One of the most succesful and most influential anime films of all time. For some reason. Knowing fully well how ignorant this is going to make me sound, I was very underwhelmed by it. Maybe there was just no way this was gonna live up to my expectations after how long it has been hyped up as the holy grail of cyberpunk anime. While it's undeniably a visual marvel and was, at that point, probably only second to Blade Runner in its depiction of what we now recognize as a cyberpunk dystopia, it... well, it was no Blade Runner.
Where art and animation are still very, very impressive when you get down to what the movie is actually about, it embodies a lot of what I consider to be some of the most tedious tendencies of shlocky 80's sci-fi action. 2 hours are a decently lengthy runtime for an anime movie, yet Akira still feels like it cut out a lot of much needed character development, world building, just general downtime to fill itself to the brim with constant action sequences. Accordingly all the subtext behind its slick cyberpunk visuals, all the nuclear anxiety, political corruption, extremism and so forth feel like token attempts to add meaning to a movie that can't go for two minutes without having something explode.
I dunno man, the whole movie felt, to me, like a Paul Verhoeven production, but without the self aware humor. I loved the world it created, I just wish I could have gotten myself to care more about the things happening and people living in it. The core conflict between Kaneda and Tetsuo, two teens in a biker gang, the latter of which ends up developing psychic powers, could have been emotionally involving, had it actually gotten more development. Which is basically what I could say about almost every single aspect of Akira. Technically the story has a lot of moving parts, between gangs, scientists, politicians, anti government rebels, an officer of the army staging a military coup but none of it is fleshed out, instead it's just a constant barrage of guns and explosions.
I'm gonna be honest, I'm not especially familiar with late 80's anime. See, I've only gotten seriously into anime fairly recently, which leaves me with a lot of classics to catch up with. I think the only other anime movie from that time period, ironically even the same year, as Akira that I have seen was My Neighbour Totoro, which is its complete opposite in practically every way. And also something I got a hell of a lot more out of.
Theroretically, Akira feels like something that should have been up my alley. I'm a sucker for all things cyberpunk, the megacities, the neonlit skycrapers, the futuristic bikes, the oppressive corporate iconography, the slick vehicles and technology. But I expected something like Blade Runner and what I got was something more akin to an 80's grindhouse movie that somehow managed to have art direction on par with Blade Runner, brought to live with obscenely expensive animation.
I'm just so underwhelmed. You know, when you finally watch something that's widely considered a classic, there's always somewhat of a high chance it won't match your expectations. But usually I can at least see why those movies have the reputation they have. But Akira left me very cold on everything but a technical level. It stretched about 30 minutes worth of plot over 2 hours worth of movie, and filled the rest with gunfights and explosions. It almost makes me wish the productions values hadn't been so high, because maybe then they would have had to come up with things other than action scenes to fill their runtime.