Akira (1988 film)
Akira is a 1988 Japanese animated science fiction film directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, produced by Ryōhei Suzuki and Shunzō Katō and written by Otomo and Izo Hashimoto, based on Otomo's manga of the same name.
Japanese theatrical poster
|Directed by||Katsuhiro Otomo|
by Katsuhiro Otomo
|Music by||Tsutomu Ōhashi|
|Edited by||Takeshi Seyama|
|Box office||$49 million (worldwide)
¥750 million (Japan)
Set in a dystopian, cyberpunk-themed Tokyo in 2019, Akira tells the story of Shotaro Kaneda, a leader of a local biker gang who must stop his friend Tetsuo Shima from using his newly awakened superpowers to release the titular esper. While most of the character designs and settings were adapted from the manga, the plot differs considerably and prunes much of the last half of Akira.
The film has garnered a large cult following 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 films of all time.
In Tokyo in July 1988, the city is destroyed by a psychic singularity, initiating World War III and its reestablishment as Neo-Tokyo. By 2019, a year before the XXXII Olympics, sedition and gang violence has grown. One night, Shōtarō Kaneda has his bōsōzoku gang, the Capsules, battle their rivals, the Clowns. During the brawl, Kaneda's friend, Tetsuo Shima, crashes to avoid Takashi, a psychic esper who fled from a secret government laboratory. Colonel Shikishima of the Japan Self-Defense Forces, assisted by esper Masaru, escorts Takashi home and hospitalizes Tetsuo. When Kaneda and his gang are interrogated, he encounters Kei, a terrorist belonging to a local resistance, and arranges for her release alongside the Capsules.
Shikishima and Doctor Ōnishi discover that Tetsuo possesses psychic abilities similar to Akira, the esper that destroyed Tokyo. Meanwhile, Takashi's friend Kiyoko visualizes Neo-Tokyo's impending destruction and Shikishima proposes killing Tetsuo to prevent this, but Neo-Tokyo's parliament dismisses his concerns. Tetsuo flees on Kaneda's motorcycle, accompanied by his girlfriend Kaori, but the Clowns attack them before the Capsules intervene. Suffering severe migraines and hallucinations, Tetsuo is again hospitalized. During a terrorist attack, Kaneda rescues Kei and joins the rebels after overhearing their plan to capture Tetsuo. At the hospital, the espers attempt to bring forth Tetsuo's powers by using illusions to heighten his emotional distress, but are confronted by him when their attempts fail. Kaneda, Kei and Shikishima attempt to stop Tetsuo, but he overpowers them and flees after learning from Kiyoko that Akira is in cryonic storage beneath the Olympic Stadium's construction site.
Using Kei as a medium, Kiyoko helps her escape along with Kaneda to stop Tetsuo, while Shikishima stages a coup d'état when the parliament attempts to have him arrested. Tetsuo ambushes Kaneda's friends Yamagata and Kai, killing the former in the process; Kaneda vows to avenge Yamagata. Meanwhile, Tetsuo wanders through Neo-Tokyo, eventually arriving at Akira's cryogenic storage dewar in the stadium. Kiyoko has Kei fight Tetsuo, but he easily defeats her and exhumes Akira's remains, being dissected, frozen, and preserved for future studies. Kaneda battles Tetsuo while Shikishima uses an orbital weapon to unsuccessfully kill him. Tetsuo destroys the satellite and fits himself with a prosthetic arm to replace the one he lost.
At the stadium and in immense pain, Tetsuo is confronted by Shikishima, who tells him that the espers' migraine drugs can control his abilities. Tetsuo attempts to seek a cure, but Shikishima stops him. Tetsuo's arm mutates as he attempts to kill Shikishima before Kaneda intervenes and attacks him. Unable to control himself, Tetsuo mutates into a gigantic mass and engulfs Kaneda and Kaori, killing and assimilating the latter.
The espers awaken Akira, who reunites with his friends and destroys Neo-Tokyo in a mirror of Tokyo's destruction, dragging Tetsuo and Kaneda with it. As Tetsuo struggles against Akira, the espers teleport Shikishima away from the stadium, and Takashi rescues Kaneda. The other espers aid in the effort at the cost of being unable to return. In the explosion, Kaneda experiences Tetsuo's and the espers' childhood, including how much Tetsuo trusted Kaneda and how the children were trained and altered before Tokyo's destruction.
The espers help Kaneda escape and inform him that Akira will be taking Tetsuo to safety; Kiyoko reveals that Kei is developing psychic powers. After the explosion, Kaneda discovers that Kei and Kai have survived, and they drive off into Neo-Tokyo while Shikishima watches the sunrise. Finally in control of his powers, Tetsuo triggers a big bang in an alternate universe.
|Characters||Japanese voice actor||English voice actor
(Electric Media/Kodansha/Streamline, 1989)
|English voice actor
|Shōtarō Kaneda||Mitsuo Iwata||Cam Clarke (Jimmy Flinders)||Johnny Yong Bosch|
|Tetsuo Shima||Nozomu Sasaki||Jan Rabson (Stanley Gurd Jr.)||Joshua Seth|
|Kei||Mami Koyama||Lara Cody (Deanna Morris) as Kay||Wendee Lee|
|Colonel Shikishima||Tarō Ishida||Tony Pope (Anthony Mozdy)||Jamieson Price (James Lyon)|
|Doctor Ōnishi||Mizuho Suzuki||Lewis Arquette (Lewis Lemay)||Simon Prescott (Simon Isaacson)|
|Ryūsaku (Ryu)||Tesshō Genda (Tetsusho Genda)||Steve Kramer (Drew Thomas) as Roy||Bob Buchholz (Robert Wicks)|
|Kiyoko (No. 25)||Fukue Itō (Sachie Ito)||Melora Harte (Marilyn Lane)||Sandy Fox|
|Takashi (No. 26)||Tatsuhiko Nakamura||Barbara Goodson (Barbara Larsen)||Cody MacKenzie|
|Masaru (No. 27)||Kazuhiro Kamifuji (Kazuhiro Kando)||Bob Bergen||Cody MacKenzie|
|Kaori||Yuriko Fuchizaki||Barbara Goodson (Barbara Larsen)||Michelle Ruff (Georgette Rose)|
|Yamagata||Masaaki Ōkura||Tony Pope (Anthony Mozdy) as Yama||Michael Lindsay (Dylan Tully)|
|Kaisuke (Kai)||Takeshi Kusao||Bob Bergen||Anthony Pulcini (Tony Sarducci)|
|Nezu||Hiroshi Ōtake||Tony Pope (Anthony Mozdy) as Insider||Mike Reynolds (Ray Michaels)|
|Terrorist 1||Masato Hirano||Lewis Arquette (Lewis Lemay)||Steve Blum (David Lucas)|
|Terrorist 2||Yukimasa Kishino||Wally Burr (Burt Walters)||Michael McConnohie|
|Shimazaki||Yukimasa Kishino||Tony Pope (Anthony Mozdy)||Robert Axelrod|
|Colonel's Council Liaison||Kōichi Kitamura||Lewis Arquette (Lewis Lemay) as Senator||Michael Forest (Alfred Thor)|
|Eiichi Watanabe||Tarō Arakawa||Bob Bergen||Eddie Frierson (Christy Mathewson)|
|Mitsuru Kuwata||Yukimasa Kishino||Tony Pope (Anthony Mozdy)||Jonathan C. Osborne|
|Yūji Takeyama||Masato Hirano||Jan Rabson (Stanley Gurd Jr.)||Skip Stellrecht (Henry Douglas Grey)|
|Lara Cody (Deanna Morris)
Barbara Goodson (Barbara Larsen)
|Julie Ann Taylor (Jean Howard)
Patricia Ja Lee
Dyanne DiRosario (Bambi Darro)
|Lady Miyako||Kōichi Kitamura||Steve Kramer (Drew Thomas)||William Frederick Knight (William Frederick)|
|Inspector||Michihiro Ikemizu||Bob Bergen||Steve Staley (Steve Cannon)|
|Army||Kazumi Tanaka||Steve Kramer (Drew Thomas)||Tony Oliver (Rafael Antonio Oliver)|
|Harukiya Bartender||Yōsuke Akimoto||Tony Pope (Anthony Mozdy)||John Snyder (Ivan Buckley)|
While working on Akira, Katsuhiro Otomo did not intend to adapt the series outside of the manga; however, he became "very intrigued" when the offer to develop his work for the screen was put before him. 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 Kodansha, Mainichi Broadcasting System, Bandai, Hakuhodo, Toho, Laserdisc Corporation and Sumitomo Corporation who all forwarded money and promotion towards the film. The animation for the film was provided for by animation producers, Tokyo Movie Shinsha (now TMS Entertainment).
At the time, most anime was notorious for cutting production corners with limited animation, such as having only the characters' mouths move with basic lip sync 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 Ōnishi, 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's main production was completed in 1987, with sound recording and mixing performed in early 1988. It was released in 1988, two years before the manga officially ended in 1990. Otomo is claimed to have filled 2,000 pages of notebooks, containing various ideas and character designs for the film, but the final storyboard consisted of a trimmed-down 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 25 December 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 celebrating 25th Anniversary of the film and again on 21 September 2016. 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. 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, making it the first anime certified with THX. 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.
In 1992, video-distribution company the Criterion Collection, which specializes in licensing "important classic and contemporary films", released a LaserDisc edition of Akira. The release is notable in that Akira is the first animated film to be released by Criterion and for more than twenty years their sole animated film to be released until their 2014 Blu-ray/DVD release of Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009).
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 48 kHz). 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 legacyEdit
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times 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 46 critics, 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." 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 Japan. It is still admired for its exceptional visuals. In Channel 4's 2005 poll of the 100 greatest animations of all time featuring both film and television, 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. 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".
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. Manga author Masashi Kishimoto, for example, recalls becoming fascinated with the way the poster was made and wished to imitate the series' creator Katsuhiro Otomo's style. The film led the way for the growth of popularity of anime outside 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. It is credited with setting the scene for anime franchises such as Pokémon, Naruto and Dragon Ball to become global cultural phenomenons. Akira has also been cited as a major influence on live-action films such as The Matrix, Tetsuo: The Iron Man, Chronicle, Looper, Midnight Special, and Inception, as well as television shows such as Stranger Things. John Gaeta cited Akira as artistic inspiration for the bullet time effect in The Matrix films. Akira has also been credited for influencing the Star Wars franchise, including the prequel film trilogy and the Clone Wars film and television series. The film has also influenced the work of musicians such as Kanye West, who paid homage to Akira in the "Stronger" music video.
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".
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's 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 the anime "remains fresh and exciting, easily holding its own against the products of two decades of massive technical advancement". Meanwhile, on February 2004, Dan Persons of Cinefantastique listed the film as one of the "10 Essential Animations", simply referring to the film as "the film that changed everything."
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 (Symphonic Suite AKIRA)|
|Soundtrack album by Geinō Yamashirogumi (芸能山城組)|
|Genre||Anime, film, gamelan, noh|
|Label||Victor Music Industries, Demon Records/JVC Records|
|Geinō Yamashirogumi (芸能山城組) chronology|
AKIRA: Original Soundtrack (Symphonic Suite AKIRA) 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 re-recorded 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.
AKIRA: The Original Japanese Soundtrack; an alternate soundtrack was also released. This version included music as it appeared in the film with dialogue and sound-effects albeit ordered out of sequence.
In 1988, Taito released an Akira adventure game for the Famicom exclusively in Japan. Another Akira game for the Super NES, 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.
In 2002, Warner Bros. 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. In 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.
Since the project began, several writers, directors (including George Miller and Christopher Nolan), producers, actors and actresses have been attached to the project.
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 8 March 2015, the planned director Jaume Collet-Serra told Collider.com 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 film made eventually. On 8 June 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. Warner Bros. offered George Miller the chance to direct the film at one point but he turned it down due to commitments to other projects. According to Jeff Snider at Meet the Movie Press, the studio are in talks with Justin Lin to direct the film. After the success of Get Out , Jordan Peele was offered the director's chair but passed on it.
In January 2016, Katsuhiro Otomo revealed in a French comic festival that an Anime television series was being considered.
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- Slashfilm.com Archived 2 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine. Is James Franco Going to Play Kaneda in ‘Akira’? Rereport from Spanish site Ecartelera.com Archived 2 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 5 March 2011
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- Akira with Justin Lin?, Sister Act 3, The Rock as the Wolfman & More | Meet The Movie Press
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Akira|
- Official website (in Japanese)
- Official website (US)
- Akira on IMDb
- 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)
- Official Cast and Crew credits for 1989 Streamline dub
- Official Cast and Crew credits for 2001 Pioneer dub
- TIME review (subscription required)