Let's take at look at why Akira is important beyond the themes
of the film.Godzilla was the first Japanese film to make it into
the Western entertainment market. The second? Akira (Cholodenko,
2014). Now, the US was already familiar with anime. Speed Racer
came out in 1967, after all. However, Akira was something
different. Something adult and violent.
Akira's animation style contrasted to that of Warner Bros.
and Disney. Akira's hyper-realistic, hyper-violent, dark style
had more in common with live action than what Westerners
considered animation. Akira even makes fun of the idea that
animation must always be cute. The film laid the groundwork
for later dark, adult films like Ghost in the Shell.
Akira changed the way anime was made. Anime was long thought to
be a primitive style of animation. Well, it was for those in the
West who knew about it. Americans were used to the stilted
animation of Speed Racer and Voltron. Both were kids shows too.
Then Akira burst onto the scene with a ¥1.1 billion budget
(Hennum, 2013). In US dollars today, that is about $19,087,958.
Land Before Time (which came out the same year) had a budget of
$12.3 million – $24.6 million today (The Land Before Time, n.d.).
The budget was on par with the American animation leaders of the
Akira also laid the foundation for how anime is products today
First, the film raised the standards of anime. It used 160,000
animation cels. Gone were the still frames with speed lines
and other shortcuts. Next, it was the first anime to prerecord
its dialog. Before Akira, animation was done first, then dialog
was recorded. This was cheap and often led to odd slips in dialog
and animation. I’m sure you've seen anime where the lip animation
didn’t match what was being said. Akira put quality ahead of cost
and set the standard for most anime produced from then on.
The film explored cinematography in ways not handled in most
animation. The camera zooms and pans like a live-action camera
would. While we take this for granted today, the camera work of
Akira made it feel closer to live-action than animation. The
camera moved smoothly with the action rather than mostly stay
Most importantly, Akira opened the door for adult targeted
animation. Anime like Cowboy Bebop and Ghost in the Shell.
Akira has been cited by many manga and anime artists as direct
inspirations of their works. Animes including Naruto, Ghost in
The Shell, Evangelion, etc.
In the western world of Hollywood film, Akira's ideas influenced
famous works like Tron and The Matrix, allowing it to gain the
respect of those who usually would have nothing to do with the
anime community. The film gained a place on Empire magazine's
500 best movies of all time, and has been said to be a huge
influence on the sci-fi genre all over the world. Akira became
one of the few anime to break the boundaries of Japan and the
western anime community, and prove its worth among the elite.
The film's setting and directing direction influenced the setting
for many films both Japanese and Western to come after, some films
being The Matrix, Ghost in the Shell, Inception, scenes in Kill
Bill and etc.
The aesthetic of the film calls to mind inspiration from films
like Metropolis and Blade Runner, but the director often cited Star
Wars as one of his prime influences. The street gang can easily be
taken as the perfect mix between the Rebel Alliance and the street
racers from Lucas second feature film, American Graffiti. The
Japanese government in the film is reminiscent of the Empire as well,
and the actual resistance and revolution has been keeping tabs on
their illicit military experiments.
The film is still striking in its visuals and challenging ideas,
often feeling more like a Kubrick film than what audiences have
come to expect from anime films. There are many sequences that
echo Star Wars, from a chase in a sewer that feels like a mix
between the speeder bike chase on Endor and the garbage masher
sequence, all the way to action sequences set on the streets of
Neo-Tokyo that feel just like the Coruscant speeder chase at the
beginning of Attack of the Clones. Through the film itself, Tetsuo
can easily be seen as a Darth Vader-like character and the psionic
abilities visually reminiscent of the Force. Hes twisted by the
power he gains, inhabited by the destiny of something larger than
himself. The concept of Akira itself is that its a mysterious
power just like the Force, latent in all people, but theyre
left to choose how they use that power.
Scientists in the film even measure the psionic aura of
characters much like Qui-Gon tests the midi-chlorian count
of Anakin in The Phantom Menace.
KILL BILL:VOLUME 1
Cited by Kill Bill Director and other staff, various scenes in
the movie Kill Bill: Volume 1 were inspired by Akira the film.
One particular and the most popular scene is the bike chase.
Similar color palette in both films as well as use of night
lights and a motorcycle chase in a city. Kill Bill: Volume grew
inspiration from various Japanese films and other Asian films
from the 1980’s and 1990’s.
OG BIKE SCENE
The opening film scene where there is a motorcycle chase
involving one of the main characters Kaneda has been referenced
many times and is regarded as an iconic animation. A particular
cut from the scene where Kaneda slides his bike has been
referenced in many other medias. Not only the bike scene but
many other clips from the film are regarded as classic
animations which goes to show the mastery the film has and
how iconic and impactful Akira the film has been on film culture
in Japan and the Western world.