Akira begins as it means to go on – with a nuclear explosion that devastates Tokyo.
It ends with pretty much the same, augmented by the sort of bio-organic body transmutation that would have David Cronenberg reaching for the anaesthetic and self-piercing kit.
In between these mind-blowing bookends is a sprawling, cyber-punk epic haunted by the ghost of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and obsessed with the unchecked power of the human mind and youthful rebellion.
The year is 2019 and Tokyo has been rebuilt as neo-Tokyo after some cataclysmic event caused 30 years ago by someone called Akira.
Tetsuo is a young member of a motorcycle gang, who greatly looks up to its leader, Kaneda. One night Tetsuo is involved in an accident with a child-like being who has been sprung from a laboratory by an underground resistance group. As his gang look on, he is taken away by the military.
Tetsuo is taken to a military hospital where he becomes the subject of a secret army experiment in ESP that renders him able to destroy anything by sheer will alone.
Escaping from the hospital and on the verge of insanity, Tetsuo sweeps through Tokyo armed with his supernatural power on a quest to look for the legendary Akira, who apparently is held captive somewhere by the military.
It’s up to Kaneda, his rebel friend Kei and a trio of ‘psionics’ to stop Tetsuo and prevent the destruction of the world.
The action is all wrapped up in director Katsuhiro Otomo’s scintillating animated visuals, with not one – not one! – computer-assisted shot in sight. The detail in the animation is superb: the texture on buildings, realistic lighting effects and constant movement in the background make the film extremely atmospheric.
With 38 volumes of Otomo’s original Manga comic condensed into a two-hour film, trying to make this movie as a “live Action” flick would have bankrupted several small countries!
For anyone who thinks Manga is all about incomprehensible storylines, naked girls with no pubic hair and a myriad of monsters that invariably turn into a giant penis, Akira will set you straight.
Simply put, No Akira – No Matrix (1999). It’s that important.