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Akira is a famous anime film released in 1988 that is known for introducing the aspect of adult story based animation that isn’t made for children. In films like Akira, foul language, blood, violence, death, and drugs are present in the films. Akira is also known for presenting and establishing the neo-tokyo futuristic setting for many more stories to come after Akira’s release. Now, we will analyze the different tools that animators used in Akira to illustrate a main idea/message for audiences to interpret and understand.
In the extract of Akira, we are exposed to many different camera angles in different environments simultaneously. We are shown different angle views and different depths of field when Tetsuo and Kaneda are riding their bikes through the city. A really exceptional use of camera heights are used as well as camera angles that show the bike gangs in action. The animators create a real-life futuristic Japanese utopia using only the angles shown in the film.
Mise en Scene Analysis
The audience is attracted and directed to Kaneda’s bike, then transitions through buildings and the city. The colors are bright and neon throughout the city. There is a low angle view of the buildings from the streets below. There are a variety of “night life” colors that flow through the screen. There is many different visual stimuli from the extract, from showing the city to the chase. Often shows very detailed angles of the city, but at some times just shows the city as whole. There is a balance but it is an intense action scene with motorcycles riding at very high speeds, so the frame and camera angles aren’t in only one place. Characters can be seen moving freely through the streets and highways.
There is a substantial amount of cutting in the extract. Some are short and there are other shots that last more than ten seconds. The reason the cuts are in the extract is to create suspense and to also introduce events that are happening at the same time. Tetsuo’s bike chase and the cut to the man shooting the dogs are happening at the same time. The cuts create a very highly anticipated effect to see what happens next, and creates a mysterious aspect on the characters. In the beginning of the extract, it is more fast paced. It has some elements from a montage.
The extract has a high number of cuts because of the action, but throughout the movie there isn’t much cutting in which it only mostly happens when two scenarios are happening at the same time between different characters. Around the ending of the extract, the film artist starts to use panning and dollying more instead of cutting.The end of the extract is much more calmer than the beginning, which resulted into less cutting. The audience is left to interpret most of the end, which is shown with a man running away with a child. We aren’t really aware of what is exactly going on until we are introduced to the characters and are farther into the film.
The animators are still using basic film techniques to induce a thrilled and exciting emotion for the viewers to experience. During the bike scene with Kaneda, we are shown a variety of different camera angles. We are kept very close to the action with low shots, high shots, and mid shots that keep the audience at the edge of their seats. Since the bikes are going very fast, the movement has to make sense.
The movement is very lyrical and not messy, allowing viewers to understand what is actually going on throughout the scene. The animators use certain art techniques. They use vibrant lines behind the bikes to show that the motorcycles are going fast. The wind and the character’s hair and clothing also allow a sense of fast paced movement. It is very effective. The scene is excellent in its art style and portraying a motorcycle action scene.
As for the ending of the extract, the use of sound and how the man is running with the child allow us to have that sense of their movement. The camera also stays in the same position while showing the audience the characters passing by the screen. The motion in the extract is resonating, understandable, and dramatic. It makes the audience perceive the scene with way more action than what actually is happening.
There is a very good score that is playing throughout the extract. The music is abstract and fits with the vibe of the film. At first, the music is very ritual with a strong chorus. There are a variety of instruments that are playing, mostly percussion.The score sounds synthesized but still original. It is mostly used for action scenes. There is a pause for dialogue, but then the music shifts more into instrumental rock. Tetsuo does say a curse word and since the characters are in a biker gang, their language and slang consists of curse words and other types of teenage language. At the end of the extract, it is a lot more sublet percussion and drums. There is not a huge amount of synth nor musical tone at the end of the extract.
Although it is a japanese anime, the voice over casting for the characters in Akira was excellent. In the English version, you can see how talented the voice actors were when recording for the film. From the way they yell, grunt, talk, and argue, the voices fit with the characters. Casting was a good choice for the anime. You will notice that there is not only one main character but a group of people is what the film is focused on.
The main characters are rebel. The costumes aren’t very sophisticated. It is deliberately youthful. Kaneda has a really cool red jacket and jumpsuit, with a pill logo on the back of his jacket. He wears this to represent his biker gang. He also wears goggles and a red helmet. They aren’t rich, so the main leader of the group has to be wearing the best and most iconic outfit. Kaneda’s costume is all red, which almost contrasts with the other colors used (more purples and neon colors). Tetsuo’s costume in the extract is minimal yet unique when it comes to costume choice in anime. His torso is a seafoam colored hoodie (a color not really seen on clothing), gray khakis and boots. The quality of these costume aren’t meant to be high, considering the financial status of the gang.
The story tells itself, there is no narrator present. Information presented in the extract not very clear, but as the film progresses more information is being revealed to the audience about the characters, the setting, and the events and what is going on. Time is presented chronologically. There aren’t many flashbacks in the film. It does have a couple time jumps, but very short (a night or a day later). The story of Akira helped launch cyberpunk to become a genre. Its story is mainly science fiction, action, and adventure/fantasy. At the time of its release, Akira’s unique story was very fresh and brand new. This is why Akira is widely considered as one of the best anime films to date.
In the extract, there is not much of lengthy dialogue. The dialogue and writing is aimed to be realistic. The point of view is third person, as we watch events happen at different places to different characters. Akira is based on a literary work called a manga. A manga is basically a Japanese comic book. Most of them read from right to left, unlike comic books made in the Western hemisphere. The writing and story of Akira created a legacy for modern anime films. It showed that because of its dark story, it made a path for adult anime films to follow.
Before the release of Akira, most people believed animated films were only for children. There is a variety of sarcasm in the writing, teenage language, and verbal wit. Yelling is also a notable aspect in the writing. The voice acting maintains a strong sense of vocabulary when characters talked through speeches and long dialogue scenes.
In the world of Akira, Japan suffers from economic and social disaster. Because of its greed for scientific advancement, Tokyo suffered the worst of consequences. The choice to take Tetsuo in for scientific study of his psychic abilities suggests the fact that when power comes into the wrong hands, it will end in tragedy. In the opening scene of Akira, there is a major explosion that devastates Japan.
This is something that actually happened in real life during World War II. The film embodies the value of why nuclear weapons are so dangerous. Because of the way our countries are politically divided, nuclear weapons could instantly change the course of our planet’s future. Akira demonstrates the hidden reality of the fear of technology, and how we choose to possess those advancements and how who will decide how to use those technological evolutions.
In the film, because of Japan’s growing avarice for scientific competence resulted in its own demise. This metaphor was used with Akira himself, who destroyed Tokyo in the beginning of the film. The main message is that if humans as a whole are unable to grasp and conquer our own technological growth could potentially result in destroying ourselves (like nuclear weapons).
Akira was released in 1988 with a production cost of 1.1 Billion Yen (or 9 million USD). During the 1980’s, Japan saw its inception of anime and manga becoming mainstream for entertainment. The cyberpunk/neo-tokyo genre started rising during the 1980’s (the decade that also has Back to the Future, demonstrating the popular topic of the future and technological advancement). The suffering Japan had endured during WWII brought fears for another world war in the future, which created the basis for many post-war apocalyptic films such as Akira.
- “Akira.” IMDb, IMDb.com, 16 July 1988, www.imdb.com/title/tt0094625/.
- Hawksbee, Ben. “The Ideology Of Modern Entertainment.” Akira (Anime) Film Analysis Part 1: The Cycle of Destruction, 1 Jan. 1970, theideologyofmodernentertainment.blogspot.com/2014/03/akira-anime-film- analysis-part-4-sins.html.
- Sato, Taro. “What was life like in 1980s Japan”, 11 March. 2014, https://www.quora.com/What-was-life-like-in-1980s-Japan