What was the cultural impact of Akira (1988), and why does it occupy a key place in the canon of anime greats?
Of any anime film to ever exist, there are none that even come close to Akira in terms of the impact that it had. It had a limited release in the US and caused a massive culture shock. Among the Disney releases that were all designed for children, Akira would have been one of a kind, and firmly sealed itself as a cult classic. The worldwide box office pull was a massive 45 million dollars, which led to the VHS release of the film by Manga Entertainment, a distributor that was created for the sole purpose of distributing Akira. Akira was also the biggest anime production of its time, with a budget of approximately 8-11 billion yen, since it was a collaboration between 7 media conglomerates.
Essentially, Akira changed everything, the west became aware of what anime was, significantly boosted the popularity of manga and anime in the west. It led to the foundations of mass distribution of anime in America. Most importantly though, it began to deconstruct the notion in America that animation was a medium just for children. Anime as a medium today is on the border of gaining mainstream acceptance in the west, the volume and quality of anime productions have gone up as a whole, and it is now highly accessible in the west as well. As the west begins to consume more anime more westerners are beginning to work in the anime industry as well. All of this may still have been a few decades if not for the incredible effect that Akira had.
But why is Akira so good? The film only takes from the beginning of the manga, and the end of it, with the middle point being a confusing mess, with core characters and themes being overlooked. The full story of Akira is not in the film, which would be impossible to achieve in two hours, so does Akira have any right to be this beloved? I believe so. The huge budget for the film is apparent when you watch it. The frame rate of the film is very smooth for the time with 12 drawings a second, and in some places, 24 drawings a second, a far higher rate than other iconic Japanese studios of the time such as Studio Ghibli. As a result, Akira is one of the few works of animation of the times that could compete with the top quality productions of Disney Studios. Where Akira may have Disney beat though, is in the detail and world design, in many scenes in Akira there so many moving parts that it is difficult to keep track of everything that is happening, giving the film a chaotic vibe, which is exactly the vibe one would expect when an entire city is being destroyed, or in the middle of a violent revolt.
Without Akira making the impact that it did here in the western world, we may not have had to deal with annoying weebs. But that’s ok because at least the film is as good as it is heralded to be.
Super Eyepatch Wolf. (2018, May 6). The Impact of Akira: The Film that Changed Everything [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IqVoEpRIaKg&list=PLiiEr5EE-YgxqzcU1Yo_1aIF6ZvP7dCOi