Tetsuo and Kaneda’s Excellent Adventure

Last weekend, I saw Akira for the first time in probably twenty years. It held up very well.

The film is essentially about Japan in the 1960s, complete with violent gangs, mass protests, and regular terrorist bombings. Despite that temporal specificity, it still feels timeless. This is impressive for a sci-fi film made in 1988, especially since a lot of cyberpunk from that era feels very dated. I think an American cyberpunk story from that time would probably be full of coded racial paranoia about the rise of Japan, or it would have embarrassing Orientalist stereotypes about honour or some shit. This movie, of course, avoids that.

Anyway, I’d forgotten that there are no heroes in Akira. Everyone is either an asshole, a fuckup, or both. The protagonists are violent bikers who gleefully engage in street duels that injure bystanders, while the climax involves a guy wanting revenge on his best friend. That best friend massacred hundreds of people and is about to kill an entire city, but as far as the participants are concerned their fight is about nothing more than their petty and personal grievances.

Plus the animation still looks incredible. A festering shithole has never looked this beautiful in cartoon form.

Overall, the movie was a worthwhile thing to revisit. I’m glad I saw it again.

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