Akira: Anime Imitating Life

It is considered by it’s critics the greatest science fiction animation films of all time, and is a benchmark in Japanese animation and a live action adaptation is currently on hold because of ethnic casting problems (Thanks Disney, fuckin assholes, haven’t been waiting for this my whole life or anything you woke casting, shit postin…sorry) It’s being produced by Leonardo DiCaprio (Love that Leo is a Weeb) and we’re hopefully looking for a release somewhere in the summer of 2021 (if they can get their shit together). It’s been labeled as “a vital cornerstone of the cyberpunk genre”, along the likes of Blade Runner, but it’s just more than striking visuals, beautiful colors, and story. Akira put it in your face that animation wasn’t just for kids

Over the years there have been countless references that have payed homage to the film including more recently Kaneda’s bike being featured in Spielberg’s Ready Player One, even Kanye West featured a music video titled Stronger which featured an exactly remake of the visuals from the film. Set on July 16, 2019 three years after World War III, the story opens with a biker gang of teenage rebels and their leader Kaneda and his best friend Tetsuo who stumble upon a to secret project whose main purpose is turning telekinetic humans into weapons. Testsuo is captured by them and it quickly becomes obvious that he possess abilities that rivals the programs most powerful weapon “Akira” However, outside of the world of science fiction, with their lasers and children with telekinetic powers, there are a lot of similarities between this world and our own.

Neo-Tokyo

The setting of Akira is eerily similarly to modern day megalopolises, examples of this are megacities are Tokyo, Honk Kong, and Dubai who have some of the highest populations on the planet and a sprawling cityscape. Even the colors that they used for Neo-Tokyo have were so well imagined it resembled that of current day Tokyo with tightly packed buildings and course neon green glow that’s present even at night. The wide, low angle shots gives the viewer the scope of this massive city, from the shimmering windows at the tallest floors of these megastructures to the seedy underbelly of the city.

Social Unrest

On its surface Neo-Tokyo may seem like a bright and prosperous city, but there is a civil unrest that is bubbling up from the bottom because of a crumbling economy, poverty, and violent protests that spill out into the city streets. Students are clashing with local authorities who are becoming brutally militarized. Recently there have been massive protest in Hong Kong over a new extradition bill, and on the surface it appears to be relatively peaceful, even after an unknown man fell to his death after falling from scaffolding, Hong Kong still deployed hundreds of riot police to combat the protestors with tear gas and high-pressure hoses.

Terrorism

In the film Akira, alongside the rioting in the streets, there is also a heightened threat of terrorist attacks, these anti-government terrorists keep police busy as they blow up the city’s buildings which is occurring on a daily basis in Neo-Tokyo. While the motives of these terrorists are unclear to Kaneda he joins them in efforts to free Tetsuo from a government containment facility. In our world seeing a militarized police is all too common place these days because of the very same threat of terrorism, and heightened security fears have also lead governments to allow more aggressive policing.

Religious Extremism

They hold the secret meetings in public forums and plaster the “Akira” on their roads, and their reckless actions cause the deaths of their followers when Tetsuo telekinetically destroys the bridge they are worshiping on during a fit of rage. The way this translated into our world was back in 1995 when a religious cult Aum Skinrikyo conducted a sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway system in an act of terrorism, which left twelve dead and prompted the rise of religious extremism around the world.

Political Unrest

There’s a scene in Akira where there are squabbling politicians sitting around a round table, who are more concerned that they’d been insulted than the civil bloodshed in the streets. This is reminiscent of the politics of the United States and the United Kingdom, problems arising like Brexit or Donald Trump’s boarder wall are constantly being debated and we are no closer to getting a solution. Corruption is apparent in both worlds. In Akria there is a scene where a minister who is seen destroying documents by burning them and then stuffing them into a briefcase before trying to make a swift escape before dying from a heart attack in the streets (spoiler alert). In our world there are various amounts of politicians who have been charged with this same kind of corruption.

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

Is this art imitating life or life imitating art? Either way this is the strangest comparison between the film and our world-Akira somehow predicted in 1988 that the Olympics would be in Tokyo, this sparked comments about how the film foresaw the future as Tokyo has now been chosen to be the host of the Olympic Games. There is a scene in the film where a sign read, “147 days until the Tokyo Olympics.” Just below that it says, “With everyone’s effort, let’s make this a success.” Now the sign does get it a little wrong it says the “30th modern Olympic Games” however it will actually be the 32nd. 

Despite this film being released over thirty years ago, the themes and subject matter still resonate with audiences today, so much that it will be a fan favorite for many years still to come.

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