5 Reasons Movie Fans Should Watch Akira (1988)

Sci-fi has gone through several phases throughout its existence, from the campy pulp fiction novels of the early 20th-century, to the epic saga of blockbusters like Star Wars. But when the world grew more cynical and pessimistic of the future, sci-fi followed suit with the creation of the cyberpunk genre, depicting dystopian worlds where corporations are the rulers and futuristic technology oppresses, but also frees.

This is the world that the 1988 anime film Akira inhabits. Japan has done gritty cyberpunk before (see Megazone 23 and Bubblegum Crisis for earlier examples) but nothing as grand as this. It’s considered a landmark in Japanese animation, as well as the influence for several well-known live-action movies. But why is it considered one of Japan’s greatest anime films and should you watch it for yourself?

Akira City Neo Tokyo

Gif from Tumblr

1. The setting is good old-fashioned cyberpunk.

Akira takes place in an alternate 2019, more than 30 years after a mysterious explosion destroys Tokyo and ignites World War III. As such, the newly established Neo Tokyo is a place of futuristic technology and progress, but is surrounded by reminders of the city’s destructive past.

This place has all the trappings of a good cyberpunk film: motorcycle gangs named after drugs, mysterious psychic children, government conspiracies, and revolutionaries trying to change their world for the better. The hustle of the city and the events that transpire in this film also make this world feel very lived-in, and you almost want to visit this world for a night. But only one night, because this place is kind of crazy.

Akira animation

Gif from Giphy

2. The art and animation in this movie are phenomenal.

One of the first things you’ll notice about the movie is how freaking gorgeous this movie is. The city skyscrapers of Neo Tokyo looms over you but glitter in neon lights, while the ruins of old Tokyo stand in stark contrast to the bustle of the city nearby. Everything is highly detailed, from the architecture of downtown Neo Tokyo, to the graffiti plastered on the walls, to even the expressions on the characters’ faces.

This movie also moves like no other anime film does; this movie’s animation has been described as having a kinetic energy to it, and you can definitely see that when watching it. The character animation is extremely expressive and lively, bringing out the characters’ best and worst emotions. I also love the motorcycle scenes in this film, because they showcase the film’s setting in a thrilling way, while also containing some of the coolest action scenes in the film. This film will make you want to ride a motorcycle and try all the tricks the motorcyclists do.

Akira Violence

Gif from Tumblr

3. There’s violence gore-lore.

(That was a terrible pun, please forgive me)

I’m not gonna lie, this movie can be pretty disgusting. This movie revels in the amount of violence it displays. People are beaten to a bloody pulp, shot in multiple areas, gassed by the police, and killed. You’ll lose track of how many characters end up on the chopping block, and how many of those people died in the brutalist way possible.

This is also the goriest film I’ve ever sat through; I’m not sure I can even say what kind of gore there is without feeling nauseous. Just remember that this is set in a world where anyone can die at any time, and where morals are set aside for the pursuit of power and destruction. Speaking of which:

Akira Tetsuo

Gif by 41ShimaTetsuo on Deviantart

4. The themes are relatable to anyone who’s felt small.

When talking about this movie, not a lot of people mention the movie’s simple plot is actually somewhat relatable. You might know someone who has always been the punching bag of others, who seemed too cowardly and weak to really make a contribution to others. You may also have come to see how our government tends to put the well-being of others on the back burner, and focuses on the militaristic might of the country.

Tetsuo is one of those people who society considered small and disposable, but after the meddling of the government, ends up becoming one of its most powerful-and its most dangerous, becoming the government’s worst nightmare and causing their eventual spiral into destruction. It’s a pretty terrifying sight to see, but a cool-looking sight at that.

Akira motorcycle

Gif from Giphy

5. Its cultural impact on American pop culture

Akira did really well both in Japan and outside of Japan. Here in American, it revolutionized the way people saw animation and what could be depicted in animation. And like all revolutionary films, it has made a splash in our popular culture. The screeching motorcycle slide is one of the film’s iconic moments, and pretty much everyone has tried to emulate it at some point:

Akira Meme Motorcycle

Gif from Know Your Meme

But the entire film itself has inspired other filmmakers. Yes, The Matrix was inspired by Akira (though the original Ghost In The Shell movie was a bigger inspiration). Other films and television shows inspired by Akira include Inception, Looper, Chronicle and of course Stranger Things. The success of Akira in America also began what is now known as the 1990s anime boom, which brought us some of our most beloved TV shows and video games, such as Pokemon and Dragon Ball Z. 

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It can be a hard film to watch sometimes, but overall Akira is a fun time at the movies and an important film in the history of animation. It’s also just a damn good-looking film, so if you want to marvel at the power of animation, this is the movie to make you gawk.  I highly recommend this film if you are a lover of all things sci-fi, and especially if you are a fan of movies like Blade Runner and The Matrix. It’s definitely up there with other cyberpunk greats.

Akira City

Gif from Pinterest

 

MST3K: The Return of the Riff! A First Impressions Review

You know, I was going to write a long, beautiful post about West Side Story and its connection to Shakespeare. I was going to talk about its wonderful latin-fusion music, and go in depth about the social issues presented in the movie and its implications today.

But we can’t do that right now, because MST3K is back, you guys!

Mystery Science Theater 3000, or MST3K for short, was somewhat revolutionary in its time. Have you ever sat through a movie that you knew was going to be crud, but you stayed around to watch it anyway and ended up making fun of the movie out loud as you watched it? In a theater, you would probably either get kicked out or just get a lot of evil glares. But if you’re at home, watching a bad movie with a bunch of friends, you are allowed to throw social conventions out the door in favor of making your friends laugh.

That’s sort of what MST3K did for a TV audience: put on an old B-movie and let the hosts of the show make funny quips throughout the run. It lets you live the experience of Bad Movie Night with your friends, only with one guy in a jumpsuit and two robot puppets. But they were such a lovable cast that it was like they were your friends. Up on the Satellite of Love, there wasn’t anything to worry about other than what bad movie are you going to watch next. They made “riffing”, the act of making fun of movies, look awesome.

So after a successful Kickstarter, a new generation of riffers has been brought together, and Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return is now available on Netflix starring Jonah Ray, Felicia Day and Patton Oswald. I got my popcorn and a soda and sat down to watch the first episode, a riff on a 1960s Danish monster movie. After all these years, does the new series live up to its predecessor?

Short answer: Yes?

MST3K Jonah

Photo from LA Times

The main element of the show, the making-fun-of-the-movie part, does. While none of the original actors returned to their roles, the new gang fits right in. Jonah looks more like someone who is a fan of MST3K rather than the host of it, but he grows on you, and he’s legitimately funny. The two robots are easily the best part of the show; they not only sound like their original counterparts, but they bring out their personailities perfectly.

The main trio are very good at riffing, making both timeless jabs, 4th wall jokes and modern references (It’s kind of nice to actually get a lot of the references made in this show, rather than looking up 80s-90s pop culture references). There are times when the trio goes silent when they could be riffing, but apparently they solve this issue later on. The important part is that the main attraction to the show is entertaining, just as much as the movie itself.

The set design is also quite impressive. The original show used a good amount of stop-motion animation and scrappy props, making everything look like a set of a B-movie sci-fi movie. Thanks in part to the Kickstarter campaign, this season’s set looks much more flashy, giving off a retro vibe that even the original set couldn’t quite replicate. It feels like you’re in a high-budget version of the Satellite of Love, and it just feels right.

MST3K Villains

Photo from Game Informer

But while the show does hit the right notes, there are some places where it stumbles. The opening, closing and in-between skits are clearly trying to replicate the skits from the show, which only reminds you that the skits in the original show weren’t the pinnacle of comedy. Felicia Day and Patton Oswald are pretty good at playing capitalist villains trying to make money off of the gang’s movie-watching, but the delivery of these lines can be stilted, and the way the main trio and the villains talk to each other like they recorded their scenes separately is a bit off-putting. But again, this was a problem with the original series too, and those scenes are only a few minutes out of the hour and a half episode.

Overall, though, I really enjoyed watching MST3K‘s comeback to “television”. The movie was delightfully ridiculous to watch, and it was even funnier to watch it with the old gang again. If you have never seen MST3K and want to know if you should start here…well, you should probably get familiar with the original series, and see if it’s right for you. These are, after all, movie-long episodes with cutaway gags, so your milage will depend on if you can sit through the episode. I recommend watching one of the shorts- they’re only 10 minutes long, but they’ll give you an idea of what the riffing is like. My favorite short is the Gumby short, “Robot Rumpus”, that precedes the movie The Screaming Skull. The movie is great too, so stick around if you want to see more!

But if you’re a fan of the original MST3K, then what are you doing here? Get on Netflix, and get ready to be transported to the Satellite of Love!