Year of Release: 1988
Director: Katsuhiro Otomo
Screenplay: Katsuhiro Otomo and Izo Hashimoto, based on the manga Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo
Starring: Mitsuo Iwata, Nozomu Sasaki, Mami Koyama, Taro Ishida, Mizuho Suzuki, Tetshusho Genda
Running Time: 125 minutes
Genre: animation, anime, science-fiction, action, cyberpunk
In 2019, the metropolis of Neo-Tokyo has been built over the ashes of Tokyo, which was destroyed in World War III. Neo-Tokyo is under martial law riddled with violent anti-government terrorists, and religious cults, while the streets are owned by vicious teenage biker gangs. After an encounter with a strange, wizened child, biker gang member Tetsuo Shima (Sasaki) finds his own psychic ability awakened. With his devastating powers increasing exponentially, Tetsuo's ability awakens dormant superbeing Akira. Meanwhile Tetsuo's best friend Kaneda (Iwata) and resistance-fighter Kei (Koyama) fight to stop him before it's too late.
Akira is possibly one of the most important anime films ever made, and one of the films most responsible for introducing anime to western audiences. In fact, it is probably one of the most important science-fiction films of the 1980s, with it's influence being felt in numerous films and TV shows since then. Co-written and directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, based on his own epic-length manga series which ran in Young Magazine from 1982 until 1990, this is an eye-popping visual spectacle, with practically every frame bursting with colour, detail and incident. If you ever get the chance to see it in a theatre, then do so, because the film loses so much when the image is shrunk down to TV-size. The film races along at a breakneck pace, and it has aged surprisingly well. It maintains a real apocalyptic vibe. It does suffer from incoherence at times (Otomo once commented that it had not occurred to him that people would see the film who had not already read the manga), and the pacing is sometimes clunky, however, this remains an overwhelming experience, and a must-see.