Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Katsuhiro Otomo|
by Katsuhiro Otomo
|Music by||Shoji Yamashiro|
|Edited by||Takeshi Seyama|
|Budget||¥1.1 billion ($11 million)|
|Box office||¥750,000,000 (Japan)|
Akira (stylized as AKIRA) is a 1988 Japanese epic animated science fiction action film directed by Katsuhiro Otomo. It was written by Otomo and Izo Hashimoto and based on Otomo's manga of the same name, focusing mainly on the first half of the story. The film depicts a dystopian version of Tokyo in the year 2019, with cyberpunk tones. The plot focuses on teenage biker Tetsuo Shima and his psychic powers, and the leader of his biker gang, Shotaro Kaneda. Kaneda tries to prevent Tetsuo from releasing the imprisoned psychic Akira. While most of the character designs and settings were adapted from the original manga, the restructured plot of the movie differs considerably from the print version, pruning much of the last half of the manga.
The film has maintained a large following as a cult film since its theatrical release, and is widely considered to be a landmark in Japanese animation. It is considered by many critics to be one of the greatest animated and science fiction movies of all time.
In 1988, Tokyo is destroyed by an explosion and World War III begins. Thirty-one years later, the city of Neo-Tokyo is built on a landfill in Tokyo Bay. One of its residents is Shotaro Kaneda, a delinquent who leads a bōsōzoku gang known as the Capsules. One night, the Capsules fight against the rival gang known as the Clowns. During the fight, Kaneda's best friend, Tetsuo Shima, nearly crashes his motorcycle into Takashi, a small man with psychic powers (esper) released from a secret government laboratory by a dissident underground revolutionary organization. Takashi is captured by armed soldiers and Tetsuo is hospitalized. When Kaneda and his gang are interrogated, he encounters Kei, a member of the revolutionary group, and arranges her release along with the Capsules.
Meanwhile, Colonel Shikishima and Doctor Onishi discover that Tetsuo possesses psychic capabilities similar to Akira, a young esper who caused Tokyo's destruction. Kiyoko, another esper, has visions of Neo-Tokyo's destruction, and the Colonel tells Onishi to kill Tetsuo if he thinks the power may get out of control. Tetsuo flees from the hospital and meets up with his girlfriend, Kaori, and they steal Kaneda's motorcycle. When Tetsuo and Kaori are confronted by the Clowns, Kaneda and the Capsules save them both. Tetsuo begins to suffer a psychic migraine, and is taken back to the hospital.
Saving Kei from being captured after a guerrilla attack, Kaneda is led to the rebels' headquarters and joins them after overhearing their plans to capture Tetsuo. Meanwhile, Takashi, Kiyoko, and Masaru — another Esper — unsuccessfully attempt to kill Tetsuo. Tetsuo goes on a violent rampage through the hospital, intent on killing the espers. Kaneda, Kei, and the Colonel are unable to stop Tetsuo's rampage. Discovering that Akira lies in cryonic storage underground next to Old-Tokyo's new Olympic Stadium's construction ground, Tetsuo flees.
Using Kei as a medium, Kiyoko explains that Tetsuo must be stopped, and has the youths escape from detainment before taking Kei away to fight Tetsuo. Desperate to find Tetsuo, the Colonel places Neo-Tokyo under martial law. Tetsuo accosts Yamagata and Kai, two members of the Capsules, and kills Yamagata. He lays waste to the city as he makes his way to the Stadium. Meanwhile, upon learning of Yamagata's death from Kai, Kaneda follows Tetsuo to the stadium to exact revenge. When Tetsuo arrives at Akira's cryonic dewar flask, he defeats Kei and exhumes the Akira vault from the ground but discovers only Akira's remains, which had been preserved for future scientific studies.
Kaneda confronts Tetsuo with an experimental laser weapon, while the Colonel uses an orbital laser in an attempt to kill Tetsuo, but their attempts fail. Tetsuo pulls the orbital weapon into the atmosphere and synthesizes an artificial arm to replace his severed arm while studying Akira's organs. When Kaori arrives, Tetsuo's psychokinetic powers cause him immense pain. The Colonel explains that the espers' migraine-controlling drugs administered to Tetsuo are to stunt the evolution of uncontrollable abilities but Tetsuo nearly kills the Colonel. However, Kaneda saves the Colonel and he and Tetsuo fight. Unable to control his powers, Tetsuo transforms into a giant mass, engulfing Kaneda and killing Kaori.
The espers awaken Akira, who had merely grown beyond the requirement of a coherent biological form. Manifesting himself from the canisters, Akira reunites with his friends. Using his psychic powers, Akira creates a ball of light, which he uses to contain Tetsuo. As Akira confronts Tetsuo, the espers hurry to teleport the Colonel to safety and Takashi jumps into the light to rescue Kaneda. The other espers join Takashi, deciding that it will take the trio to save Kaneda, aware they might be unable to return. Kaneda experiences Tetsuo's and the espers' childhood memories, including how much Tetsuo trusted Kaneda and how the children were first studied before Tokyo's destruction.
The espers remove Kaneda from the destruction and tell him that Akira will be taking Tetsuo to safety; Kiyoko implies that Kei is beginning to develop her own psychic powers, and this is confirmed when Kei calls Kaneda out telepathically. Akira's psychic power destroys most of Neo-Tokyo, and leaves a void that is quickly filled by the ocean. Doctor Onishi is killed when his research laboratory is crushed. Kaneda awakens to discover that Kei and Kai have survived, and they drive away into the city. The Colonel walks out of the tunnel that the espers teleported him to and watches the sun rise over the destroyed city. Tetsuo comes into full control of his powers as he initiates a Big Bang in another dimension, uttering the words, "I am Tetsuo."
While working on Akira, Katsuhiro Otomo did not intend to adapt the series outside of the manga; however, he became 'very intrigued' when he was offered to develop his work for the screen. He agreed to an anime film adaptation of the series on the grounds that he retained creative control of the project - this insistence was based on his experiences working on Harmagedon. The Akira Committee was the name given to a partnership of several major Japanese entertainment companies brought together to realize production of an Akira film. The group's assembly was necessitated by the unconventionally high budget of around ¥1,100,000,000, intended to achieve the desired epic standard equal to Otomo's over 2,000 page manga tale. The committee consisted of publisher Kodansha Ltd., Mainichi Broadcasting System, Inc., Bandai Co., Ltd., Hakuhodo Incorporated, distributor Toho Co., Ltd., Laserdisc Corporation and Sumitomo Corporation who all forwarded money and promotion towards the movie. The animation for the movie was provided for by animation producers, Tokyo Movie Shinsha Co., Ltd.
Most anime is notorious for cutting production corners with limited animation, such as having only the characters' mouths move while their faces remained static. Akira broke from this trend with detailed scenes, pre-scored dialogue (wherein the dialogue is recorded before the film starts production and the movements of the characters' lips are animated to match it) – a first for an anime production, although the voice actors did perform with the aid of animatics – and super-fluid motion as realized in the film's more than 160,000 animation cels. Computer-generated imagery was also used in the film, primarily to animate the pattern indicator used by Doctor Ōnish, but it was additionally used to plot the paths of falling objects, model parallax effects on backgrounds, and tweak lighting and lens flares. Unlike its live-action predecessors, Akira also had the budget to show a fully realized futuristic Tokyo.
The teaser trailer for Akira was released in 1987. The film was completed in 1987 and released in 1988, two years before the manga officially ended in 1990. Otomo is claimed to have filled 2000 pages of notebooks, containing various ideas and character designs for the film, but the final storyboard consisted of merely 738 pages. He had great difficulty completing the manga; Otomo has stated that the inspiration for its conclusion arose from a conversation that he had with Alejandro Jodorowsky in 1990. He later recalled that the film project had to begin with the writing of an ending that would bring suitable closure to major characters, storylines, and themes without being extraordinarily lengthy, so that he could know in reverse order which manga elements would make the cut into the anime and thus suitably resolve the manga's various elements into a lean, two-hour story.
Otomo is a big fan of Tetsujin 28-go. As a result, his naming conventions match the characters featured in Tetsujin 28-go: Kaneda shares his name with the protagonist of Tetsujin 28-go; Colonel Shikishima shares his name with Professor Shikishima of Tetsujin 28-go, while Tetsuo is named after Shikishima's son Tetsuo Shikishima; Akira's Ryūsaku is named after Ryūsaku Murasame. In addition, Takashi has a "26" tattooed on his hand which closely resembles the font used in Tetsujin 28-go. The namesake of the series, Akira, is the 28th in a line of psychics that the government has developed, the same number as Tetsujin-28.
Akira was released by Toho on 16 July 1988. Fledgling North American distribution company Streamline Pictures soon acquired an existing English-language rendition created by Electric Media Inc. for Kodansha, which saw limited release in North American theaters on December 25, 1989. Streamline is reported to have become the film's distributor when both George Lucas and Steven Spielberg labelled it unmarketable in the U.S. In the UK, Akira was theatrically released by ICA Projects on 25 January 1991 and was re released on 13 July 2013. In Australia, Akira was theatrically released by Island World Communications and distributed by Satellite Entertainment, later on by Manga Entertainment, then Madman Entertainment after Manga Entertainment's Australian branch merged with Madman. In Canada, the Streamline dub was released by Lionsgate (at the time known as C/FP Distribution) in 1990. In 2001, Pioneer released a new English dub which was produced by Animaze and ZRO Limit Productions and was presented in select theaters from March through December 2001.
VHS releases included the initial Streamline Video offering (May 1991), later wider distribution by MGM/UA Home Video, and a subtitled edition from Orion Home Video (September 1993). In the UK, Akira was released on video by Island World Communications in 1991. The success of this release led to the creation of Manga Entertainment, who later took over the release. The original VHS release of Akira started up Manga Entertainment Australia and VHS distribution was handled by Ronin Films and Polygram until 1994 when Siren Entertainment took over all of Manga Entertainment Australia's distribution including Akira under a special license from Polygram, who handled Island's video distribution. Akira was re-released on video in 1994, and again on DVD in 2001 and distributed by Madman Entertainment and The AV Channel. The Criterion Collection released a laserdisc edition in 1993. Akira was, until their 2014 Blu-ray/DVD release of Fantastic Mr. Fox, the only animated film to be released by Criterion. Pioneer Entertainment issued a DVD and a VHS with a new English dub (the dub produced by Animaze) in 2001. This was one of the few releases from Geneon to feature THX-certified audio and video. In 2002, Manga released a two-disc DVD featuring the new Pioneer/Animaze English dub followed in 2004 by another two-disc set containing the original Japanese as well as both the Streamline and Pioneer/Animaze dubs. This version did not contain standard English subtitles, only closed captioning subtitles. In 2005, Manga Entertainment and Boulevard UMD released Akira on UMD for the Sony PSP in the United Kingdom using the original Streamline dub.
A Blu-ray Disc edition of the film was released on 24 February 2009 in North America by Bandai Entertainment under the Honneamise label. A Blu-ray edition of Akira was subsequently released in Australia by Madman Entertainment under exclusive license from Manga Entertainment UK and Kodansha. Madman has recently released a DVD/Blu-ray combo which license is separate from the standalone Blu-ray release because instead of the DVD version being the Manga Video UK version, it uses Madman/Manga's 2001 Special Edition DVD release which is licensed from Manga UK. The Blu-ray release is the very first to use the highest sampling rate currently possible (Japanese Dolby TrueHD 192 kHz because of its analog roots) and is also the first to use the hypersonic effect (only available in this track and via a high-end audio system). As well as Japanese with English subtitles, the Blu-ray also features the 2001 Pioneer/Animaze English dub(Dolby TrueHD 48khz). The DVD version of Akira has been re-released in 2012 by Bandai Entertainment. The film was licensed again by Funimation following Bandai Entertainment's closure shortly after its DVD release. The Funimation release includes both the Streamline and Pioneer dubs. Funimation released the 25th anniversary Blu-ray/DVD combo and separate DVD release on 12 November 2013, which contain both English dubs.
The Pioneer dub of the film has aired twice on Adult Swim's Toonami block. Once on 7 December 2013, with a rating of TV-MA-V, and again on 20 December 2014, both times with explicit language and nudity censored. The Streamline dub version premiered on The Sci-Fi Channel in the mid-90s during their week-long anime events and Saturday Anime block. It has aired numerous times on Australian FTA station SBS.
Reception and legacy
Akira received universal critical acclaim. Roger Ebert selected Akira as his "Video Pick of the Week" in 1989 on Siskel & Ebert and the Movies. For its wider 2001 release, he gave the film "Thumbs Up." As of September 2014, the film has an 87% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 45 critics, with an average rating of 7.4/10; the general consensus states: "Akira is distractingly bloody and violent, but its phenomenal animation and sheer kinetic energy helped set the standard for modern anime." Metacritic gives the film a score of 76, based on 4 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews." The title has been regarded as one of the greatest animated movies of all time and prompted an increase in popularity of anime movies in the US and, generally, outside of Japan. It is still admired for its exceptional visuals. In Channel 4's 2005 poll of the 100 greatest cartoons of all time featuring both cartoon shows and cartoon movies, Akira came in at number 16. On Empire magazine's list of the 500 greatest movies of all time, Akira is number 440. It showed again on Empire's list of The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema, coming in at #51. IGN also named it 14th on its list of Top 25 Animated Movies of All-Time.
Akira is regarded by many critics as a landmark anime film, one that influenced much of the art in the anime world that followed its release with many illustrators in the manga industry citing the film as an important influence. The film led the way for the growth of popularity of anime outside of Japan. Akira is considered a forerunner of the second wave of anime fandom that began in the early 1990s and has gained a massive cult following since then. Akira has also been cited as a major influence on live-action films ranging from The Matrix to Chronicle. The Akira anime also made TIME magazine's list of top 5 anime DVDs. The film also made number 16 on Time Out's top 50 animated movie list and number 5 on the Total Film Top 50 Animated Films list. The film was ranked #1 on Wizard's Anime Magazine on their "Top 50 Anime released in North America".
Anime News Network's Bamboo Dong commends the Limited Edition's DVD for its "superbly translated" English subtitles and the commendable English dubbing, which "sticks very close to the English translation, and the voice actors deliver their lines with emotion". THEM Anime's Raphael See applauds the film's "astounding special effects and clean, crisp animation". Chris Beveridge comments on the Japanese audio, which brings "the forward soundstage nicely into play when required. Dialogue is well placed, with several key moments of directionality used perfectly". Janet Maslin of The New York Times commends Otomo's artwork, stating "the drawings of Neo-Tokyo by night are so intricately detailed that all the individual windows of huge skyscrapers appear distinct. And these night scenes glow with subtle, vibrant color". Richard Harrison of The Washington Post comments on the pace of the film, stating that the author "has condensed the narrative sprawl of the comics to provide coherence, though there's a bit of "Back to the Future Part II" incompleteness to the story. That hardly matters, since the film moves with such kinetic energy that you'll be hanging on for dear life". Writing for The Village Voice, Michael Atkinson criticizes the film's plot stating that it "amounts to little more than a descent into accelerating, reactive physical mayhem, caused by a government-project migraine packing the titanic toll of an H-bomb".
Variety commends the film's "imaginative and detailed design of tomorrow to the booming Dolby effects on the soundtrack" but criticizes the "slight stiffness in the drawing of human movement". Kim Newman of Empire commends the film's "scintillating animated visuals, with not one - not one - computer-assisted shot in sight". Phelim O'Neill of The Guardian draws a parallel on Akira ' influence on the science-fiction genre to Blade Runner and Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Chicago Tribune's Dave Kehr commends Otomo's "excellent animation-specific ideas: Vehicles leave little color trails as they roar through the night, and there are a number of dream sequences that make nice use of the medium`s ability to confound scale and distort perspective". Helen McCarthy in 500 Essential Anime Movies claims that anime "remains fresh and exciting, easily holding its own against the products of two decades of massive technical advancement".
Johnny Yong Bosch, Kaneda's voice actor in the Pioneer English dub, was nominated for Best Actor and Best Actor in a Comedy at American Anime Awards but lost to fellow Naruto and Persona voice actors Vic Mignogna and Dave Wittenberg, respectively.
|Akira: Original Soundtrack|
|Soundtrack album by Geinō Yamashirogumi (芸能山城組)|
|Genre||Anime, film, gamelan, noh|
|Label||Victor Music Industries, Demon Records/JVC Records|
AKIRA: Original Soundtrack was recorded by Geinō Yamashirogumi (芸能山城組). The music was composed and conducted by musical director Shoji Yamashiro (pseudonym of Tsutomu Ōhashi). It features music which was additionally rerecorded for release. "Kaneda", "Battle Against Clown" and "Exodus From the Underground Fortress" are really part of the same song cycle – elements of "Battle Against Clown" can be heard during the opening bike sequence, for example. The score is generally sequenced in the same order that the music occurs in the film. The North American version featured extensive production notes by David Keith Riddick and Robert Napton.
A second soundtrack was released featuring the original music without rerecording, but it was made into character study collages with sound effects and dialogue from the film; the recording was probably a direct transfer from the film.
Symphonic Suite AKIRA is the same version as AKIRA: Original Soundtrack, but without the voices and sound effects.
Symphonic Suite AKIRA LP track listing
- "Exodus From the Underground Fortress"
Symphonic Suite AKIRA & AKIRA: Original Soundtrack CD track listing
- "Kaneda" – 3:10
- "Battle Against Clown" – 3:36
- "Winds Over Neo-Tokyo" – 2:48
- "Tetsuo" – 10:18
- "Doll's Polyphony" – 2:55
- "Shohmyoh" – 10:10
- "Mutation" – 4:50
- "Exodus From the Underground Fortress" – 3:18
- "Illusion" – 13:56
- "Requiem" – 14:20
AKIRA: The Original Japanese Soundtrack track listing
- "Kaneda" – 9:56
- "Tetsuo 1" – 12:36
- "Tetsuo 2" – 12:33
- "Akira" – 7:56
In 1988, Taito released an Akira adventure game for the Famicom exclusively in Japan. Another Akira game for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Genesis and Sega CD was being developed, but cancelled along with prospects of another Akira title for the Game Boy and Game Gear handheld consoles. International Computer Entertainment produced a video game based on Akira for the Amiga and Amiga CD32 in 1994. To coincide with the DVD release in 2002, Bandai released Akira Psycho Ball, a pinball simulator for the PlayStation 2.
Live-action film adaptation
In 2002, Warner Bros. seemed to have acquired the rights to create a live-action remake of Akira, and since then several attempts have been made to write a script and start production. On June 2010, producer Andrew Lazar explained that they contemplated splitting Akira in two movies based on manga volumes 1-3 and 4-6, respectively. According to Gary Whitta, at one point the script had the events taking place in a Japanese-owned Manhattan.
George Takei spoke with The Advocate in April 2011 about the casting rumors at that time, stating that any decision to cast white actors in Akira would offend both Asians and the fans of the original manga or animated film.
On March 8, 2015, the planned director Jaume Collet-Serra told Collider in an interview that there was no progress on the film and planned to take a break from directing. However, the studio might get the movie made eventually. On June 8, 2015, The Hollywood Reporter has reported that the studio has resumed work on the film and Marco Ramirez, known for his work as one of the showrunners for Marvel's Daredevil, will write the film.
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|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Akira|
- Official website (Japanese)
- Official website (US)
- Akira at the Internet Movie Database
- Akira at Rotten Tomatoes
- "Akira" (in Japanese). Japanese Movie Database. Archived from the original on 21 August 2007. Retrieved 19 July 2007.
- Akira (film) at Anime News Network's encyclopedia
- BlueBlade Akira (English-based fansite)
- Akira 2019 (English-based fansite)
- TIME review (subscription required)