Sunday, October 30, 2011

Flick of The Day: Akira

When I began writing the Daily Flick almost a year ago, I had two main aims. Firstly, I would attempt to review and recommend a film a day and as anyone who has read the blog will attest, I have been less than successful. Today's film is number 139 if you are interested. My second aim was to try and include as diverse a range of cinema as possible. This has been more successful as I have touched on innumerable genres and style of film making and included as much foreign language cinema as I felt necessary. However, there is one area in which I have been remiss for it is not a genre I am overly familiar with, Japanese Anime. Today's flick of the day is Akira.
A touchstone for the genre and perhaps the most influential example of its breadth, Akira is based on the manga series of the same name by Katsuhiro Otomo. In a post apocalyptic Neo Tokyo in the year 2019, a group of young bikers stumble across a government research project. Tetsuo, a disgruntled and oddly independent member of the gang becomes imbued with strange telekinetic powers of an insidious nature. These powers are linked to the government project centred on a being called Akira. As the military pursue Tetsuo and the energy source begins to take him over, we learn the dark secret at the heart of it and of the reconstruction of Japan after the last war.
Darkly atmospheric and highly stylised, Akira is a joy to watch with the stunningly rendered skyline of Neo Tokyo dominating many scenes and a level of detail in the animation not normally seen in anime of this time. The storyline is at times overly complex and perhaps too overwrought for an adult audience to truly engage with it. This not the point however, let the story flow over you and indulge yourself in the bright colours and textures of the animation. The first fully realised anime picture with long drawn out scenes and lip synced dialogue in the original Japanese version, for anyone with even a passing interest in the genre, it is a real must see. For those with little or no knowledge of the subject, it is a fine jumping off point. 
One of the main critiques of the film would be its attempt to condense a six volume comic with over 2,000 pages into a two hour film. This is perhaps the reason for the dense plotting which can be difficult to follow. Perhaps the film deserves credit for attempting to tell such a lengthy story but it doesn't quite manage it. It is perhaps telling that the long rumoured and always obligatory Pointless American Live Action Remake or P.A.L.A.R for short is to be split into two films.
All in all, this is an excellent example of Japanese anime and  many Western fans initiation to the genre.Its success upon release in 1988 created a market for anime in the West that has only grown since then. The works of artists like Miyazaki and Otomo has gradually become more well known since with Miyazaki's Spirited Away winning the Best Animated Feature Oscar in 2002. Even for those with little or no knowledge of anime like myself, there is much to enjoy. 

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