How many times have I seen, read or heard something related to the Akira anime either in the real world or in cyberspace? This 1988 film has become a pioneer in shaping the world of pop culture today, it's hard not to feel familiar with Akira . A film that not only helped add to the popularity of anime to the world at large at that time, but also a work that could touch all parts of the continent with its relevant themes, fascinating world and amazing action.
In Akira , light against darkness. It happened figuratively as well as literally. And that doesn't just happen in the main story, because behind it there is a lot that happens which can also illustrate how good tries to fight evil. From political to spiritual to our role as a societal structure, director and writer Katsuhiro Otomo was not afraid to try to incorporate a multitude of themes into this film, and it worked. He succeeded in achieving a work that could overcome the constraints and limitations of his genre, and turned it into a film that not only entertained the audience, but also taught them with a message that was contained in it.
In 1988, a violent explosion devastated Tokyo. Sometime after, World War III broke out and the world fell into chaos. 31 years later, or in 2019, Tokyo has been rebuilt and is renamed Neo-Tokyo, but this is not the Tokyo we know anymore. This futuristic city is currently beset by government corruption, widespread protests, high levels of violence and increasing brawl between motorcycle gangs. Suppose the city of Blade Runner and the gang of Mad Max meet, and become Neo-Tokyo in Akira .
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Shōtarō Kaneda (Mitsuo Iwata) is one of the young people who is the leader of a motorcycle gang containing other schoolgirls, who is currently leading his gang against their rival, the Clown motorcycle gang. After destroying the streets and surrounding cities with their “on-motorbike” brawl, one of Kaneda's friends, Tetsuo Shima (Nozomu Sasaki) gets into an accident after his motorbike hits a child with telekinesis powers who is running away from a government laboratory. And as the story starts to widen and expand, Tetsuo now also finds himself able to use the power of telekinesis and sink into darkness, with the aim of causing destruction everywhere.
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If we try to solve it, what is the real point of Akira's story ? One moment this film looks like something that comes out of a sci-fi genre , in the next there is a tense action, on the other hand it looks like a horror that immediately sticks out like the Eraserhead film which is punctuated by criticism of social society and dirty government. It's hard to explain what Akira is all about and that's one aspect of why this anime is such a genius masterpiece. There are no hard answers, but also no easy answers.
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One thing the essence of Akira is how this anime is a criticism of government and military oppression against its people. 2020 was a tough year and filled with police violence against demonstrators by civilians. All films that address the issue of police brutality are relevant, but Akirafeels more real and more touching with how this film depicts a portrait of military and police forces who do not hesitate to shoot anyone who opposes the government. There is one scene that lasts only a few seconds, when the streets are already filled with smoke by police smoke bombs and a policeman who meets and shoots at close range a demonstrator who is having difficulty breathing and seeing, where the fleeting scene alone holds a lot. once the message and frustration of how the police carried out their selfless brutality.
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But even though it has a deep message and theme, it is just a conflict that occurs in the background . The movie's real conflict is how Kaneda has to save Tetsuo from his own power because Tetsuo's new telekinesis ability only brings bad intentions into it and "Along with great power comes great responsibility". Here, morals are still very ambiguous because no one has holy morals. Everything always has its own cunning motives. Kaneda, who is the main character and key to fighting Tetsuo, is not a good person. He is only a motorcycle gang leader who does not hesitate to commit violence and a student who never cares about education and the community around him.
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And that's where the characters and the story reinforce each other. The conflict it shows is not a trivial conflict. Maybe at first glance this is a story about two friends who have broken ties and are now enemies, but behind that there are many other problems that ultimately make the conflict between these two characters more sadistic, more intense. This film does not hesitate to beat the audience with all the taboos, all the problems, all the sadnesses that occur in a society, which ultimately results in a vulgar and real world.
I'm still amazed by how Katsuhiro Otomo was able to tell his dystopian story. Lots of things can happen on a continuous basis and could easily make a movie feel messy, but not with Akira . Otomo managed to make the whole story, the whole theme, all the motifs and the entire genre melt into a graceful and epic story that can't even be explained in one sentence. From start to finish, I never stop to immerse myself in the screen, trying to follow and pay attention to what is happening every inch of the screen.
For a 1988 animated film, Akira certainly stood out. The visuals it exhibits continue to impress, even if we compare it to today's animation. From a scene that is running fast like when Kaneda and his motorcycle gang are dueling his enemy gangs on the streets to a scene that shows the size and size of a Neo-Tokyo city bathed in colorful lights and holograms and neon in every corner, this film never ceasing to amaze me. It's not hard to see this and remember the city in Blade Runner , a film released a few years earlier. Both offer beautiful visuals and never stop giving surprises in every scene.
Akira is an anime aimed at adults, and sometimes visually this film also feels very strong. Katsuhiro Otomo did not hesitate to display a high level of brutality, with blood that could splash all over the place. But the sadism here is not just for fun. Every blood shed, every body that exploded, every scream that was heard was a boom for Akira who showed that he would not hesitate to show the savage side of humans. Behind the bright red color of a drop (or if here is a bucket) of shed blood is an energetic and wild work of art.
Maybe one of the elements that I didn't expect when watching this anime is how strong the horror element it has. Between action-packed and tense moments, there are also moments where the film's tone turns into a dark, absurd and creepy dream . I am really amazed by how they can design the monsters that appear in this film, because they are really scary. It's disgusting, with its shape that is not only intimidating but also with how this monster can stab us with just its eyes, making this film maybe also worthy of being labeled as a horror film .
One of the great things about Akira , of course, and not to be missed is the music! One of the reasons that every scene is so fiery and seems to move with unlimited power is the music that goes with it. Composed and led by Shōji Yamashiro ( pseudonym of Tsutomu Ōhashi) and recorded by Geinoh Yamashirogumi, soundtrackThis film has a very strong gamelan element and combines it with electronic music to produce a music that always makes us excited. It's wonderful to hear how they perfectly use a typical Indonesian musical instrument and turn it into a collection of music that is so dynamic and upbeat. It's a shame that only one piece of music is on Spotify and I have to listen to the rest on YouTube.
After watching it, I just realized why so many people idolize this anime. Watching it, I also realized how Akira was a pioneer in the world of pop culture who inspired many things that we now consider very important today, such as the manga and anime Ghost in the Shell , the legendary game Metal Gear Solid , to the film Kill Bill and Dark City. and of course one of the greatest films of all time, The Matrix where designer John Gaeta says Akira was the inspiration for the bullet time scene. which is one of the most important technical achievements for The Matrix . And like The Matrix , Akira is also one of the most important achievements not only in the world of anime or sci-fi , but also in the world of film, which helps shape the aesthetics of today's pop culture .
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