10 Movies in 10 Days / Akira (1988)
As I was growing up I was a massive, and I mean MASSIVE fan of anime. The problem was that it wasn't easy to find. It's not like we had access to every movie ever made at our fingertips. No, the internet was in its infancy, and streaming entire movies sounded like science fiction. Mostly what I was able to enjoy was Voltron and things of that sort that brought Japan into American homes. One day we were at The Galleria in Birmingham (I grew up in Alabama, fun fact) and I went into Suncoast. For those of you who didn't have the pleasure of visiting a Suncoast (less than a dozen exist now), they were a movie themed specialty store that carried everything from the latest popular movies on VHS to the hard to find imports and limited edition box sets you would look at but couldn't afford. It was on this fateful day that I discovered their anime section. It was on this day that I would find the movie that would blow my young mind into a thousand pieces. It was on this day that I discovered Akira.
My parents had no idea what I was buying. As far as they knew I was buying a cartoon. They couldn't understand why I would blow all of my allowance on one VHS tape. Joke was on them. With my $20 I had just purchased my coming of age film...the film that would change the way I viewed the world. Akira was more than that though. It was my gateway (as it was for many others) into the secret, secret to me anyway, world of anime that wasn't for children. On the contrary, the setting of Neo-Tokyo was dark, rimmed with danger, and also the coolest place my young self had ever seen. I was entranced as if I were viewing the world's greatest magic trick. Turns out, I was.
As I got older I understood that almost everything I was seeing in the film was drawn by hand. By fusing the hand drawn animation with cutting edge computer effects to allow more realism, especially with lighting, the world of Akira was the most amazing thing I'd ever seen. It was the most amazing thing the world had ever seen too, with Akira catapulting into the stratosphere of revered anime films. But as many genre favorites find themselves losing ground over time, Akira still looks amazing to this day and has maintained its status as one of the all time greats in the world of anime.
I feel like I've gotten a bit ahead of myself here by talking about nothing but visuals. Akira also featured one of the most memorable scores to ever grace a film, setting aside the fact that it was an anime completely. The score is as much a character in the film as Tetsuo or Kaneda. Just hearing the sound of Kaneda's bike revving up is enough to set my hairs on end...the audio cue so rife with nostalgia that it takes me back to the first time I viewed the film. Like I said...movie magic. Movie magic.
The final thing that sets Akira apart is the amount of human emotion that is poured out. It was an animated feature that carried the weight of any Hollywood blockbuster and then some. It stuck with you for days, months, even years after a viewing. I see the blu-ray sitting on my shelf and there's an emotional connection with just the sight of it. There aren't a lot of films that can tout that kind of symbiotic relationship with its viewers, I don't care what genre or style.
In closing, is Akira the greatest anime ever made? No, probably not. Studio Ghibli have made some of the most amazing anime put to film. That being said, is it my favorite? You bet it is.