To put it simply, Akira is a classic. Unfortunately, just because a movie or anime is a classic, that doesn’t mean I will like it. I actually have a deep sense of distaste toward Akira, starting from my first viewing back when I was 18 and continuing through now, where I endured my fourth or fifth viewing. Of course back in the early days I couldn’t pinpoint where this distaste was coming from. But now I’ve got some good ideas.
I was going to start off with some things that Akira does right… but upon thinking about what they could be I realized that they all sound pretty far-fetched and like I’m grasping at straws. So I’ll just get right into bad points. No point in trying to force the movie into some pleasant points, just so I’m not harping at for the full length of the article.
The big million-dollar problem is the flow. The movie starts off with a bang, despite its confusing parts. People racing around on motorcycles? Awesome. The action goes a long way in connecting with a viewer. However, it isn’t too long before the action grinds to a halt and we are faced with another hour and a half of agonizingly slow developments. Slow can work when there is great characterization taking place. However, the characters of Akira are disappointingly dull. The best fix would be to split Akira into four episodes and make it an OAV. Giving it the pacing of a short episode series would go a long way in correcting its issue with flow. Less appealing, but perhaps simpler to execute would be editing out a half an hour or so. The end battle by itself could see ten minutes removed without any tears. Squeezing another 20 minutes into the ol’ rubbish bin shouldn’t be too complex. Both of those ideas are now a moot point considering that Akira is out, and has been for 20 years. You can’t go dicking about with a classic like this and expect to live. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make the flow not a flaw.
The other big problem is that the ending feels horribly anti-climactic after such a long investment. The first time I watched it I was too overwhelmed by the whole experience to really have any real thoughts about how it ended (beyond “thank God it is over now), but in each subsequent viewings I am left thinking, “Wow, that’s it? We went through all of that, just for a lame excuse for an ending like that?” The ending, perhaps, is not on par with Neon Genesis Evangelion, but it comes close.
Akira is an important movie in anime and should be seen by all big anime fans. However, its status has rightfully diminished over the years and will probably continue to do so as people stop placing it on a holy pedestal to be untouched by criticism.
US Distribution: Pioneer/Geneon
Length: 124 Minutes
Availability: Readily available, both used and new. I bought my DVD for, like, $2 online.
Links: ANN Encyclopedia