Aki (James Bond)
|James Bond character|
|Portrayed by||Akiko Wakabayashi|
|Affiliation||Japanese Secret Service|
Aki is a fictional character created for the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice. In it, Aki, played by Akiko Wakabayashi, is a young female ninja agent with the fictional Japanese government agency Secret Intelligence Service (SIS). She aids James Bond against the SPECTRE in Japan until she is killed by an assassin who is trying to kill Bond, upon which she is replaced by her fellow agent Kissy Suzuki. Critical reception of the character was generally very positive.
Aki does not appear in Ian Fleming's 1964 novel. She was originally named Suki in Roald Dahl's screenplay. According to The James Bond Films, the character was "Dahl's tribute to the Japanese woman of the Sixties". Mie Hama was cast to play Suki, but she had trouble learning English; to solve the problem, she and Akiko Wakabayashi, originally cast to play the part of almost-silent Kissy Suzuki, decided to swap their respective roles. Wakabayashi then convinced director Lewis Gilbert to change the name of her character to Aki.
In the film
By the time of the events of You Only Live Twice, Aki is already experienced enough to fulfill her mission correctly and is one of the top agents in the SIS, displayed by the fact that she was entrusted to participate in what was to be her most important and ultimately her last mission. Aside from this, not much is known about her background before the mission, or about her family or personal life.
Like all the other operatives, Aki is an accomplished ninja and an expert driver who often uses her skills at driving her white Toyota 2000GT sports car equipped with several high-tech communication devices. Through the film Aki displayed an affinity for wearing traditional Japanese garments and is seen in several different kimono clothes with her hair arranged in traditional Japanese styles. She is, however, occasionally seen in more practical western-style outfits with simpler hair arrangements when her mission requires. Despite her seemingly genteel manner, Aki can be professional when she needs to be and maintains a high standard of physical fitness, displayed by her ability to survive her missions and avoid capture. She also showed immense courage, risking death several times during the mission and maintains a feeling of loyalty towards others in her missions, particularly James Bond, with whom she spends at least two passionate nights.
Aki is first seen when 007 meets her at a sumo wrestling show. Bond is there to meet a contact who will take him to Mr. Henderson, M's recommended contact in Japan. He confirms that Aki is his contact by saying the code words "I love you" to her. Aki takes Bond to meet Henderson in her car. After Henderson is killed during their meeting, Bond attacks and kills one of Henderson's killers. Taking the man's place, he is driven to the Osato Chemical Works HQ, where he is discovered by the villains. Aki rescues him, using her skills as a driver, then takes him to meet her boss, Tiger Tanaka. It is after this that a bikini-clad Aki invites Bond to spend the night with her, famously saying "I think I will enjoy very much serving under you", before Bond carries her to bed.
The next morning, Bond returns to the Osato Chemical Works and meets Blofeld's henchman Mr. Osato. Leaving after the meeting, he is pursued by SPECTRE gunmen, from whom Aki rescues him again. The gunmen chase Aki's car and she leads them out into the countryside, where a SIS helicopter lifts the gunmen's car off the road with a giant magnet and drops it into the sea (in 2012, Complex ranked it as the sixth best James Bond chase scene). She then takes him to a quayside to investigate a ship he suspects is being used by the villains. When investigating the ship Bond and Aki are attacked by SPECTRE henchmen. Bond tells her to leave and report to Tanaka; Aki refuses to leave Bond at first, but eventually complies.
Aki next appears after Bond is captured and almost killed by Helga Brandt, when she meets with him back at Tanaka's headquarters and Bond is about to go on another mission that she cannot accompany him on. By the time Bond returned to the base in Kyoto, Aki was already fully briefed on the plan to disrupt SPECTRE's plot although (much to her disappointment) she could not play the part of Bond's "wife" in the cover operation, she did however help with Bonds ninja training and in his process of "becoming Japanese". This would prove to be Aki's final contribution to Bond's mission in Japan.
Death and aftermath
Ultimately Aki never had the chance to take part in the final assault on SPECTRE. Shortly after Bond's arrival at the ninja academy, an assassin stealthily enters the bedroom where Bond and Aki are sleeping together and lowers a thin cord to Bond's mouth, intending to poison him. (Dahl took inspiration for this by watching a similar scene in the first film in the Shinobi no Mono ninja film series.) At the last moment, Bond turns in his sleep and Aki moves to his position the poison falling onto her lips instead which she inadvertently swallows. As the poison quickly takes effect Aki's gasps manage to wake Bond who then kills the assassin. Bond's attention then turns to Aki, now fully awake and trying to speak in between gasps. Ultimately all she can manage is "I'm... I'm..." before choking to death. The scene was accompanied by the musical track "The Death of Aki" by John Barry.
Despite the prominent role she had played up to this point, Aki is quickly forgotten. Bond simply explains to Tanaka that; "she's dead, poisoned" and resolves to continue the mission. From this point onwards Aki is never mentioned nor referenced again. The aftermath of her killing is not seen and the next day both Bond and Tanaka appear untroubled. Kissy Suzuki is then introduced who fulfils what had been Aki's role for the remainder of the film.
Various lists frequently ranked Aki among the best Bond girls ever, including as tenth by Zimbio in 2008 ("So beautiful you almost forget that Sean Connery has been ridiculously made up to look Japanese. Almost"), ninth by Postmedia News the same year ("Kissy Suzuki is considered the 'main' Bond girl in this film, but Aki has a bigger role and is more memorable"), and eight by WagerWeb in 2009 ("Hot Japanese agent, she kicks ass and look damn fine doing it. Besides, she dies to save James Bond, you have to give her some extra credit for that"). According to UGO, "although Akiko Wakabayashi is charming in the role, her chemistry with Bond is disappointing, and she lacks both the look and the attitude to make her a good Bond girl," but in another article UGO praised her as "Bond's super-hot guardian angel". Den of Geek included her in their 2008 list of ten James Bond characters who deserve their own spin-off.
- Steven Jay Rubin, The James Bond Films: A Behind the Scenes History (p.75)
- Paul Simpson, The Rough Guide to James Bond (p.11)
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