Katsuhiro Otomo and His Vision
Based on the emerging cyberpunk subgenre, Katsuhiro Otomo is nearing a translation of his story into an anime that is finished before the manga is finished. He first published the manga Akira in 1982 on the pages of Youth Magazine, a weekly manga resource in Japan published by Kodansha. The Committee of Akira Ltd. and publisher Kodansha Ltd. are committed to stepping in and financing the production of Otomo’s manga, an unprecedented project worth over 10 million dollars.
However, Otomo’s vision is too big for any production studio. He demanded creative control and would not receive the complete realization of his vision, despite the film consisting of many highly detailed animated cells that generated eight times the budget at the international box office. The story of the film begins in 1988 with surprising imagery. A huge explosion that looks like an atom explodes in downtown Tokyo and starts WWIII.
After the war ended 30 years later, Neo-Tokyo had grown from rubble into a metropolis of enormous skyscrapers and bright lights. The military forces ordered the use of extreme violence to stop political demonstrations from filling the streets. On the other hand, a top-secret government experiment has produced twisted but strange children with extraordinary powers.
Japanese Cultural Identity
Young motorcycle gangs are buzzing on the highways and engaging in deadly street battles. Otomo created a thrilling yet terrifying cyberpunk world. Released in 1988, people still consider Akira to be one of the most important anime drawings ever released. It transcends the boundaries of the medium through its incredible production values, profound impact, unforgettable design, and timeless commentary on Japanese cultural identity.
After all, the film stands as a rare exception. In the film, Tetsuo undergoes a similar experiment under Dr. Onishi and his military commander, who try to imitate the undefined power of an Esper named Akira. He is a boy whose strength is so great that it caused an explosion in Tokyo several decades earlier. Dr. Onishi, on the other hand, unleashes Tetsuo’s natural abilities, causing him to become uncontrollable and unstable.
It turns him into a violent, hallucinating, and power-hungry maniac determined to rule Akira. He survived only as a dissected organ in a jar, free from the dungeons of the prison. On the other hand, Kaneda misses Kei, a member of the rebel faction who is determined to overthrow an irresponsible and corrupt government. They soon realized that they were both pursuing the same thing—not idealistically, though.
The Grand Scope
When Kaneda found out what happened to Tetsuo, he joined the rebels, if only to restore his best friend and stop him from destroying all of Neo-Tokyo. In the first sequence, a gang of teenage bikers called the Capsules, led by the familiar Kaneda, engages another group called the Clowns. Tetsuo, the temperamental one, bumps into a boy of an odd age with telekinetic powers during a street fight.
Suddenly, a government ship arrives to take away the wrinkled and transformed boy and Tetsuo. Kaneda’s gang is interrogated, unaware that the boys are being used as test subjects for a government installation where scientists are attempting to imbue Espers with godlike powers. The need for multiple artists to work on a single film resulted in an inconsistent style in anime. The grand scope celebrates the great Neo-Tokyo.
The thrilling yet entertaining action sequences, on the other hand, do not betray the otherwise grander visuals. The result, at times, is immersive and downright awe-inspiring. Otomo Productions goes to great lengths to ensure that the screen is uniform. Akira is more than eye-catching visuals, science fiction concepts, and exuberant motorcycle action. At the same time, Otomo’s reach is evident everywhere, from countless other Japanese anime films like Ghost in the Shell to his unquestionably cinematic approach.
Realism and Control
With roots in manga, anime artists master style and realism until they take full control. They have a strange interaction that remains a defining visual motif in Japanese anime. The images are only slightly less fanciful than Ridley Scott’s futuristic vision for Tokyo-inspired Los Angeles in Blade Runner. In Akira‘s case, realism presents itself in the form of painted pictures depicting the extraordinarily colorful Neo-Tokyo cityscape.
Anime often has a juxtaposition of tones and styles, but there is little of Otomo’s blend and approach in the film. On the other hand, he adopts a more comic book style elsewhere, especially in the less heavy-duty and more action-packed scenes involving Kaneda. Therefore, Tetsuo became a symbol of Japan’s younger generation, just as Akira symbolizes Japan’s past. Although Tetsuo’s behavior does not exemplify the characteristics of the term or the use of Japanese terms, he symbolizes a failure to take responsibility.
He was also able to control the large amount of strength that was suddenly thrust upon him. His mutations symbolize the survival training and strength suddenly thrust upon them. The combination of the human machine and flesh is both terrifying and sad for a teenager who is unable to deal with the new power that is suddenly thrust upon him.
Tetsuo, the Iron Man
Tetsuo’s identity crisis, ala Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, represents a politically advanced and powerful industrial nation that is, however, disconnected and confused. If we think of Tetsuo as a symbol of confusion originating from discontinuity and Akira as a symbol of the past, the fusion of the two entities serves as a spectacularly reflexive look at its counterculture. Tetsuo’s disturbed personality symbolizes a dilemma regarding a fixed identity.
Briefly, the shifts in his personality became irreversible subject traits. He represents a fragmented subject, and his metamorphosis demonstrates that the self is not fixed ontologically. In Akira, Kaneda and Tetsuo are members of the Capsule. However, even compared to governments and scientists, they seem more humane. The film reverses the center margin dichotomy by voicing the margins and giving them a neutral stage.
However, Akira also rejects naive grand narratives about scientific advances such as authority, rationality, and science. Apart from highlighting the collapse of absolutist values and essentialist ideas, the collapse of morality and certainty is subjective and regional in nature. By presenting the collapse of traditional institutions such as the law, school, and family, the aspects act as metanarrative distrust.
In addition, Akira adapts the theme of a nightmarish dystopia, acting as a critical dystopia as it tries to project an image of a futuristic city that perpetuates the worst features of advanced corporate capitalism.
Therefore, the urban landscape thus represents the aesthetics of subtextual decay, revealing the dark side of technology and scientific experimentation. As a result, Espers are constantly stuck in their childhood, looking old in strange ways but still having children’s brains. Kidnapped and subjected to unknown experiments, Tetsuo is also hallucinating in his dreams. Beyond technology, individuals underwent a similar reconstruction at the hands of Otomo.
In one bloody sequence, it shows a nightmare where a stuffed animal projection turns into a high-fighting monster. The sequence shows Tetsuo’s guts spilling onto the ground in a heap, and he desperately tries to pull them back inside. When he develops instantaneous telekinetic powers, he acts in a stunning display of destruction and violence. His head began to enlarge, and soon, his body grew strange, fleshy arms in place of the missing appendages.
Tetsuo lost all his devotion and sense of history to his friends. Objects that are liquid but shaped at the same time reflect post-atomic radiation mutations as well as changes that are too fast for Tetsuo to experience. In the end, Tetsuo’s arms grow into Akira’s massive body, releasing a mass of machinery and flesh. He is a metaphor for postwar Japan, growing out of control.
In less graphic terms, Akira becomes Otomo’s future tragedy related to his character. It presents a cynical allegory for how postwar Japan has been irreversibly affected. Broadly speaking, Akira also represents a counter-cultural rebellion that fights against the system at any cost and in any form. When we are so fascinated by the process of the film, Akira is still immersed in a spectacle. The overload of visual information makes us miss a lot of cultural and social commentary, regardless of the imbalance.
- Adachi, M., Akatsuka, F., Akiyama, G., Anno, H., Araki, H., Azuma, H., … & Yoshida, T. Part of a series on.
- Freiberg, F. (2013). Akira and the postnuclear sublime. In Hibakusha Cinema (pp. 103-114). Routledge.
- Gordon, A. (1993). Postwar Japan as history. Univ of California Press.
- Standish, I. (1998). Akira: Postmodernism and Resistance (pp. 56-74). Cambridge University Press.