This is the way the world ends. Not with a whimper but with a bright shiny light
Okay so like with many anime films, when Katsuhiro Ôtomo’s Akira finished I sat in stunned silence staring blankly at the closing credits and wondered what just happened.
Akira feels strangely like a post 9/11 film (though it is a post Hiroshima film), similar to Richard Kelly’s bizarre follow-up to Donnie Darko, Southland Tales. Though the humour of these two films falls very differently! Southland Tales seeks to parody the government’s response to the 9/11 attacks while Akira seems to tell us that this shit happens all the time, born out of the government.
Akira is the name of an elusive and dangerous person whose god-like powers were responsible for the annihilation of Tokyo (because this 80s flick is set far far far into the future: 2019).
Since this time the government, never learning their lesson, create people with telekinetic powers. It isn’t ever made clear why they do this but at one point it is mentioned that everyone has this power within them, so it’s possible these government agents are provoking it out of human subjects in order to study and control the public. One day an unsuspecting boy, Tetsuo, is kidnapped as one of these guinea pigs. The outcome is devastating.
This is an exciting film and like all good anime rife with creative imagery, the likes you’ll not have seen before. Considering this is a 1988 film it’s scary to realise I hadn’t heard of this until this year! I was 5 years old when it was released! And yet watching it last night, it didn’t seem in any way dated. Akira is a cautionary tale of the negative impact governmental control can have on a society. What we see is that the government’s insistence to control, if anything, appears to expediate an inevitable terrorist attack. They become responsible for the very incident they are trying to prevent.