Akira (1987)

Japan,
124m
65mm [negative format], 35mm and 70mm [print formats], colour, 2.20:1 [70mm prints], 1.85:1 [35mm prints]
Dolby, Japanese
Reviewed at The

A Japanese animated science fiction film written and directed by Katsuhiro Otomo.

Plot Summary

Neo-, : a motorcycle gang stumbles upon a top secret experiment while duelling one night with a rival gang. Following an encounter with a group of strange, wizened , one of the the gang, Tetsuo, starts to mutate into something more than human. But how does this tie in with the social unrest gripping the city? And who, or what, is Akira?

Credits

Crew
Directed by: Katsuhiro Otomo [opening credits]
Supervising Director: Katsuhiro Otomo [closing credits]
© MCMLXXXVII [1987] Akira Committee
Akira Committee Company
Production Studio: Akira Studio
Animation Production: Tokyo Movie Shinsha Co., Ltd.
Akira Committee: Kodansha Ltd.; Mainichi Broadcasting System, Inc.; Bandai Co., Ltd.; Hakuhodo Incorporated; Toho Company Ltd.; Laserdisc Corporation; Sumitomo Corporation; Tokyo Movie Shinsha Co., Ltd.; Sawako Noma; Morinobu Saito; Makoto Yamashina; Ritsuo Isobe; Isao Matsuoka; Yasuo Ohmi; Tomiichi Akiyama; Yutaka Fujioka; Sumio Hiraga; Masaru Uchida; Akira Yanase; Yukimasa Sugiura; Keiichi Kikura; Jitsuzo Horiuchi; Toshio Miyake; Yasushige Nishimura; Yasuhiko Kawano; Munekazu Sakurai; Tadatsugu Hayakawa; Hideyuki Takai; Kazuhiro Uchida; Takaaki Kasuya; Tsuneyuki Enomoto; Hirohiko Sueyoshi; Sumikazu Ohno; Hiroyuki Mitogawa; Shinichi Iguchi; Takao Asaka; Naoyoshi Yamada; Kenichi Iyatomi
Executive Producer: Sawako Noma
Producers: Ryohei Suzuki, Shunzo Kato
Associate Producer: Yoshimasa Mizuo
Written by: Katsuhiro Otomo [opening credits]
Screenplay: Katsuhiro Otomo, Izo Hashimoto [closing credits]
Based on the graphic novel “Akira” by Katsuhiro Otomo first published by “Young Magazine“, Kodansha Ltd.
Chief Animator: Takashi Nakamura
Animation Directors: Yoshio Takeuchi, Hiroaki Sato
Key Animators Telecom Animation Film Co., Ltd.: Koichi Maruyama, Yoshinobu Michihata, Masanori Ono, Kenji Yazaki, Horaki Noguchi, Toshihiko Masuda, Yuichiro Yano, Yuko Kusumoto, Hiroyuki Aoyama, Seiichi Takiguchi, Hirokazu Suenaga, Toshiya Washida, Keiko Tomizawa
Cooperative Animation Studios: Oh Production, Gainax, Studio Dub, Studio DEEN, Mook, Shindo Production, Tamazawa Animation, Studio Musashi, Studio Look, Fantasia, Boomerang, Kyoto Animation, Next One, Marchen-Sha, WARP, Samtack, Studio Pierrot, Tezuka Production, Group Lynus, Raijin Film, Tiger Production, Studio Kuma, Super Spirits, Asunaro Studio, Animal-Ya, Magic Bus, Anime Art, Radical Party
Cooperative Ink and Paint Studios: Telecom Animation Film, I.M Studio, Osaka Animation Studio, Studio Robin, Easy World, Suzuki Animation, Studio Kuma, M I, Studio Noel, Studio Marine, Office Next One, Fantasia, Studio Look, Body Planning
Director of Photography: Katsuji Misawa
Cooperative Animation Camera Studio: Trans Arts
Editor: Takeshi Seyama
Composer & Conductor: Shoji Yamashiro
Sound Architect: Keihi Urata (Emu)
Sound Recording Director: Susumu Aketagawa
Special Effects Artist: Takashi Maekawa
Art Director: Toshiharu Mizutani
Art Designers: Kuzuo Ebisawa, Yuji Ikehata, Kouji Ohno

Voices
Mitsuo Iwata (Kaneda)
Nozomu Sasaki (Tetsuo)
Mami Koyama (Kei)
Tetsusho Genda (Ryu)
Hiroshi Otake (Nezu)
Koichi Kitamura (Miyako)
Michihiro Ikemizu (inspector/committee I)
Yuriko Fuchizaki (Kaori)
Masaaki Okura (Yamagata)
Taro Arakawa (Watanabe)
Takeshi Kusao (Kai)
Kazumi Tanaka (Army)
Masayuki Kato (Engineer Sakiyama/committee D)
Yosuke Akimoto (manager)
Masato Hirano (Takeyama/spy/committee F)
Yukimasa Kishino (Kuwata/terrorist/assistant/committe B)
Kazuhiro Kando (Masaru (No. 27))
Tatsuhiko Nakamura Takashi (No. 26))
Sachie Ito (Kiyoko (No. 25))
Issei Futamata
Kozo Shioya
Michitaka Kobayashi
Hideyuki Umezu
Satoru Inagaki
Kayoko Fujii, Masami Toyoshima, Yuka Ohna (girls)
Taro Ishida (Colonel Shikishima)
Mizuho Suzuki (doctor)

English language version voices
Jimmy Flinders, Drew Thomas, Lewis Lemay, Barbara Larsen, Stanley Gurd Jr, Tony Mozdy, Deanna Morris, Bob Berger, Marilyn Lane, Watney Held, Burt Walters, Julie Phelan, Christopher Mathewson, Brad Wurst, Jim Warrington

2001 English language version voice talent
Johnny Yong Bosch, Joshua Seth, Wendee Lee, Sandy Fox, James Lyon, Cody Mackenzie, Robert Wicks, Sparky Thornton, Chloe Thornton, Detroit Louie, Matt “Masamune” Miller, Matthew Hustin, Dylan Tully, Michael Sorich, Russell Thor, Ray Michaels, George C. Cole, Lee Kelso, Pee Jay Lee, Mona Marshall, Michael McConnohie, Georgette Rose, Peter Lee, Jim Taggert, G. Gordon Baer, Robert Axelrod, Reba West, Steve Cannon, David Umansky, Steve Kramer, David Lucas, Henry Douglas Grey, Simon Isaacson, Ted Rae, Raphael Antonio, William Frederick, Frederick Bloggs, Kurt Wimberger, Lisa Tarulli, Jessica Gee, Joe Romersa, Ivan Buckley, Jonathan C. Osborne, Josil Ferhardt, Jean Howard, Guy Pinkham, Mike Lembaw, Harold Muckle, Doug Stone, Bambi Darro, Christy Mathewson, Emily Brown, Ethan Murray, Sam Strong, Richard Plantagenet, Dan Martin, Jackson Daniels, W.T. Hatch, Christopher Joyce, Adam Sholder, Tony Sarducci, Barbara Goodson, Lex Lang, Dougary Grant

Extracts included in
Akira Production Report (1988)
Akira Sound Clip (1988)

See also
Carrie (1976)
Chronicle (2012)
Heavy Metal (1981)
Scanners (1981)
Tetsuo (1988)
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
Supurigan (1998)
The Matrix (1999)

Press

1989
Variety 15 March 1989 p.18
A remarkable technical achievement in every respect, from the imaginative and detailed design of tomorrow to the booming Dolby effects on the soundtrack, pics only drawback is the slight stiffness in the drawing of human movement. – from a review by Edna [real name: Edna Fainaru]

1990
Cinefantastique vol.20 no.4 (March 1990) p.46
Katsuhiro Otomo manages, incredibly, to bring to Akira the visceral power and finely detailed artwork evident in his epic comics masterwork. Far more than a breathless exercise in pop color futurism, Otomo provocatively sums up the biblical themes of destruction and rebirth that have marked Japan's evolution, and fixated Nippon's animation since Astro Boy. […] Otomo's anti-consumerist message gives Akira a disturbing and contemplative power, but he's pursued these naturalistic desires at comprehensibility's expense. ln condensing the story's lengthy print serialisation. Otomo sacrifices character development for orgiastic Armageddon. Cyphers abound, particularly with Akira, who is turned from the comics' exploitable child to a mass of brain tissue. Otomo goes for a mystical 2001 climax, a barrage of light, floating skyscrapers, and childhood flashbacks. It's all confusing albeit hauntingly beautiful. […] The key to Akira‘s impact lies with its breathtaking animation, some of the most impressive work to appears since Fantasia. Otomo's vivid cels become cyberpunk Disney, every bizarre city dweller and scrap of metal given astonishing individuality. Akira‘s movement achieves a fluidity that puts rotoscoping to shame, with dozens of camera planes and steadicam shots giving Neo-Tokyo a cramped texture that even surpasses Blade Runner‘s 2019 L.A. With its knockout visuals and searing thought, Akira might be the first Japanese cartoon to break through the half-assed kiddie shows that Nippon is unfortunately known for. – from a review by Daniel Schweiger

New York Times no.140 (19 October 1990) Section C p.12
Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira […] is a phenomenal work of animation with all the hallmarks of an instant cult classic. Its post-apocalyptic mood, high-tech trappings, thrilling artwork and wide array of bizarre characters guarantee it a place in the pantheon of comic-strip science fiction. […] Mr Otomo invests this dark flowering of post-nuclear civilization with a clean, mean beauty. 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. Never resorting to the gaudiness of much ordinary animation, Mr. Otomo uses a wide range of colors in thoughtful, interesting ways, and he enlivens his film with a constant sense of surprise. The movements and seen here are tremendously varied and almost always unpredictable. […] Mr. Otomo and his army of highly skilled animators are at their best in conjuring up wildly turbulent special effects, which are rendered with great energy and ingenuity. Akira presents dozens of variations on the image of billowing smoke, in every imaginable range of colors. And when its characters hurtle though space, they do it with breathtaking energy. Among the film's typically strange and arresting sequences are one that shows tiny nursery toys transformed into huge, terrifying monsters, and another in which huge, frightening gobs of protoplasm spring out of the body of a frightened victim. Violent as it is on the surface, Akira is tranquil at its core. The story's sanest characters plead for the wise use of mankind's frightening new powers, lending the whole film the feeling of a cautionary tale. – from an illustrated review (A Tokyo of the future in vibrant animation) by Janet Maslin

Premiere vol.4 no.4 (December 1990) pp.42, 43
Unlike Blade Runner, Akira has an abundance of hyperactive plot lines, as ell as a degree of free-floating allegory. The film's apocalyptic visions are underscored by a pervasive techno-mysticism […] A true spectacle, the movie puts an unintelligible narrative, a remarkably vivid palette, and extremely detailed animation (complete with elaborate modelling and shadows) in the service of lovingly rendered destruction. – from an illustrated (Cartoon cultism zaps America) by J. Huberman

1991
Starburst no.159 (November 1991) p.48
Otomo's Akira is surely the standard to follow as animation reflects the graphic novel's rapid evolution. The visceral narrative is dynamically realised, with constantly changing perspectives, blindingly intense action, and enough depth to give a real sense of the overwhelming powers unleashed. One drawback is possible difficulty in differentiating between characters. Watch it and be stunned. – from a review by Mark Wyman

2011
Time Out 23-29 June 2011 p.83
A towering achievement of imagination and the detail of each frame is a miracle of film artistry. Yet there are elements that don't hold up so well: Otomo favours spectacle above all else, so of the supporting players, none feels truly integral to the story. We see the death of one crooked politico, but his crookedness is generic (he resembles a rat holding a briefcase of banknotes). Still, if you haven't seen it, prepare to have your gob well and truly smacked. – David Jenkins

References

Periodicals

  • Animag no.7 pp.30-35 – illustrated review
  • Cinefantastique vol.20 no.4 (March 1990) pp.46; 47 – illustrated credits, review (by Daniel Schweiger); illustrated article (Japanese animation: Wonders overcoming western prejudice by Steve Biodrowski)
  • Empire January 1992 p.100 – review
  • Filmvilag vol.40 no.4 (1997) pp.37-38 (Hungary) – illustrated review (Uj Tokio by Ferenc Komlodi)
  • Idols November 1990 – review
  • Imaginator no.7 p.25 – review
  • Interzone no.235 (July/August 2011) p.59 – review (by Tony Lee)
  • Interzone no.44 (February 91) p.21 – review (by Nick Lowe)
  • Legend no.19 (Winter 1995/1996) p.26 – soundtrack review
  • Metro no.135 (2003) pp.266-267 (Australia) – illustrated DVD review
  • Monthly Film Bulletin vol.58 no.686 (March 1991) pp.65-67; 67-68 – illustrated credits, review (by Tony Rayns); illustrated interview with Katsuhiro Otomo (Future paradise by Tony Rayns)
  • New Statesman and Society vol.3 (25 January 1991) pp.32-35 – review (Apocalypse how? by Deborah Orr)
  • The Orient Express no.1 pp.3-4 – review (by Kevin Lyons)
  • Perfect Vision vol.5 no.19 (Autumn 1993) pp.135-139; 138; 139 – review; article; article
  • Premiere vol.4 no.4 (December 1990) pp.42, 43 – illustrated review (Cartoon cultism zaps America by J. Huberman)
  • Satellite Times February 1994 p.31 – illustrated article
  • Sight & Sound vol.13 no.10 (October 2003) p.74 – DVD review
  • Starburst no.159 (November 1991) p.48 – review (by Mark Wyman)
  • Starburst no.285 (May 2002) p.65 – illustrated video/DVD review
  • Time Out 23-29 June 2011 p.83 – illustrated review (by David Jenkins)
  • Variety 15 March 1989 p.18 – credits, review ( by Edna [real name: Edna Fainaru])
  • Village Voice no.35 (23 October 1990) p.74 – illustrated review (Unframed by Richard Gehr)
  • The Village Voice vol.46 (3 April 2001) p.124 – illustrated review (The art of the ridiculous sublime by Michael Atkinson)

Newspapers

  • New York Times no.140 (19 October 1990) Section C p.12 – illustrated credits, review (A Tokyo of the future in vibrant animation by Janet Maslin)

Books

  • 100 Cult Films by Ernest Mathijs & Xavier Mendik pp.10-12 – illustrated review by EM [Ernest Mathijs]
  • 500 Essential Cult Movies: The Ultimate Guide by Jennifer Eiss with J.P. Rutter and Steve White p.144 – illustrated credits, synopsis, review
  • The A-Z of Science Fiction and Fantasy Films by Howard Maxford p.12 – review, credits
  • The Asian Film Library Reference to Japanese Film 1998 vol 1: Films – credits
  • The Best 80s Movies by Helen O'Hara pp.150-153 – illustrated article (Best foreign movies of the 1980s)
  • Elliot's Guide to Home Entertainment (4th Edition) by John Elliot pp.11-12 – credits, short review, UK video data
  • Horror and Science Fiction Films IV by Donald C. Willis p.7 – credits
  • The Rough Guide to Anime by Simon Richmond pp.36-37
  • Sci-fi Chronicles by Guy Haley (ed.) p.366
  • Sci-Fi Now's 80s Sci-fi Almanac: Complete Movie Guide 1980-1989 p.9 – illustrated article (The 15 greatest big screen bad-asses of the 1980s)

Other sources

  • BFI Southbank Guide December 2020 p.17 – illustrated listing
  • BFI Southbank Guide December 2021 p.23 – illustrated listing
  • Island World Press Pack – credits, synopsis