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Director: Katsuhiro Otomo
If you've ever been around someone who's a Japanime (Japanese animation) fan, chances are, you may have heard him or her (though usually him) periodically scream "Kanedaaaaa!" at the top of his voice, then giggle like a little schoolboy. I know I do. The reason for this Tourette's syndrome like compulsion is the film, "Akira."

Buy Akira on DVD!
In 2019, Neo-Tokyo sits on the ashes of Tokyo, destroyed by an unexplained weapons experiment in World War III. Though the city looks clean and futuristic, at street level, a kind of Mad Max environment exists where biker gangs battle for supremacy over the ruined highways of old Tokyo. Kaneda and Tetsuo, childhood friends since meeting in an orphanage, are members of one of these biker gangs. Strange events are set into motion when they run into the military that controls Neo-Tokyo. A strange child was taken, as was Tetsuo. Kaneda sets out to rescue his friend, together with Kei, a member of a resistance group. They discover a secret, which threatens to level Neo Tokyo, and it all leads ultimately to the subject of the film: Akira.

The reason for "Akira's" popularity was because it was one of the first Japanime films to cross geographical boundaries, with its animation, cinematography, and storyline, proving that animation can be much more than watching a mutated mouse prance about on screen. The fact that its storyline still has fans debating just what it was about exactly, decades later, only adds to this films appeal - and after all, there's always the amazing bikes, lovingly rendered in all their arrogant gasoline sexiness. Akira epitomises a quality which seems peculiar to the Japanese: the idea of a post-apocalyptic future populated by a citizens under siege from itself, living among the rubble of its civilisation whose destruction was brought on mankind's own arrogance in playing God. In the film, the scientists' experiments on Tetsuo goes wrong, leaving a very scared, very pissed off teenager with a destructive force on his hands. Blood, gore and violence are depicted in detail, shocking and disturbing - and in one bedroom scene, a very scary spin on what toys do at night when you're asleep. Yet there are also moments of humanity, and moments where you just have to say, "Gawddamn! My mind's been screwed with!" All this is punctuated and enhanced by the soundtrack, haunting, scary and memorable.

"Akira" is not a film about violence. It hints at mind-boggling ideas by subtle implication, images and obtuse language - so many things arise and sink, not really explored but enough to make this a very muscular film. It is a film that will never be dated, and will always be the reason why there will still be people running around screaming Japanese names at each other in public.

Eden Law

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