animated movie Akira © Dragon / Nakamura / Telecom Animation

Reviews for Akira

2.88 stars / 16 ratings
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Toonboy's avatar
KF Animation Editor
Reviews: 319

Toonboy's Review

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posted: Jan 09, 2009
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Considered the mother of all animes, Akira was revolutionary at the time it came out, and many anime fans tend to look at you funny if you see it as anything less than perfect. The animation was slick at the time but now seems average when compared with even Miyazaki's movies of the decade.

Akira seemed to be the ultimate influence for Final Fantasy VII, with all the good and bad baggage that follows. Akira is dark and possesses unsympathetic, hard edged heroes. Final Fantasy VII even liberally borrowed Akira's infamous motorcycle battle scene. Watching it again, however, it's not all that impressive.

Right away Akira sets us up to expect violence for the sake of violence. The first thing we see is Tokyo being destroyed by a nuclear blast. Funny how 31 years later it looks like civilization is still thriving. Gang members scowl and slink about the shadows. The movie tells us that the government is clashing with protesting students, but we're never shown why. We get a small feeling that something isn't right when the movie shows us government creeps chasing a boy with mysterious powers after riddling his protector with machinegun fire. It's like we're dropped in the middle of something. We can't see the beginning of the book. But neither can we see the end.

Akira pulses with an exotic energy. The movie stops just short of making the main characters seem like completely worthless pieces of trash like so many other "post-apocalyptic" animes. Ultimately the look of the movie is better than the acting or the characterization.

JTurner's avatar
Fledgling Reviewer
Reviews: 9

JTurner's Review

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posted: Oct 28, 2008
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This ambitious, multi-million dollar animated adaptation of Katsuhiro Otomo's best-selling graphic novel series is spectacular, both on a technical and visceral level. A lot of effort was obviously put into making the animation as fluid and lively as possible, with stunning results that rivals Disney's finest. Most Japanese animated films tend to have a somewhat stilted frame rate (for economical reasons), but there's no denying that AKIRA is one of the more smoothly-animated features to come from the Land of the Rising Sun.

That said, this is NOT a Disney/family-friendly kind of film. Neither is it for the squeamish of viewers (or the shallowest of minds, for that matter). This is a gritty, futuristic, post-apocalyptic tale involving juvenile delinquents, corrupt government politicians, and a cautionary message about the misuse of supernatural powers. Trying to describe the plotline may be a bit of a challenge, because at times it comes across as convoluted and difficult to follow. (This can mainly be attributed to the fact that Otomo was trying to compress his 2,000+ page graphic novel into one two-hour film.) It will take more than one viewing to make any sense out of this labyrinthine story.

AKIRA is marketed as an "adult" film, for it contains an extreme amount of intense violence (very graphic at that) as well as one brief but very disturbing scene where a female character is almost raped. The really gruesome stuff occurs in the last thirty minutes in which a young teenager (who happens to be the angst-ridden anti-hero of the story) has his arm amputated by a space satellite (with bloody results), gets a metallic replacement, and transforms into a gross, indistinguishable mass of flesh and gore. The latter sequence is one of the multiple "bizarre" set pieces present in the movie (others which include a nightmare in which cuddly, innocent-looking toys grow to enormous size and threaten a medical patient). The obviously frightening aspects of such moments will obviously alienate family-friendly audiences, yet at the same time explode with imaginative, grotesque visuals rarely matched in other films (unless you count Hayao Miyazaki's works).

Also worthy of mention is the background music by the Genioh Yamashiro Gumi, an eccentric concoction of percussion, electronics, chimes, and chanting. Like the movie, it thunders through the speakers with an aggressive, fast-forward pace and bizarre, surreal tones, ranging from energetic to mellow. It sounds like an unconventional accompaniment to such a movie, but it works.

The film is considered the pinnacle of Japanese animation, yet, as with many of the greatest films of our time, it has had its share of detractors. In particular, it took me more than one viewing to finally accept AKIRA. I first saw the movie when I was thirteen, totally unprepared for such a violent, confusing yet beautiful animated movie. To be honest, I disliked it. When I saw the movie again five years later, it wasn't the bloodletting or the plot that offended me, but the dubbing (not produced, but released by Streamline Pictures), which grated on my ears and ranks as the worst English Anime dub I ever heard. (To those of you who are fans of that dub who may be reading this, I'm sorry, but I absolutely can't stand listening to it again.) But after obtaining this more polished, professional sounding version by Geneon, I at last came to accept AKIRA as a remarkable achievement in animation with strong, universal messages resonating within its turbulent, gory nature and multi-layered storyline. Even so, I wouldn't recommend this movie for the casual fan, but for animation buffs and as an exercise in artistry, action, and morality for adults, few films match AKIRA as a worthy contender in that category.

KloKei07's avatar
Animated Enthusiast
Reviews: 42

KloKei07's Review

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posted: Sep 10, 2007
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Although Akira wasn't the first anime I saw, it sure was the first that truly left an impression on me. One of the reasons was the fact I watched it when I was probably 12 years old, so yes it was that mix of curiosity and shock of watching something particularly violent and mature. In any case, with the time it has become one of my favorite movies of all time, and at the same time (with the multiple re-watches) I have learned to appreciate both its weak and strong points. Sure, the plot and characters may look really underdeveloped and the extreme violence and pacing distracts from what is an already a complicated story with lots of delicate subjects. Still, this is the type of movie that gets straight from this century: visceral, direct, fast-paced and visually realistic considering than this is in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo.

The people who dislikes the movie should seriously considered a second view, it's the only way you can see how amazingly conceived is Akira. The political themes, destructive science and the futuristic environment, become the elements that fit the true essence of the story: the conflict of human emotions in an already dehumanized society. Both the protagonist, Kaneda and Tetsuo struggle and fight each other as a consequence of corruption and power, the second taking over Tetsuo who directs to his inevitable self-destruction.

The truth is Katsuhiro Otomo it's far from being a really good director ( the best example is his inflated visual epic Steamboy). And if Akira is considered the best work of Otomo is mainly because the movie follows his underlying style, which prefers visuals over plot development. The result is a movie that works pretty well in both levels and even has time to throw some truly shocking scenes (the flesh and blood monster in which turns Tetsuo, or the images of destruction made by the religious groups).

In the end, you may hate it or love it, you may shock or hypnotize by the extreme visuals, but if Akira was the groundbreaking animation of the eighties now is simply the best example of landmarking animation and perfect execution.

lonely_princess's avatar
KF Animation Editor
Reviews: 106

lonely_princess' Review

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posted: Mar 01, 2007
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To say this movie was confusing would be an understatement. I know it is supposed to be a masterpiece in Japanese animation but it goes on far too long. I dont know if you need to be familiar with the manga but the storyline is weak all I got out of it was some punk kid gains psychic powers then uses them to blow things up.

Also can anyone explain to me who excatly the hero of the story is as I couldnt find anyone I liked or sympathised with.

Personally as I was soo bored I kept flicking between the english and the japanese dubbing for something to do.

Pat2's avatar
Toon Addict
Reviews: 76

Pat2's Review

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posted: Oct 31, 2006
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Akira, a 1988 japanese anime, is one of those films that try to make you re-think concepts about life you would usually not. It was one of the first animes that I saw which had that feeling. I don't give this movie more than one and a half stars because I found it very boring. I mean, the "story" is really bizarre, don't get me wrong, I've seen a lot of anime but this movie just didn't quite do it for me. In order not to give any spoilers I'd just recommend watching it and try to have a mind as open as possible (because this movie is to strange, at least for most of the westerns, I think). If "Akira" focused more in the story and less in the flashy effects it could have been better. Also I didn't like the people's faces, they seemed to be drawned by someone who tried too hard to copy the original manga, regardless of how it might turn out. There are almost no movies I'd say: "don't watch", but if you do watch Akira don't be sorprised to be confused at the end (or troughout the movie for that matter).

POSSIBLE SPOILER: What is that "I AM TETSUO" at the very end of the movie? It just didn't make any sense.
END SPOILER.

I may be a little hard on this movie, but believe me there are plenty of better anime, even post-apocaliptic anime than Akira.

JNoyer's avatar
Animated Enthusiast
Reviews: 49

JNoyer's Review

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posted: Jan 09, 2006
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So, "Akira" was the first anime that was largely recordnized by european and US audiences. That doesn't make it a good movie, though. It has some great backgrounds and some nifty sequences but as a whole the animation is very clunky and the end with the mutating boy is down-right sick (and I'm a fan of movies like "Day of the Dead" so I'm not so easily shocked my movie images).
The story that lies within "Akira" is interesting, I admit, but the final animated product is boring, sometimes stupid and dull and definatly not one of the great classics of japanese feature animation. Go watch something from Studio Ghibli instead.

Magnus's avatar
Reviewing Ninja
Reviews: 73

Magnus' Review

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posted: Oct 14, 2005
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I have to admit, this was the first anime I ever saw, and in retrospect, I'm glad. There is a lot of anime out there--and I do mean a LOT of anime--that would have wounded my perception of the genre, anime that I could never enjoy or respect unless I had a memory span of about 60 seconds and a brain that was flattened by a steamroller. Akira, however, is an exceptional film that I guarantee will catch your interest.

It's difficult to summarize the story, so read the reviews below...they do a pretty good job. For now, picture a towering, futuristic metropolis with enormous corporate buildings and neo-bike gangs roaming the streets. The bikes are one of the coolest things ever to come to anime, and today's customized motorcycles are already starting to look like them.

The problem with Akira is that it's a little hard to follow your first time watching it, and it's easy to forget the names and roles of the characters. However, the depth of the story set a new standard for sci-fi animation that is seldom breached...although the main idea, I believe, is somewhat shallow. It's really more of a religious idea about the nature of life than a thought-provoking argument or occasion. I guess what I'm trying to say is that the viewer doesn't have much room to ask "What if," "How," or "What does this entail." You just have to accept the story's idea and go with the flow, a flow which can move very quickly at times.

Exciting, deep, cinematic, imaginative. But it just doesn't have the lasting impact of a masterpiece. I guess it's fair to say I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed the Cowboy Bebop Movie, although the two have very different appeals.

dizoburo's avatar
Fledgling Reviewer
Reviews: 5

dizoburo's Review

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posted: Jan 17, 2005
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My sisters don't understand this movie. I'll admit, that I don't understand it entirely. Yet, I find myself continually watching it on DVD or whenever I catch it on cable TV. I haven't looked at the graphic novel it comes from because i think there are like forty of them. Even still, it intrigues me.

I don't think the animation is that bad. Most of the time, when I think of anime, I picture a landscape scene and a character monologuing over it. In Akira, it seems to be cut more like a real movie.

I just like watching this movie. Repeatedly.

lupercal's avatar
KF Animation Editor
Reviews: 517

lupercal's Review

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posted: Jul 28, 2004
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Inkwolf has done a good job of outlining the plot below, so I'll limit myself to generalisations and value judgements :)

Akira was the film which broke Anime to a wider western audience. It arrived with a lot of pomp and fanfare. I was very excited. Finally some mature adult-oriented animation!

Unfortunately Akira taught me some lessons about anime which by and large I still stand by today. Namely that it's aimed at young teenagers, not adults that it often sacrifices character development in favour of intricate and often borderline incomprehensible plotlines, and that the animation isn't very good.

Let me expand a bit on that last point. When people rave about how amazing Japanese animation is, do they actually understand what they're saying? The _backgrounds_ are often wonderful, but the actual animation - literally the movement of a character from one frame to the next - is generally inferior, jerky and clunky compared with the best American product. I would argue this is even true of films as recent and lauded as 'Spirited Away' (which BTW I think is a masterpiece despite that shortcoming). The cel painting too usually appears flat and two dimensional compared with the more opulent US style. Forgive me if I've digressed into generalisations about Japanese animation, but they're as true of Akira as most other examples.

Ok, the story itself. Well I certainly won't deny that it's more intellectually challenging than the average Disney film. In fact there's probably a great Sci-fi novel lurking there. But there's a difference between a clever plot, and a blink-and-you'll-get-lost screenplay. I was hanging in there, but the last half hour, which seemed to consist of an endless sequence of things inexplicably flying up into the air, just left me rather bored and irritated.

Akira is above average for anime. There is much worse stuff out there, but there there is better and more coherent stuff, too. The movie was certainly a trailblazer. It's just a shame that 80% of what came down that trail behind it was about 13 year old girls flying giant robots.

It's an important movie, no doubt of that. But it isn't a great one.

In a sentence: Akira has brains, but I can't find its soul.

Celeborn's avatar
Newcomer
Reviews: 2

Celeborn's Review

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posted: Apr 27, 2004
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I'll admit, that most people who watch this film will see it as "disturbing" or "confusing," but it truly is an amazing film. The animation is breathtaking, and the story really makes you think. Not your typical stupid-easy-film. You just need an open mind. I love it!

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