Akira (1988), or My Uncanny Film Origins or The Most Perfect Bookend To Cinematronica

31 12 2009

AT LAST! 365 days, 365 movies indeed! It’s been a long fucking road, friends, but here it is, my last movie for 2009! From the dizzying heights of The Seventh Seal, to the lame pile of degradation of Jennifer’s Body, I have seen a lot of films this year that mean a lot of things to a lot of people. This last film on the website is for me, though. Akira was the first movie that really made me think about the motion picture as art. It was the first movie that grabbed me, called out my name, and took me out of my own head, challenging me to think about things in a different light. Of all the movies I had seen in my life before 1997, Akira was the one that changed everything for me, the one that made me understand the concept of the film as an art form. To me, that crucial shift in thinking means everything, and, of all the films Cinematronica could go out on, I wanted it to be the film that made me who I am today.

Akira is a Japanese animated feature from 1988.  Set in (drumroll please…) THE FYOOCHA!!!, we are taken away to the chaotic and dirty city of New Tokyo, a city rebuilt near the ashes of the original Tokyo, which was destroyed by a gigantic explosion that sparked the third World War of the late 80s (remember how awful that was?). Thirty years afterward, the city has reached completion, but the people squirm restlessly and undulate beneath the overbearing government. Riots and doom prophets run rampant in the streets, crying for change to wash over the stagnant air of the near future. In the midst of all this, a group of angry youths in a motorcycle gang whittle away their futures by clashing with rival gangs in the streets. During the skirmish one of the members, named Tetsuo, has a run-in with a strange, aged child, who is trying to escape from unseen forces. His bike explodes from hitting some sort of psychic shield as he nearly runs the child over, and when the rest of the gang comes to Tetsuo’s aid, a group of government vehicles surrounds them and takes the child and Tetsuo away. They are interested in Tetsuo, whose interaction with the strange child has awakened a power within him, something that neither he or the mysterious military man overseeing his capticity could have ever imagined. His friend and de facto leader of the gang, Kaneda, will stop at nothing to discover Tetsuo’s whereabouts, and decides to sneak in with a group of revolutionaries into a secret government building where Tetsuo and other psychically powerful individuals are being held. But what they soon realize is that what they stumbled upon is bigger than all of them, and it threatens the very safety of the world. Because Tetsuo’s power is growing exponentially, and he is growing more and more mentally unstable. The government will do anything to keep him from realizing his maximum potential, however, as Tetsuo’s story seems to mirror that of a boy from 30 years ago named Akira, a boy whose abilities may have caused the destruction of Tokyo and the beginning of the World War…

Akira is sci-fi at its highest echelon, especially in the sense of challenging the present with its dark visions of the future. A chilling saga about science at the fringe of human comprehension, Katsuhiro Otomo’s epic, which he took from the pages of his own monstrous manga, is the standard by which modern sci-fi is judged, a juggernaut of scathing political and societal indictment with strong messages to match the overwhelming emotional side of alienated youth. Fingers are pointed at the philosophically outmoded Japanese military, the shadowy backroom dealings of modern government, a society who throws the young away without giving them much of a chance, and the cold hand of science, who will put discovery before anything and everything else, even the safety of the human race. If good science fiction makes a statement, Akira is certainly one of the greatest sci-fi films out there.

And it’s also revolutionary for its time. Akira is a bloody mess, an anime definitely for adults at a time when animation was just for kids. There is violence beyond description here, like people being turned into gooey messes, but beyond that it houses disturbing imagery that sunk into my subconscious at a young age. One scene in particular sees Tetsuo, in a mental panic, being attacked by a teddy bear with fangs and a snake arm who is bleeding milk profusely from his face! If that’s not terrifying for a kid, I don’t know what the fuck is! But it’s so good, you won’t really care how freaked out you are in the face of its quality. Which is another reason Akira is so special; featuring over 160,000 cels of animation, this movie is a fully realized animated event. Lips are very nicely synched, and movement is flowing and beautiful. One of my favorite animated moments sees Tetsuo falling from his bike after an accident, and Otomo shows the entire wreck in its full glory, even the moment where Tetsuo rolls off and away like a Japanese rag doll. And, if I can just give a personal kudos, thanks to Katsuhiro Otomo for making Japanese people look… Japanese. I hate how white anime characters look, but the art direction here calls for all the characters in Tokyo to look like Asians, not white girls with purple hair and 36 HHH size breasts! I hope more people take to this art style in the future!

Akira is, for me, the point in Japanese filmmaking when anything seemed possible. Where the future was vivid, the message was strong and eloquent, and the world seemed ready to accept it. Looking at Japanese films now, I think they took some of that spirit here and there, and while the films now are not nearly as great as that moment promised, I’m just glad that one film rose above the rest to tell its amazing story with a verve and a presence that still cannot be matched today. I loved it then, and, after seeing it again for the first time in years, I love it even more. Timeless music by Shoki Yamashiro and breathtaking animation by Katsuhiro Otomo make this a film that you will never, ever forget, so Akira gets a big Cinematronica thumbs-up and 10 geriatric children out of 10! My highest recommendation!

FUCK! I’m done! I can’t believe it! It’s been a great year, everyone, and I can’t believe how much fun this was! Thanks, everyone for your support, and I hope you come see me at my new website, http://www.ifreviewscouldkill.com, when it starts up! I’ll keep updates on here for the launch of the new site, so you’ll have up to date Eric news, but until then, enjoy your New Years Eve and I am TAKING A WEEK OFF OF REVIEWS! HAPPY 2010 EVERYONE!!!!!

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