Emilyn Lai/Staff reporter
It has been almost 35 years since Akira first showed in Japan. Since then, it has inspired countless artists and has become an iconic film in not only the anime community, but also among fans of all things cyberpunk, sci-fi, or post-apocalyptic.
The movie was created in the mid to late 80s, which was a very important time for Japanese animation. Many people sometimes refer to these years as the ‘golden age of anime’ as the industry saw incredible growth during that period. Japan at the time was in the midst of an great economic upturn where more and more people had the time and money to spend on leisure activities. This led to more movies being both watched and produced.
Released on July 16th, 1988, Akira was directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, who is also the creator of the manga that the movie is based on, which goes after the same name. The movie is set in a futuristic ‘Neo-Tokyo’ in the year 2019. Amidst the protests, a corrupt government, and bike gangs, the story focuses on the relationship between Shotaro Kaneda and Tetsuo Shima, whom are childhood friends.
Stylistically, the movie was very unique at the time it was released, and the western world had never been introduced to a piece of media like this. The theme, the more adult content and who the movie appealed to was very foreign compared to what animation was popular at the time. DuckTales, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Care Bears were just some of the cartoons that were being shown in the US, meaning that Akira was a big jump for what the western audience was ready to see.
For the people who have not seen Akira yet, it is quite possible that you have stumbled upon an Akira reference at some point in your favorite music video, movie or comic.
Though a controversial figure, rapper, and producer Kanye West is one of the best-known Akira fans. He has expressed his love for the movie many times in tweets and has also famously paid tribute to it by re-creating several of the iconic scenes from the film in his ‘Stronger’ music video, which was released in 2009.
Stranger Things creators Matt and Ross Duffer have also admitted to taking inspiration from Akira. In a 2016 interview by The Daily Beast, Ross Duffer says “Akira is obviously a big one” when asked about what images or movies helped shape the show.
This inspiration shows, especially in the character Eleven, who similarly to the character Tetsuo, escapes a secret government experiment facility only to find out that she has supernatural powers.
Akira fans also got a little easter egg in the movie ‘Ready Player One’ that released in 2018, where one of the main characters is seen riding the ever-well-known Akira bike.
The film has had great influence and has inspired multiple creators since it was originally released years ago. It was also one of the very first Japanese films that was able to be shown to US and UK audiences that did not have to have changes to it made before it hit the theaters, for it to appeal to a broader audience. Since it’s rise to popularity the film has opened doors for more Japanese culture and media to make its way to the western world, and it has helped to shape the anime community to what anime fans are a part of today.