket on the motorcycle.  That would be the loveably badass protagonist Kaneda.  Akira is something different.  Since it’s like the big secret of the movie suffice to say that Akira is a very very powerful…thing.  And Akira is a very very powerful movie, too.

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