Akira (1988)

Genres - Drama, Science Fiction, Fantasy  |   Sub-Genres - Anime  |   Run Time - 124 min.  |   Countries - Japan  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Derek Armstrong

Anime has had a devoted following since its beginnings, but it didn't have much crossover appeal in the U.S. until Akira came along. The drawing style was always respected for its distinctive characteristics -- the large soulful eyes, the expressive color, the jagged representation of fantasy worlds. But it fell short of true sophistication, since many of the drawings had the herky-jerky quality that comes from animating fewer backgrounds or character movements than necessary for a seamless flow, usually for reasons of speed or poverty. Akira represented a fully realized anime film, both smooth in its appearance and coherent in its narrative, and the result was to awaken the affections of fans outside the anime kingdom. It's a thoroughly unsubtle film, with big explosions, mystical platitudes, and hysterical emotions, but it is also visually glorious in a way that far outdistanced its predecessors. Akira is never going to win converts beyond a certain age -- the overblown, angst-ridden plot, which stretches on for over two hours, is best lapped up by wide-eyed teenagers. But this brash, brave effort to bring anime to the outside world is remarkable in how well it achieved that goal, and how greatly it exceeded the modest expectations of its brethren.