Good Old Anime Reviews
Akira - Psychic Motorcycle Action!

H.D. Russell | 27 Feb 2016 12:00
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Visually, this film is stunning. I cannot think of a film or television series with better animation than Akira. Having the same creative head from the manga, the film completely replicates the visuals of the manga, which will appeal to fans of the source text. The world of Neo-Tokyo is full of color and the quality of animation makes the city really feel alive. Otomo takes his time within the film by utilizing shots of the city and characters. The silence of these moments are really what builds the film tonally, as it constructs a city that is filled with moving people that have faces and voices and jobs. Each scene utilizes movement, color, and its characters in ways that feel authentic, almost like I was watching events unfold in a living, breathing animated world. Watching this film is an artist's and animator's dream and demonstrates a devotion to the medium that is only matched by films like Spirited Away and Ghost in the Shell.

I have only watched the newer dubbing of the film, but I am aware that the history of Akira dubs is a bit of a mixed bag. The 2001 dub proves to be well performed and produced. Only rarely do characters' voices not match their mouths, but that is a minor gripe. With voice talents such as Johnny Yong Bosch (Trigun's Vash the Stampede), Joshua Seth (Digimon's Tai Kamiya), and Wendee Lee (Cowboy Bebop's Faye Valentine), many of the voices will be recognizable to many anime fans. The majority of the cast's voices are well executed and never feels out of place. The only complaint I have is that the children's voices are terrifying and unnerving, although that effect is probably intentional.

The music in this production is great and fits the film well, but nothing about the score really stood out. In the moments when I did notice the music, it had a very "jungle beat" feel to it, which really fits the "concrete jungle" setting of Neo-Tokyo and the mysteries lurking within it. This type of music really shines during the moments when the film takes a moment to breathe life into Neo-Tokyo in the shots I mentioned earlier. The cohesiveness of the animation, music, and camerawork of the film builds an atmosphere on a scale rarely rivaled in anime.

Akira is one of the best feature-length anime films of all time. Not only is the action exciting, plot engaging, and visuals mesmerizing, it is also iconic for many reasons. Without the legacy of Akira many of the anime we cherish in the West today might not have even had a straight to video release. The tightness of the plot, allied with the accessible struggles of its two main characters, make the film accessible, but not so simple that it doesn't challenge its viewers. It's nearly impossible to walk away from this film without your gears turning, which means you will be returning again and again to find the answers to your questions in the streets of Neo-Tokyo. The level of craftsmanship present, both in the visuals and the narrative, is of the highest caliber and will probably stand the test of time for years to come. Even today, Akira far exceeds some of the biggest budget animated films and remains at the top of the genre. With the kind of legacy that Akira has, it's a hard film to pass up, and I hope no one ever does. Cue the Jungle Beats, it's time to ride my sweet red motorcycle off into the night...

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