Let me be up front about this: I have never understood anime or manga. I liked Vampire Hunter D when I saw it about 12 years ago, but generally speaking the appeal has been completely lost on me. Despite the unsatisfying experiences I’ve had with anime, I’ve felt like I’ve been missing out. Do all those anime loving fellow nerds know something I don’t know?
With that question in mind and the disproportionate amount of anime in my local library at hand, I decided to give it another try with the Lawrence of Arabia of anime movies, Akira.
The story is set in a dystopian future in which Japan has rebuilt from World War III, is fending off anti-government insurgents, and is preparing to host the 2020 Olympics. I’m a sucker for anything featuring dystopian elements, cyberpunk, or military-industrial superweapon programs, so a lot of the story clicked with me. However, the viewer is thrown into the story and expected to fill in the gaps as the story unfolds. Perhaps that would have been easier if I knew the full context of the original manga, but as it was I struggled to follow everything that went on.
The story also addresses some heavy duty themes in a sincere way. That was very cool to see in an animated feature. The one gripe I have about the themes is how little impact the carnage of the story has on the main characters. Like many items of Japanese pop-culture, Akira makes a strong statement against nuclear weapons, yet the main characters seem barely affected by the millions of people which are killed during the course of the film.
To be brief, the animation is incredible. While it still features some of the standard anime staples that I hate (odd proportions, weird facial expressions, etc.), the movie is worth watching for the animation alone.
Sign me up for a second viewing. I missed enough of the plot that I needed Wikipedia to fill in the gaps, so there’s reason to check it out again beyond the animation.
Help me out, anime nerds. What else is out there that I’m likely to enjoy? Fitz, do you want to put in a plug for Fullmetal Alchemist?