Akira (1988)

One of the most iconic anime ever produced, Otomo’s landmark work of dystopia and politics remains mind-blowing in its execution and acts as a stern warning to humanity not to destroy ourselves. 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Review #2,504

Dir. Katsuhiro Otomo
1988 | Japan | Animation/Sci-Fi/Action | 119 min | 1.85:1 | Japanese
NC16 (passed clean) for graphic violence and brief nudity

Cast: Mitsuo Iwata, Nozomu Sasaki, Mami Koyama
Plot: A secret military project endangers Neo-Tokyo when it turns a biker gang member into a rampaging psychic psychopath who can only be stopped by a teenager, his gang of biker friends and a group of psychics.
Official Selection (Berlinale)
Source: Pioneer Entertainment

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Dystopian Society; Psychic Powers; Apocalyptic World
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Cult Mainstream

Viewed: Projector X: Picturehouse
Spoilers: No

Even though it has been more than a decade since I first saw Akira on DVD, several scenes are still etched in my memory, particularly a frightening one involving giant-sized soft toys as one of the characters, Tetsuo, has a severe hallucinatory episode.  He is experimented on by a secret military department hoping to unlock the psychic power of human beings. 

His biker friends, notably the protagonist, Kaneda (who owns the signature red bike that is synonymous with the film), must locate and save him before Neo-Tokyo implodes from the misguided ambitions of people in power. Revisiting it on the big screen, I’m convinced of its status as one of the most iconic anime ever produced. 

Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, Akira is a landmark work of dystopia and politics, released in the same year as Grave of the Fireflies and My Neighbour Totoro, which are far different movies in terms of tone and style. 

“There must be a future that we can choose for ourselves.”

With its Blade Runneresque visuals and a storyline which builds up to a mind-blowing climax that acts as a stern warning to humanity not to destroy ourselves, Otomo’s film promises thrills and spills as it tackles anarchy in society, impotent governments, destructive superpowers and the fears of a world-ending apocalypse. 

Akira is also best known for its bike chase sequences which are not only high-octane and intense but ooze lots of style. 

When power cannot be contained, whether politically or technologically, it becomes a recipe for catastrophe; Kaneda’s gang of street-smart misfits, however, thrives in the chaos, fighting fire with fire while also showing that love and compassion could also play a role in altering outcomes. 

Grade: A




  1. Great review for a great movie. It’s great that you’re covering Akira. Sure, some parts are dated in hindsight like how we technically lived in the same year the movie takes place in, but it’s whatever. I don’t know if you’ve played any of the King of Fighters games, but SNK made a character called K9999 who is a shameless ripoff of Tetsuo even down to having the same voice actor. They stopped using him until recently where they redesigned him as “Krohnen”, gave him a different voice actor, and toned down the similarities with his design, personality, and powers. At least Tetsuo is more popular than his copy unlike Claw from Kimba, but that’s a conversation for another day. Haha!

    Liked by 1 person


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