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Daily Helping for March 4th, 2021 – Akira – Katsuhiro Otomo

A promotional images from the film Akira, of lead character Kaneda facing his red motorcycle.

Okay, full disclosure. This is not going to be one of my posts where I scream about how much I love something. I know that has become a bit of a thing for me, but today’s helping is a bit different. Mostly because for the first time since I started the Daily Hart, I’m featuring something that I didn’t actively like. And this has been on purpose. I said from the beginning that I wasn’t interested in putting more negativity into the world, so I’ve actively sought out works of art that I enjoy. Even if some days it takes me a couple of tries to do so. But despite not particularly liking this film, I’ve decided to feature it anyway. Mostly because it’s not so much that I don’t like Akira. It’s that I’m confused by it. And I’m hoping that someone might be able to provide some insight for me.

Akira is a Japanese animated film that was released in 1988. It was directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, who wrote and illustrated the manga on which the film is based. Akira tells the story of Shōtarō Kaneda, the leader of a Neo-Tokyo biker gang, and his friend Tetsuo Shima, who acquires dangerous telekinetic abilities that eventually threaten the whole city. So far, based on that summary alone, I’m all in. But the film quickly goes down numerous increasingly bizarre narrative paths. It ultimately culminates in a showdown that is truly beyond words in how spectacularly weird it is. As the credits rolled, I was left wondering just what in the actual hell had just happened. It’s been a couple of days, and I still have no idea on that front.

Which brings me to my original point. Akira has been hailed as one of the best animated films of all time. It’s been called a classic of the science fiction genre, and it’s considered a landmark of Japanese cyberpunk films. And I’m perfectly ready to accept all of that. There’s no rule that says you have to like every movie that is considered a classic. Personally, there are many “classic” films that I don’t like at all. But in the case of Akira, I would like to know why. Why is this considered such a classic? What is it about this film that was so groundbreaking in its time? I don’t think Akira will ever be my cup of tea as a film, but I really would like to know more about why it’s considered to be so iconic and influential. If anyone has any insights on this, I’d love to hear them.

I will say this though. It was a distinctly surreal experience watching a dystopian film set in 2019 in a world where Tokyo was set to host the 2020 Olympics. Did Akira predict the hellscape that was 2020 back in 80s?


Suggestions for artists I should check out? Please contact me with your ideas. I hope you enjoyed your daily helping of art!