Akira Explained
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Akira Explained

Akira is a 1988 Japanese animated science fiction film written and directed by Katsuhiro Otomo. Based on Otomo’s manga series of the same name, the film is set in a post-apocalyptic Neo-Tokyo and follows the stories of a group of teenagers, led by their leader Shotaro Kaneda, as they try to prevent the destruction of their city by a powerful being known as Akira. The film has become a classic of anime, renowned for its complex themes, detailed animation, and unique visual style. Akira has gone on to be highly influential in the world of animation and has left a lasting legacy in the art form. This article will examine the various aspects of the film, from the setting and story to the characters and relationships, themes and motifs, visual style and animation, and its influence and legacy.

Setting and Story

Set in a post-apocalyptic Neo-Tokyo, the story follows the lives of two young men whose destinies become intertwined with a government experiment gone awry. Taking place in a cyberpunk future, the story of Akira is set in a time period thirty years after the apocalyptic event that destroyed Tokyo. The plot follows the journey of Kaneda, a young motorcycle gang leader, and Tetsuo, his childhood friend and member of the gang, as they battle against a secret government project that threatens to destabilize the world.

The events of the story take place in a dystopian world where Tokyo is ruled by a military-political dictatorship and is divided into two distinct parts: the rich and powerful Neo-Tokyo and the slums of Old Tokyo. The story focuses on themes of power, freedom, and the consequences of unchecked technology. It is a complex story that explores topics such as the effects of technology on society, the conflicts between the powerful and the powerless, and the nature of power and how it can be abused. Through the lens of a cyberpunk future, Akira brings to light the dangers of unchecked power, and ultimately suggests that freedom and justice can only be achieved through understanding and cooperation.

Characters and Relationships

This section focuses on the characters and the relationships between them in the story. The characters in the story of Akira are all portrayed in a meaningful way that is both symbolic and metaphorical. The main characters include Kaneda, Tetsuo, Kei, and Colonel Shikishima. Kaneda is a young biker gang leader who is portrayed as a symbol of youth, freedom, and rebellion. Tetsuo is Kaneda’s friend and is portrayed as an embodiment of power and destruction. Kei is a revolutionary who is portrayed as a symbol of hope for the future. Lastly, Colonel Shikishima is a mysterious military figure who is portrayed as a symbol of authority.

The relationships between the characters are complex and often have a deeper meaning. For example, Kaneda and Tetsuo’s relationship is often used to symbolize the conflict between youth and authority. In addition, the score of the movie often serves as a metaphor for the main characters’ emotions and their relationships with each other. The music score is used to emphasize the themes of the story and to create a sense of tension and suspense.

Themes and Motifs

Themes of power and authority, youth and rebellion, and hope for the future are explored in Akira through the relationships between the characters, the music score, and the symbols used in the story. The postmodernism and cyberpunk elements are especially significant in understanding the film’s themes. For example, the power struggle between the Kaneda and Tetsuo characters, representing youth and authority, respectively, is an example of the underlying conflict between the need for control and the desire for freedom. This conflict is further explored through Tetsuo’s transformation, which symbolizes the struggles of youth to claim power and authority in a society that seeks to keep them in check. Much of the film’s score is based in industrial and electronic music, further emphasizing the themes of power and rebellion. This score is often used to score the most intense sequences in the film, reflecting the idea that power comes through action rather than through words. Finally, symbols like the rising sun and the red sky depict hope for the future, despite the chaotic nature of the present. These contrasting symbols further emphasize the themes of power and authority, youth and rebellion, and hope for the future.

Visual Style and Animation

The visual style of Akira combines the use of vibrant colors and dynamic camera angles to create a unique and dynamic cinematic experience. Hand-drawn art and a distinct color palette are used to create an aesthetically pleasing and visually stimulating viewing experience. The use of a vibrant color palette allows the film to highlight its setting and characters, making them stand out from the environment. The film’s dynamic camera angles give the viewer a sense of movement and allow for a more immersive experience. The combination of vivid colors, hand-drawn art, and dynamic camera angles make Akira a visually stunning film.

Akira’s animation team was tasked with the challenge of accurately portraying the film’s setting, characters, and themes. The animators used a combination of traditional animation and computer-generated imagery (CGI) to create the film’s unique visual style. The use of CGI allowed the animators to create a more realistic look, while still maintaining the hand-drawn art style. The combination of traditional and CGI animation allowed the animators to create a visually stimulating and engaging cinematic experience.

Influence and Legacy

Akira has had a lasting impact on the world of animation, inspiring a new generation of filmmakers and animators. Its influence has been felt across many genres such as horror, action, and science-fiction. Its depiction of a dystopian future, where the East and the West collide, has been a major source of inspiration for many cyberpunk stories which explore similar themes. The film’s visual style has also been widely praised, with its vibrant colors and creative use of lighting and camera movement. The animation techniques used to bring the story to life are also considered to be groundbreaking.

The legacy of Akira continues to be felt in the world of animation today, with many modern-day anime films taking inspiration from the iconic movie. It has been credited with inspiring a new generation of filmmakers and animators to take risks and explore different kinds of stories. It has also been credited with introducing a new wave of cyberpunk culture to the world, and its story and themes continue to resonate with viewers to this day.


Akira has had a lasting impact on many aspects of popular culture, from its visual style, to its themes and motifs, to its influence on the art of animation. Its story and characters continue to be popular references in other works, particularly in the cyberpunk genre. Its influence has been felt in the works of Hayao Miyazaki, Satoshi Kon, and many other anime directors. Akira has become an important part of the cultural landscape, and its legacy will continue to be felt for years to come.

The themes of Akira are complex and wide-ranging, but they all come together to create a powerful story that resonates with viewers. Its characters are deep and layered, and their relationships help to create a unique, thought-provoking story. Its visuals are unique and memorable, with its iconic colors and animation style. Akira remains an important and influential work of anime, and its influence will continue to be felt for years to come.

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