Akira (1988) IMDb


Previously rated a 4.


Essentially a form of cyberpunk in the vein of William Gibson and Blade Runner (1982), but imbalanced toward the punk. It's like Sougo Ishii's Burst City (1982) with a budget.


A 1988 government experiment on children with psychic abilities produces a freak accident. One child, Akira, “connects” to a latent memory of panspermic fundamental forces, becoming at once an amoeba and a superman. The effect is similar to a hydrogen bomb wiping out downtown Tokyo, and triggers WW3. In 2019, the hastily rebuilt city is stagnant. Weirdos everywhere have begun to cry for the return of Akira.


A simple interpretation based on Japanese history and pop psychology is readily available, perhaps because some of the theoretical framework grew up around this massively successful film. The planned 2022 Summer Olympics correspond to the 1964 Summer Olympics in booming postwar Tokyo, where ANPO protests were brewing. Tetsuo is Murakami Takashi's disgruntled “Little Boy” (hence the toys, the milk) and Kaneda his oppressive American big brother. It all curves inward: the cult's desire for Akira is the desire for continued victimhood, thence irresponsibility.

Top-notch artwork: Character designs, animation, backgrounds, technical design and special-effects animation, everything works, although much of the technical design is naturally dated. The occasional flaw just makes it look more impressively hand-crafted. The music by Yamashiro Shouji is absolutely brilliant. The plot is a bit rough, but it's hard to say the comic is better; both end in vague abstraction. The journey there sure is a blast: cyberpunk well suited to Western sensibilities and married to the contemporary psychic craze and dense apocalypticism.

It is easy to dream about an alternate reality where Japan understood that more films like this could have earned back their enormous budget overseas, and to dream this were true. I've seen the Japanese version (superior) and both English dubs, including a theatrical screening of the 2001 dub in 2012.

References here: “Don't mention the war!”, En betraktelse av A Silent Voice, Megazone 23 (1985), Death Powder (1986), “Silent Möbius 2” (1992), Metropolis (2001), Redline (2009), “Blade Runner: Black Out 2022” (2017).

Japanese production animation cyberpunk movie