music friday, 2000 edition
true detective, season one finale

blu-ray series #8: akira (katsuhiro ohtomo, 1988)

The original idea was to watch Porco Rosso, one of Miyazaki’s fine movies, with an eight-year-old boy. That didn’t work out, so I pulled Akira off the shelf. Oops! Just a warning: this isn’t a movie for an eight-year-old.

I’m not very knowledgeable about manga-based anime, so much of what made Akira so revolutionary is lost on me. I watched the Trigun series and two Ghost in the Shells, and that’s all I can remember. My anime experiences are dominated by Miyazaki. I’m willing to accept that Akira is an important film in anime history, and leave it at that.

It’s an impressive looking movie, and the conclusion, when Tetsuo transforms into … well, whatever it is … is imaginative, even awe-inspiring. I don’t know the connection between the name of the character Tetsuo and the movie Tetsuo, which also features a person who becomes one with metal, but I assume such a connection exists (I think Tetsuo came after Akira … at least, the movie did).

Akira is fiercely ambitious, and it is easy to understand its large following. But if, like me, you come to Akira with no prior knowledge, you may be overwhelmed. The movie is erratically coherent (or occasionally incoherent, take your pick), which is perhaps to be expected when you are adapting something that runs more than 2000 pages. I was able to follow the basic narrative, and simply accepting the fantastic world of the film helps get through anything too puzzling. But most of what I am describing is of the “admire more than like” category. Despite being confused, I don’t have any desire to watch it again to pick up on things I missed the first time around. I might want to watch that ending, though … it was pretty cool. 7/10. Tetsuo: The Iron Man might match up well with this, but I hated it so much I can’t really recommend it. Watch a Miyazaki you’ve haven’t seen before, that should work.



One of the things that is significant about Akira is that it's one of the first Japanese animations to be strongly influenced by American cyberpunk motifs, which of course were themselves influenced big time by Japanese popular culture. So it's a feedback loop, once removed. I really love this movie--coherence is an overrated virtue.

Steven Rubio

I wouldn't say coherence is a virtue. But personal experience suggests it matters more to me, in terms of my taste preferences, than to others. I would prefer an Akira that was more coherent, but such an Akira wouldn't necessarily be a better movie, and no one should make a movie just to match my taste preferences, anyway. Although Tetsuo: The Iron Man was enough out of my strike zone that I couldn't appreciate it at all, unlike Akira, which I did like.

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