25 Days of Anime - #17: Akira

Futuristic motorbikes, territorial gang warfare, growing political and social unrest, and one military organization's search for a successor to the ultimate being set the stage for 1988's Akira. From a visual standpoint, the film is masterful - watching the opening scenes alone, it's crazy to think all of it was hand-drawn and that it still looks impressive today. The soundtrack is a strange combination of feudal-era Japanese music with 1980s electronic tunes. Akira's presentation is quite fitting - it's a meeting of ideas new and old.

Lead characters Tetsuo and Kaneda live day to day shirking responsibilities in the classroom and spend their nights getting into bike races and bloodsport. That is, until a military group selects Tetsuo as a prime candidate for their experiments. Though they have tried many times to find a proper heir to that which a super-powerful child named Akira accomplished, each attempt to replicate his abilities only went so far. They were left with children who looked the part of elderly people, and only one was able to move about freely on his own two legs.

Immediately following Tetsuo's abduction, Kaneda and friends unsure of how to get him back. Not long after, though, Kaneda enlists the help of a radical political group, his inspiration stemming from his attraction toward a young woman in their ranks. As Kaneda digs deeper and deeper into his friend's disappearance, we as viewers are given a grander view of the hyper-industrialized and artificial future cityscape where all these events occur.

The second half of the film takes a long look into the ideas surrounding the creation of an artificial God-tier being. Much of what Akira presents is way ahead of its time. The film does a magnificent job of answering just enough questions to keep viewers entertained from start to finish, while keeping some open-ended so as not to forget its philosophical aims. A lot of the themes and style of presentation in Akira would later be adopted by sci-fi juggernauts like Neon Genesis Evangelion, and it is pretty awesome to see where many contemporary anime gained inspiration from.

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