Akira ★★★★★

Akira singlehandedly kick-started a personal fascination with Anime and Japanese culture, while at the same time tainting my enjoyment of everything that followed. It's not so much a tantalising taster that whets one's appetite, but more like being served up a four course meal, after which everything else feels like you're rooting around in the bins on a desperate hunt for scraps. Now and then you'll discover something tasty, but nothing that quite satisfies the hunger, let alone leaves you as bloated with a silly smile on your face. Truly a visual feast, Akira demonstrates how free animation can be, able to create moments of epic scale and metaphysical wonder that don't jar in the way SFX often do in live action films, able to flow and feel completely part of the created world. Tetsuo's body transformation, for example, is so utterly fantastical while never feeling out of place or removing the viewer from the experience. While some of the work to allow this acceptance is undoubtedly set up during Tetsuo's hallucinations and the children's toy attacks upon him, it is the flexibility of the medium that ultimately proves it is only limited by the imagination of its creators. Shoji Yamashiro's soundtrack is playful and powerful, but it is also the moments of silence that stand out and lend equal weight, as masterfully used as the film's distinct sound effects. The story is able to communicate on a human level, while also exploring larger questions of evolution, science and religion without getting overly bogged down and po-faced. The ending may be a tad too 2001 trippy, but after events have built up so exponentially it feels like a satisfying and suitably epic conclusion. Elements of Akira continue to pop up in films such as The Matrix and most recently Chronicle, but they have yet to diminish the impact of the original. Only a live action American remake could possibly damage this masterpiece and pinnacle of the genre. Thankfully nobody would be foolish enough to try that...

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