44 Films: Film 11 of 44: "Akira" (1988)
Film 11 of 44:
Written and Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo.
Open on 2019 in post-apocalyptic Tokyo, or the more politically named, Neo-Tokyo. World War III has come and gone, so Tokyo exists in what we assume is a post-apocalyptic earth. Police officers and soldiers patrol every street corner, but crimes and protests spring up the moment their back is turned. Terrorist attacks are rampant and the streets are overran by violent gangs who seem to exist only to add to the chaos. The more notorious gangs prefer bōsōzoku; high-speed rampages on customised super-bikes that leave streaks of neon in their wake. Rival gangs will often run into each other, and break into brutal fights that are rendered in stark and jarring fashion.
It's in the middle of one such battle that we meet The Capsules, led by the hot-headed juvenile Kaneda and his best bud Tetsuo. They're in the formalities of war with their arch rivals when a diminutive human-like psychic appears, causing an accident that injures Tetsuo. When it's suspected that Tetsuo may also possess psychic powers, he is apprehended and carted off to an undisclosed hospital. Kaneda and The Capsules head out on a dogged search through the Tokyo dystopia, facing the sort of opposition that's telling of a quickly-deteriorating city.
Meanwhile, Tetsuo goes on a subconscious journey of his own, discovering that his powers are not just present, but potent. He develops a connection to a deceased psychic by the name of Akira; who according to popular lore, was responsible for Tokyo's tip towards its present madness. This precarious imbalance between the state, its delinquents and its paranormal beings will soon reach a frenzied, stunning climax, with Tetsuo as its unlikely nucleus.
Dystopia film has become something of an over-used trope; bordering on box office bait. It had a novelty in 1988, when Blade Runner, The Terminator and A Clockwork Orange made statements about where our meddling in politics, society, technology and environment would lead. Akira does the same, but here it's bolstered by the beauty and wonder of anime at its finest. This film was part of the movement that led to the genre's acceptance in the mainstream, and rightfully so. It possesses the vision and ambition of Kubrick, Spielberg, and well, Pixar (which owes much of its creative existence to Japan).
In an interesting end note, this 2019 version of Tokyo's only point of order lies in the Olympic Games, which it's set to host in a year, which is a supremely thrilling fact when you recall where the real-life Olympics will be held in real-life 2020.
See you tomorrow!