Gruesome. Gorgeous. Revolutionary. Iconic.
These are all words to describe the 1988 animated film AKIRA, based off the original 1982 six manga volume series of the same name.
Created by Katsuhiro Otomo, a Japanese manga artist, animator, screenwriter and film director, it tells the story of a corrupt post-WWIII society set in the ruined cyberpunk city Neo Toyko, where a government ESP experimentation on children has gone wrong. A biker gang, led by snarky and charismatic Kaneda, attempts to save their friend Tetsuo from the government project after he is exposed to the supernatural powers they’ve messed with.
Amelio Beš, a junior at ChiArts, was asked what made AKIRA stand out amongst other manga of the same caliber, and his response was simple: “It’s the first manga I’ve ever finished front to back and my first biggest interest as a teenager, the main character connects very closely to me and the community, even though small still shares joy within me.”
As well as having a close connection with the work, another element of AKIRA’s brilliance is in its characters. Specifically the main character, Kaneda, as well as the many other side characters, truly create the story. It’s a beautiful and compelling blend of plot and thrill that is both based in character growth and consequence for the overall environment itself.
Something that made it so refreshing for me was its art. It’s distinct in its setting and design of the characters, and its animation is fluid– every single second of the film or page of the manga could be framed on your wall.
AKIRA and its influence isn’t just restricted to anime or manga. Its iconic imagery, style and action (such as the legendary bike slide), has appeared in many other media, such as Adventure Time, Jordan Peele’s NOPE, “The Simpsons,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” Batman, and more. There’s even a video on YouTube compiling clips from different franchises all featuring the bike slide through three decades worth of animation and film (Three Decades of Akira Slide Homages).
Its small yet impressive fanbase is still consistently active, creating fanart and animation, memes, and more, which continues to inspire many others to get invested. It’s a shame it isn’t credited in as many things as it’s influenced.
What do you think of AKIRA?
By Ezan Charo, Junior, ChiArts