Set in the futuristic world of 2019, the city of Neo-Tokyo is dealing with a deep, hidden secret that gets the attention of a local street kid named Kaneda. As well as a close friend of his named Tetsuo, who is on a destructive and unstoppable path to find the answers he so desperately needs.
Power, the ability to do something or act upon in a particular way. Power, the capacity, motive, or ability, to persuade others in a certain way. This is one of the major themes that is touched upon in a scene with No. 25 (Kiyoko). She says that Tetsuo made a choice with the newfound ability and now wishes to act on it, in his own malicious fashion. When given a chance or an opportunity to have something big happen, how would one act upon it? When one is given all of the power or abilities in the world, what would one use all of that for exactly? There are two paths and one could only choose one. Each of those two paths has different outcomes and consequences, where there is no turning back except moving forward. That choice is critical for it defines that type of person, to which there are many here.
This movie has a well-rounded cast of characters. Each one is unique and memorable in their own light. The introductions of the street gang, The Capsules, was great at establishing the personalities of two of the main members, Kaneda and Tetsuo. Kaneda is tough and albeit real goofy/funny in parts, but he is a really good character with a super nice bike. Tetsuo is great and it was very nice to see his character throughout. His development in how he became who he is stuck. One buys the friendship the two have and one wants to see Kaneda do everything in his power, to help Tetsuo get through the pain/hardships he’s enduring.
There is a Colonel, who at first may seem like a generic bad guy who just wants to look at risks first, as opposed to turning the other cheek. But no, that is exactly his character. He is a man who is doing what he believes is right and in fact, hates how his political colleagues look at risks first. He wants to show everyone the experiments he is doing will be beneficial to the world, but the corrupt city politicians prove otherwise. One can identify with him and follow his efforts of turning Neo-Tokyo into something refreshing/new.
The three elderly children, Kiyoko, Takashi, and Masaru, were very interesting to learn about their backstory. As well as Akira himself. Being subjected to “harmless” tests by the government in hopes of learning more about the full capabilities of the human mind and potentially, the secrets of the universe. How this film portrays the powers of the mind is vague and confusing, but it keeps one invested greatly. One also sees what that power can do if pushed too far and boy, it goes beyond far.
Animation in the movie is superb. The art style in the movie bears similarities to “Blade Runner,” but not to the point of copying or ripping off. The worlds/environments portrayed were very unique and detailed, especially in the backgrounds. There are certain things or actions taking place in a scene that one would have to go back to look because of the amount of motion happening. I just love the scenes of the city at night, with street and building lights to illuminate the lush colors of the vast landscapes.
Cinematography in the film is all around great. In fact, the way the movie is shot feels like a live-action piece. Which is probably one of the reasons why this impressed many so much back in the day. The film takes advantage of many different camera techniques and film-making in general. There are many low-angles and high-angles. Very nice wide shots of Neo-Tokyo at night and of certain awesome action set pieces taking into place. Great use of Rule of Thirds with everything in the shot being balanced. The cinematography showcases the grand-scale and epicness of the story, but also the little and small things that have their special place too.
Music in the film is great. There are pieces used that translate very nicely to the scene that it is being played on screen. During the opening gang bike chase scene, there were tribal sounds playing in the background. One hears drums and chants, to get one’s own heart pumping with how much energy is being portrayed on screen. There is the eerie, dream-like piece with ghostly echoes when Tetsuo meets the three elderly children for the first time. There was also the pieces that sound orchestral and heavenly to depict scenes that show something divine or god-like. So yes, the music in the film is memorable and one can easily know where it comes from.
This is a movie that is definitely not for children. As it deals with all sorts of heavy and dark subjects. This includes politics, gangs, bloody violence, nudity, swearing, corruption, drugs, etc. This is an adult animation and it doesn’t hold any of that back. The themes/motifs that are presented can be heavy and fly over the heads for people seeing this for the first time.
I feel for that because the first time watching this all the way through, I was left scratching my head as to what just happened and what the things that happened meant. But this my second viewing and I understand a little bit more. The subtly delivered in the film is to the extreme. One really has to pay very close attention to the dialogue and actions that are being delivered. If one loses focus in one scene or two, they could potentially get lost and not understand what is happening and the meaning behind it all. One scene that really struck me clueless, was the scene with Kaneda and his so-so girlfriend Kei. Kei is under the psychic control of Kiyoko, who is telling Kaneda the importance of Akira and the connection he has with Tetsuo. I was flabbergasted the first time seeing this. Now two years have passed, to where I understand it a bit better.
It goes back to the theme regarding power. Kiyoko makes a comparison for Tetsuo, to an Amoeba given the mind and power of a human. What would that Amoeba do if it had those abilities? Tetsuo, chose the dark path and turned his newfound psychic abilities for evil. By the end, he paid the price for tampering with it too much. Which is something that can very well happen to someone with a lot in their hands. Depending on how big that power is, can lead to a disastrous downfall for the ones who abuse it for their own gain. There is Tetsuo who turned into this big blob of guts and flesh. There were short scenes depicting one of the corrupt politicians, who was about to be arrested. Probably for sending his own revolutionary group to capture one of the three children and use him/her for something. There was the opening scene showing the destruction of Tokyo, which is all the fault of scientists not being able to comprehend the mind/full capabilities of the human brain.
Of course, power is not always something that one could use in a physically, but it can be something one could look up to in a philosophical sense. Another theme that this movie throws is the power of worship. With the destruction of Tokyo, citizens needed to look up to someone for hope, that someone is God or in this case, Akira. They are not going to look up to the leaders of the city for answers, they want to seek another path and get answers from someone else.
All in all, this movie is mind-blowing. I can probably keep on writing about this movie for another hour, but maybe for another time. But yes, this is a definite must see. The film has great characters, superb animation, really nice music, really good cinematography, and themes that make one want to think for many hours. I highly recommend watching this if you haven’t seen it. Though it may not be for everyone, due to the heavy things that are touched upon.
After seeing this movie, I’m really forward to the 2020 Olympics.