#245- Akira

Quick recap: In Neo Tokyo,A teenage motorcycle club fights the government, who have taken their friend and turned him into a dangerous psychopath.

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Teenage biker gangs are the worst

Fun (?) fact: The film takes place in 2019, as Neo Tokyo is set to host the Summer Olympics. As ultimate proof the IOC all secretly love anime, Tokyo is actually hosting the Summer Olympics in 2020. Either that, or they know the world will be ending very soon.

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My thoughts: 5 minutes into Akira and my only thoughts were, ‘what the hell am I watching?’ and ‘Can I just watch this forever?’. To say this was an amazing experience is an understatement. As I drove home after the movie (I watched it at the Drafthouse) all I could think was that this movie changed my life somehow, even though I can’t explain in what way.

I’m not by any stretch of the imagination an ‘anime’ fan, although I did once buy the Cowboy Bebop Blue album because I was going through an especially bad breakup. After watching Akira, I GET it. Something this complex can’t be told through traditional means and anime is perfect for weaving in ridiculous plot points with achingly human experiences. I’m intentionally vague about the plot because there are just so many layers there. I went in thinking this was going to be some fluffy guy film about racing motorcycles and found that it was so much more.

Everything in Akira is over the top- the music, the plot, and especially the visuals. I can not believe this was made in 1988 because there are many shots that seem impossible without the aid of computer graphics. There were several really creepy scenes, which, as mentioned above, I won’t get into, but it gave me nightmares later on. I’m also a wimp, so take that into account. I have no idea if this movie is for everyone, but if you are in the least bit interested in anime, this is a hell of a way to get acquainted with the genre.

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Final review: 5/5

Up next: Foolish Wives

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#162- Princess Mononoke

Quick recap: After Ashitaka is attacked by a demon, he goes in search of a cure. While on his journey, he becomes involved with a war between the animals of the forest and a mining town.

Is it too much to ask for a two hour movie with just these guys?

Is it too much to ask for a two hour movie with just these guys?

Fun (?) fact: This is probably common knowledge, but Neil Gaiman was the one to adapt the dialogue so that English speakers could better understand what was going on. Is there anything that guy can’t do?

'I know Neil Gaiman needs to be an animal, but how white can we portray him?' 'SO white. As white as you can possibly get.'

‘I know Neil Gaiman needs to be an animal, but how white can we portray him?’
‘SO white. As white as you can possibly get.’

My thoughts: I had no idea what to expect going into this since my knowledge of anime is about as stereotypically American as you can get (translation- I’ve seen Cowboy Bebop and parts of Inuyasha thanks to late night Adult Swim). That’s not to say I have anything against the genre. There is just so much to choose from that I wouldn’t know where to begin. I’m not sure Princess Mononoke was a good starting point but that’s not because it was a bad movie.

First, let me admit that as much as I tried, I kept being reminded of FernGully, even though the two aren’t that similar. I guess it was the battle between nature versus industry that led me down that path, although-side note- FernGully doesn’t hold up after all these years. I watched it a couple of years ago and it brought back some great nostalgia but that’s about it. Princess Mononoke is leaps and bounds much more complex than that movie and I would venture to say more complex than most animated films. I was really impressed with how much the film required me to concentrate and didn’t just tell me how I was supposed to feel. My thoughts toward the characters changed with each scene and even at the end, I wasn’t sure how I felt. I won’t give away the ending but I will say that if you are looking for a feel good film for the entire family, this ain’t it.

also not kid appropriate because of this scene. Pictured is a big fat NOPE.

also not kid appropriate because of this scene. Pictured is a big fat NOPE.

My one complaint, and I’m not even sure it is one, is that I felt like some of the movie was lost in translation. I understand that there are words in the Japanese language that are almost impossible to translate but the dialogue just seemed so simple compared to the plot I tried to follow. Is there a version I could watch with subtitles? I’m not even sure that would fix anything. The American voices also threw me off more than I expected (Billy Bob Thornton? Really?) and they didn’t seem to fit at all with the characters. I guess I was hoping for something a little more authentic to the original and not so Disneyfied.

Final review: 4/5. The animation alone is worth the score and is one of the most beautiful movies I have ever seen but the theme also impressed me. I feel like I would need to watch it again to really understand what was going on.

Up next: Kandahar