If I had to describe “Akira” in one word, it would be “influential.”
That might seem like an easy word to throw around for a 1988 film, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Every single frame of “Akira” is dripping with life and vibrant colors that every animated film since then has aspired to be like. Most animations try desperately to capture the movement of life, but “Akira” is soaking in it, where every piece of animation practically jumps off the screen. Whether that’s the dominating neon landscape of Neo Tokyo, the breakneck yet fluent motion of its high-speed motorbike chases, or just the way its many characters move like real people instead of imitations.
“Akira” is what all Japanese animations aspire to be – cool yet sophisticated, thought-provoking while always trying to entertain, fun yet there’s always a dark side lurking nearby. And with the post-apocalyptic world this film creates and its no-nonsense characters that take life by the reins, it’s not hard to see why this style of storytelling is so successful. This is the moment when the world could finally start taking anime seriously, and see it as its own art form, different from any other style of animation from the rest of the world.
The film is bold and grotesque, but in the same way as other post-apocalyptic films like “Blade Runner” depicting how messy and cluttered the future would be. What separates “Akira” from those films is how well it uses the fluent, descriptive animation to showcase this world, doing things that no other movie can do. For this reason, I respect “Akira” more than any other animated movie for doing something so adult with animation, yet it always looks so stunning.
Final Grade: A-