I first saw Akira over winter break last year in a movie theater near my home town. It had been over twenty-five years since its original debut in Japan but after seeing it for the first time, I understood why it is so critically acclaimed to this very day. Not only was the animation far ahead of its time, Akira revolutionized the genre and allowed more animation like it to be localized to a western audience, specifically the U.S.A.
The story takes place in the year 2019, where the original Tokyo has been destroyed in nuclear war and has been rebuilt as Neo-Tokyo. The plot revolves around Shotaro Kaneda, the leader of a motorcycle gang, and Tetsuo Shima, his best friend. Throughout a series of strange events, Tetsuo is transferred to a top secret government facility where they run tests on him and discover that he has the potential to use unbelievable psychic powers. Consumed by his own incredible strength, Tetsuo goes on a rampage, destroying everything in his path. He learns about a being that is very similar to himself named Akira, who has been locked away by the government and goes on a mission to confront him. Meanwhile, Kaneda must try to talk sense into his friend before the entire city is destroyed again and millions of lives are lost.
Akira pretty much set the standard for Japanese animation after its initial release in 1988. It is action packed, over the top, and a hell of a lot of fun. It is very bloody and violent which some people say distract from the complex story that is going on around it but I disagree. It might be because I have developed a strong stomach for gore over the years, but I thought the violent scenes, especially the most brutal ones, really complimented the movie overall as it is an epic animated science fiction thriller. The animation is still breathtaking to say the least. In a time where animators didn't have the luxuries of the advanced technology we have today, it is unbelievable how much work and dedication went into creating this movie. From intense fight scenes to serene pans of landscapes and environments, Akira really nails it in every sense of the word.
Overall, Akira is a classic in Japanese animation and it's hard to think what animation would be like today if this masterpiece was never created to inspire thousands of animators working today.