Wednesday, April 19, 2017

2017 Blind Spot Series: Akira

Based on the manga series by Katsuhrio Otomo, Akira is the story of a group of men who try to stop a teenage biker in futuristic Tokyo from releasing a powerful psychic. Directed by Otomo and screenplay by Otomo and Izo Hashimoto, the film is a sci-fi anime film set in the dystopian future as it plays into the cyberpunk culture. Featuring the voices of Mitsuo Iwata, Nozomu Sasaki, Mami Koyama, Taro Ishida, Mizuhu Suzuki, and Tetsusho Genda. Akira is a sprawling and immensely gripping film from Katsuhiro Otomo.

The film revolves around a young teenage biker whose encounter with a mysterious psychic individual where he eventually gains psychic powers and becomes a dangerous liability for many as a military colonel and a biker gang leader try to stop him. It’s a film set 21 years after World War III where Tokyo was mysteriously destroyed as it would later be called Neo Tokyo where it’s a city of complete unrest due to riots, gang violence, and tension between the government and its people. The film’s screenplay does have a simple storyline that play into these events and how a gang of bikers are just trying to deal with the chaos as they fight another gang where a young biker named Tetsuo (voice of Nozomu Sasaki) meets this strange child-like old man where he suddenly get these psychic powers as Tetsuo and this little man are eventually retrieved by Colonel Shikishima (Taro Ishida) who is just trying to prevent from these psychic events from unleashing in Japan while contending with corrupt politicians and businessmen who refuse to believe that Tetsuo’s growing powers would unleash the end of the world.

With the help of Dr. Onishi (Mizuhu Suzuki), Col. Shikishima tries to find Tetsuo and stop him as well as protect three aging psychic children from unleashing their own powers into absolute destruction. Also trying to find Tetsuo is his best friend Kaneda (Mitsuo Iwata) who is the leader of their biker gang where he gets the help of a young woman named Kei (Mami Koyama) who is part of a rebellious group that wants to free Tetsuo and other psychic beings believing that they’re key to the emergence of a new world. Yet, Kaneda realizes that Tetsuo is no longer becoming himself while Kei realizes that he must stopped or else the world would end as there is a lot at stake. Even as someone like Col. Shikishima who is seen as a villain at first is really someone who knows what evil can do and is more concerned about setting the world right rather than be in control.

Katsuhiro Otomo’s direction is quite grand for the way it opens with this sequence that establishes the events that would lead to the film’s main plot set in 2019 Neo Tokyo which shows Tokyo being destroyed by something reminiscent of an atomic bomb. With the help of animation director Yoshio Takeuchi, Otomo’s direction would draw upon not just rich and gripping imagery in its hand-drawn animated style but also in the sense of macabre and terror some of the creatures and such would look. The film also makes no qualms that it is a violent picture as some of the violent sequences are quite graphic and bloody where there is also a rape scene in which Tetsuo’s girlfriend Kaori (Yuriko Fuchizaki) is involved in. Otomo’s vision of dystopian society isn’t exactly far off as it play into a future that hasn’t evolved much in terms of its technology while many of the buildings still look modern with something that feels like a city that looks uneasy thanks in part to the work of production designers Kazuo Ebisawa, Yuji Ikehata, and Koji Ono, with art director Toshiharu Mizutani, in fleshing out the look of Neo Tokyo.

With the help of cinematographer Katsuji Misawa in terms of creating a visual look and lighting style for the animation, Otomo would also create scenes that are unsettling but also dream-like as it play into Tetsuo’s own discovery over his newfound powers. Otomo would create some unique compositions and images to play into the world of psychic powers as it relates to Kei and her own encounter with one of the psychic children. Even as the film’s climax involving Kaneda, Col. Shikishima, the three psychic children, and Tetsuo is definitely grand in not just the stakes but also in trying to have Tetsuo to reconnect with his humanity. Overall, Otomo creates a dazzling yet visceral film about a dystopian future in the hands of a young biker with psychic powers.

Editor Takeshi Seyama does brilliant work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts and other stylish cuts to play into the action and suspense. The sound work of Tetsuo Segawa does amazing work with the sound in creating some sound effects and other textures to play into the action and some of the drama. The film’s music by Tsutomu Ohashi is incredible as it feature a mix of orchestral with some pulsating electronic music that play into the dystopian world as it is one of the film’s major highlights.

The film’s phenomenal voice cast include some notable small work from Takeshi Kusao as one of Kaneda’s friends Kaisuke, Masaaki Okura as another friend of Kaisuke and Tetsuo in Yamagata, Yuriko Fuchizaki as Tetsuo’s girlfriend Kaori, and the trio of Fukue Ito, Tatsuhiko Nakamura, and Kazuhiro Kamifuji as the three elderly-looking psychic children who deal with the powers they accidentally give to Tetsuo. Tessho Genda is terrific as the rebel leader Ryu while Mizuho Suzuki is superb as Dr. Onishi who is trying to understand the psychic powers that Tetsuo has gained. Taro Ishida is excellent as Col. Shikishima as a military leader trying to stop from Tetsuo from destroying everything and protect the psychic children while Mami Koyama is brilliant as the voice of Kei as a young rebel who would have a connection with one of the psychic children in attempting to save the world. Nozomu Sasaki is amazing as the voice of Tetsuo as a teenage biker who was once bullied as he is given strange psychic powers as he reacts with an air of angst and anguish. Finally, there’s Mitsuo Iwata in a great performance as Kaneda as a biker gang leader with a cool, red motorcycle who tries to save Tetsuo as he also falls for Kei where they try to figure out what to do to save the world.

Akira is a magnificent film from Katsuhiro Otomo. Featuring a great voice cast, rapturous animation, a compelling story, and a killer soundtrack, it’s a film that is definitely a powerful sci-fi film but also a tremendous introduction to the world of anime. In the end, Akira is an outstanding film from Katsuhiro Otomo.

Katsuhrio Otomo Films: (Neo Tokyo) - (Robot Carnival) - (World Apartment Horror) - (Cannon Fodder) - (Steamboy) - (Mushishi) - (Combustible (2013 film))

© thevoid99 2017


Dell said...

This one's on my Blindspot List for this year, too. I need to get on the ball with that list. I'll come back and compare notes when I get to it.

Brittani Burnham said...

Great review! I haven't seen this one either, though I know I should. I hope to change that some day.

TheVern said...

So glad you checked this one out. I should revisit the original Japanese track. The version I own on Laserdisc defaults to English and I lost the remote to switch tracks.

thevoid99 said...

@TheVern-The version I have and bought last Xmas is the 25th Anniversary release which has the original Japanese track and 2 different English versions. I prefer watching the film in its original form as I'm not a fan of dubbing.

thevoid99 said...

@Wndell-See it now!

@Brittani-See it!