Week 4: Brendan O’Neill

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

Week 4: Mollie Chater

What features make Akira cyberpunk, and how does it reference the wider subgenre? Link for question 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sttm8Q9rOdQ&feature=share&fbclid=IwAR0ZOnQmyGabIr8FMiM6Lkz-DBE1–cZrqPuIA2StGx-4WIjVmBrOKS9GeA

Cyberpunk is a genre defined by a sub-genre of science fiction set in a dystopian future, usually seen where the government reigns supreme and the opposing side is the underworld that has been corrupted by time and a lack of wealth due to the governments cruelty (Dystopia). The words joined Cybernetics and Punk to make a world that is focused on technology with a nihilistic aura surrounding the whole subgenre.

Akira (1988) is an anime style film set in Neo-Tokyo, set in the cyberpunk genre. The whole film fits into the idea of cyberpunk with the government on top, technology and the ambience of neon lights and techno music all add to the features of the genre. The film shows the idea of corruption and power greed that influences anyone who can get their hands on it.

One of the main ideas of the genre is the technological side. Technology is advanced to the point where people are half human half cybernetics, and the streets are lined with screens and lights, and yet even with all of the advancement the streets are dirty and anyone lower than the high-class government, lives without luxury.

The idea of cyberpunk shown in Akira is that although technology is so advanced the people rise up against it and learn overpower it, showing a darker side to such a neon lit up city and life.

Cyberpunk is meant to get viewers to try to not rely so heavily on technology as even though we enjoy it and how it can make our lives easier, it can also be used as a tool against us and if we rely on it too much we can get swept up and be abused by it.

References: Dystopia, N. (n.d). What is Cyberpunk? Retrieved From https://www.neondystopia.com/what-is-cyberpunk/

Week 4

1. What was the cultural impact of Akira (1988), and why does it occupy a key place in the canon of anime greats?

Anime has been in western pop culture for many decades now, and characters like, Saitama, and Goku are now in the cultural zeitgeist. Akira (1988), by director and creator; Katsuhiro Otomo, is set in Neo-Tokyo a post-WW3 Tokyo, filled with corruption, biker gangs, and addiction. Where politicians seek to make themselves richer while the commoners must live in this dystopian ghetto, amongst the filth and rats. The anime differed form those coming out around the same time, as its art style was inspired more by western cartoons, than other anime. “Otomo’s drawings for “Akira” were distinctive for their realism; he used lighting, color and an attention to detail to create a vivid, lived-in space.”(Chu, 2018)

Akira has remained in the cultural spotlight, due in large part to how many popular shows and films still reference the anime to this day, one extremely popular reference shared by several shows throughout the years would be the “Kaneda Bike Slide”, where different characters would stop their bike or mode of transportation copying how Kaneda did in the film, a few notable shows that did this would be; TMNT(2003), where Raphael can be seen pulling the maneuver on his red bike, Clone Wars (2003), where Obi-Wan can be seen on a hovering machine, but pulling the maneuver, and Ready Player One, where both the move and a replica of the bike itself can be seen. These examples are just some of the few that can be seen throughout recent pop culture. (Shambrookblog, 2018)

Akira tells the gritty world of Neo-Tokyo through the eyes of the youth, It follows Kaneda and his friend Tetsuo, as they are swept up, through no fault of their own into this large government conspiracy, and they can’t do anything about it but rebel. Tetsuo gets spirited away, and awakens to his powers, in a new situation, and Kaneda moves heaven and earth to save his best friend. But as the situation continues we see Tetsuo despising his only friend, feeling oppressed and smothered, living in Kaneda’s shadow. To Tetsuo, Kaneda’s bike symbolized his power, and by trying to steal the bike multiple times and failing due to not knowing how to handle the bike, this shows that Tetsuo wasnt ready for his psychic abilities either. 

Akira tells the story of a corrupt government that tries to gain power through any means necessary, and by doing so they forget their citizens and leave them in disgusting conditions with no support to fix these issues. The sense of civil unrest is shown throughout the film, with “Akira”, being used as a synonym for an overwhelming power that will topple the current regime. Which is eerily similar to today in many countries, including America. Countries like; Palestine, India, Kurdistan, Hong Kong, and several more countries, all have ongoing civil rights protests, fighting against the existing regime, and because a godlike power like Akiras, doesn’t exist, people are forced to fight against the common enemy. Beneath, Akiras, amazing and fluid animation, its cyberpunk aesthetics, and its compelling narrative, the underlying story is one of oppression, and how things will eventually get better if people rise up against the oppressing force. Because of this people are able to relate with the text making it forever relatable, which is why it is one of the Anime greats.


Shambrookblog. (2018, October 16). An Incomplete History of “The Akira Bike Slide”. Retrieved from https://the-avocado.org/2018/03/28/an-incomplete-history-of-the-akira-bike-slide/

Chu, H. (2018, July 13). Why the pioneering Japanese anime ‘Akira’ is still relevant 30 years later. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/why-the-pioneering-japanese-anime-akira-remains-relevant-30-years-later/2018/07/12/b7577c74-813f-11e8-b851-5319c08f7cee_story.html

W4: Question

  1. What features make Akira cyberpunk, and how does it reference the wider subgenre?

Cyberpunk by definition is: a genre of science fiction set in a lawless subculture of an oppressive society dominated by computer technology. It is most notable by its incredible setting design. Skyscrapers as tall as the clouds, neon lights around every corner, but not the picture perfect city life we may be used to. Indigo Gaming describes cyberpunk’s aesthetic as “High tech, low life.” (unknown, 2019), which is why you’ll see a lot of characters living in poor conditions if not straight up poverty.

Akira fits this description like a glove, it’s rife with the city life with both our main characters and surrounding extras. It’s extremely technologically advanced, while at the same time being exceedingly dirty with litter decorated along the streets, graffiti on almost every wall, even governmental funded institutions- such as the school- is given no care for its appearance.

The reason for this is as the writer from The Guardian states: “The genre was formed as a response to a world where corporate power was proliferating and expanding across the globe, inequality was growing, [and] new forms of technology offered both the promise of liberation and the potential for new and dangerous forms of domination.” (Walker-Emig, 2018) Cyberpunk was- and is still- a meta-commentary on current and future social economics. It’s a believable dystopian future that many of us believe is inevitable, where the rich get richer and the poor stay poor.

Akira may not have much to say on the class divide that other works in the genre have, but it speaks numbers about corruption and abuse of power. With examples from government officials, police brutality and even teachers whose one job is to take care of their students all because they hold power over them.

The story ends with a rebirth of sorts- as do most Cyberpunk stories I believe, whether simply in the character or society as a whole- with Tokyo destroyed but the land still stable. “Destruction may lurk in familiar yet fantastic forms, but the construction remains – a gritty, breathing Tokyo, alive with realism, and not going away anytime soon.” (Lee, 2018)


Indigo Gaming. (2019, December 1). Cyberpunk Documentary PART 1 | Neuromancer, Blade Runner, Shadowrun, Akira. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sttm8Q9rOdQ&feature=share&fbclid=IwAR0ZOnQmyGabIr8FMiM6Lkz-DBE1

Lee, G. (2018, January 15). Anime beyond Akira: The construction and destruction of cyberpunk Tokyo. Little White Lies. https://lwlies.com/articles/anime-beyond-akira-cyberpunk-tokyo/
Walker-Emig, P. (2020, April 16). Neon and corporate dystopias: Why does cyberpunk refuse to move on? The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/games/2018/oct/16/neon-corporate-dystopias-why-does-cyberpunk-refuse-move-on

Week 4 response – Leo Ballantyne

2. Is anime a high or low cultural medium, according to Susan Napier (2005) and what are some of its subgenres?

As stated by Napier (2005), the nature of providing cultural value to any given text is often immensely mercurial – with factors such as time period, audience demographics and social-economic context all affecting whether various genres are considered ‘high’ or ‘low’ culture. With this in mind, Napier provides an argument as to why by the subjective standards of the time, many anime works could be considered high culture – with their ability to address complex sociological themes, expand upon cultural traditions and engage a wide range of audiences. While anime operates like any other medium in the sense that there is a wide variety of quality and complexity which is present within the genre, Napier suggests that specific texts provide similar thematic depth and cultural reflection to that of anime’s more traditional counterparts such as Manga, woodblock printing and live-action film.

Unlike western animation, which has only just recently managed to begin diversifying away from children’s entertainment and adult comedy, with shows such as Bojack Horseman and Midnight Gospel starting to explore mature themes of addiction, depression and mental health (Chow, 2019), Japanese animation has managed for some time to tell mixed stories in a wide range of mature and immature genres. Sci-fi, fantasy, horror, medieval drama, mystery and romance are among some of the narrative types which are present within anime, many of which are consumed by a wide range of demographics, from children to the elderly. This diversity in subgenre enables a diversity in theme which aids in anime’s ability to be considered a ‘high’ cultural medium. Anime is also intrinsically tied to, and informed by previous high cultural Japanese traditions. Japan has a rich pictographic tradition between the ancient woodblock printing responsible, and the deeply visual literature of manga which borrows from this earlier tradition. Anime’s art style is heavily inspired by these historical movements, and the narratives depicted are often directly borrowed from manga series, especially in televised anime shows which are more capable of depicting the content dense narratives of the manga they are adapting. This intrinsic link to Japan’s cultural heritage, according to Napier (2005) adds a further layer of legitimacy to anime as a high cultural medium.

Finally, Napier highlights that thematic complexity, which reflects, subverts and enhances Japanese cultural understandings is often presented within Anime movies and series using three major thematic modes which their creators use to construct meaning. The first mode is that of Apocalypse. In many apocalypse anime, society has experienced some form of collapse – whether it be via physical or ideological destruction – and a main cast of characters must attempt to traverse the world that is left behind. This mode is most frequently used as a vehicle to explore Japanese social anxieties regarding the decay of traditional values, the growing destructive scope of technology and environmental degradation. Katsuhiro Otomo’s 1988 anime Akira embodies this mode in a number of significant ways. Akira’s cyberpunk dystopia depicts a world where an apocalypse which caused mass death has facilitated the birth of a new society which lacks significant care for family and community and emphasises unrestrained individualism and greed. The multiple cataclysms that occur within the film are very much an analogy for the atomic bombings that decimated Nagasaki and Hiroshima, as well as a reflection of Japan’s newfound fear of rapid and irresponsible technological advancement. Similarly, the ideological apocalypse that has occurred within the world of Akira reflects the post-war anxiety that such widespread destruction, which tore many families apart, had dealt irreparable damage to the country’s entrenched social values (Schley, 2018). As represented here, the mode of apocalypse is capable of expressing complicated social understandings and exploring broad questions of human nature and cultural trauma. The second mode identified by Napier, carnival, is more so an expression of frustration at the current restrictive status quo, and a cathartic escape from these norms. In carnival, the absurd is embraced and traditional roles, which are often quite restrictive in japan, are reversed and upturned, if only momentarily, celebrating the taboo and unconventional. Finally, the mode Napier describes as elegy evokes a sense of loss and tragedy, where texts explore the impermanence of many of life’s pleasures, the loss of innocence, the lasting impacts of trauma and the passage of time – concepts core to the human experience. These modes, used together within Japan’s anime scene, have constructed a rich thematic tapestry which has facilitated impactful cultural discourse throughout both Japan and much of the globalised world. With this in mind, it can hardly be argued that anime doesn’t constitute a high cultural medium, if such a category should exist.

Napier, S. (2005). Why anime? In Anime: from Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle (pp.3-34). Hampshire: Palgrave/ Macmillan.

Chow, A. (2019). Adult Animation Is Pushing New Boundaries. A Look Inside Its Evolution from The Simpsons to BoJack Horseman. Time. https://time.com/5752400/adult-animation-golden-age/

Schley, M. (2018). ‘Akira’: Looking back at the future. The Japan Times. https://features.japantimes.co.jp/akira-new/

Week 4: Sia Caldwell

What was the cultural impact of Akira (1988), and why does it occupy a key place in the canon of anime greats?

Akira is a cyberpunk thriller anime film created in 1988 by Katsuhiro Otomo is known to be one of the most important animations of all time (Taylor, 2016). The influential impact Akira would have on the film industry worldwide was unforeseen and to this day it is legendary because of its original and fresh introduction of an animation film for a more mature audience (Clark, 2018). Akira is the pinnacle of its genre and was made during the Cel animation days which meant no computers were used but instead extremely detailed paintings. Akira provided Japanese anime and Anime for mature audiences with recognition and started a culture where people worldwide were hungry for more (Covill, 2017).

Before Akira the animation industry only created films marketed towards children, one of the major companies being Disney (Clark, 2018). Therefore, the film Akira indefinitely shook up the animation industry due to its successful presentation offering something new and different. Although, it wasn’t only the film industry that Akira shook up, the fresh film added to the pop culture entirely (Clark, 2018). According to Covill (2017) “Many films, shows, and even musicians have referenced the iconic anime.” Some of these being Micheal Jackson, Kanye West stranger things and the Duffer brothers. Thankfully, Akira presented mature themes opening the door for shows like the Simpsons and Archer (Clark, 2018).

The deep plot, inventive narratives, intense detail and artistic styles Otomo used and the risks that he took to create and produce Akira gave birth to endless ideas for other artists. This has all helped craft and continue to inspire the current fiction worlds we have today worldwide.


Clark, K. (2018, April 24). How ‘Akira’ Changed the World of Animation Forever. Retrieved August 25, 2020, from https://www.fandom.com/articles/why-akira-was-such-a-groundbreaking-film

Covill, M. (2017, May 03). ‘Akira’ Is Frequently Cited as Influential. Why Is That? Retrieved August 25, 2020, from https://filmschoolrejects.com/akira-influence-12cb6d84c0bc/

Mountfort, P. (2020). Pop genres anime 1 Akira [PowerPoint Slides]. Blackboard. https://blackboard.aut.ac.nz/ 

Taylor, T. (2016, May 31). How Akira sent shockwaves through pop culture and changed it. Retrieved August 25, 2020, from https://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/31328/1/akira-anime-studio-ghibli-kanye-west-michael-jackson-pop-culture

blog four

What features make Akira cyberpunk, and how does it reference the wider subgenre? Link for question https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sttm8Q9rOdQ&feature=share&fbclid=IwAR0ZOnQmyGabIr8FMiM6Lkz-DBE1–cZrqPuIA2StGx-4WIjVmBrOKS9GeA

The definition of cyberpunk is blurry and ambiguous. However, generally speaking, cyberpunk is a sub-genres and culture of science fiction, moreover, cyberpunk is mainly embodied in two forms, that are, cultures and genres (Neondystopia, n.d.). It is not difficult for audiences to identify cyberpunk literature. The movies and other forms of cyberpunk have significant descriptions and scenes of human urban which has neon light, hi-tech laser weapons or equipment and cyborgs (Indigo Gaming, 2019). Several attitudes and key features construct this term. For instance, anti-authoritarian and brand-averse attitudes, and the “high tech low life” feature (Neondystopia, n.d.). As Indigo Gaming (2019) states the cyberpunk genre is a sub-genre of science fiction and this culture were slowly accepted since 1980. More specifically, the cyberpunk genre intends to exhibit and explore the dark, dangerous side and factors of futurism and advanced technologies. For instance, the movie “West world” revealed that the whole society and social class have been radically changed due to an artificial program changed the safe order of those androids, the androids in the theme parks were originally designed to please and serve human being whereas all parks became to a slaughter place when safe order has been changed (Indigo Gaming, 2019). This familiar description and topic is also found in the anime “Akira”. In the future century, Japan government uses human to do the experiments due to they try to control an implausibility absolute power and the experiment finally succeed with a teenager whereas everything goes to different track due to that boy’s wanton uses of power and he does not have sufficient strength to control it. The consequences of the movie “West World” and anime “Akira” are cautionary for our human society and activities. From my perspective, the directors of the movie and anime intend to encourage and inspire people to reflect those consequences and tragedies to real human life and society, and to aware of the power of advanced technologies and development. Several key features make “Akira” a cyberpunk anime. For instance, urban-stylized motorcycles, tragic laboratory experiments and anti-authoritarian (Indigo Gaming, 2019). 

According to Indigo Gaming (2019), this sub-genre reference science literature as it features advanced technologies. However, cyberpunk is more likely to explore and show the dark side behind that advanced development. It evokes people to aware and to reconsider the purposes of technologies as it may use to mask the underbelly of crime or spy on others’ private life while people enjoying its conveniences.

Indigo Gaming. (2019, December 1). Cyberpunk documentary part 1 | Neuromancer, Blade Runner, Shadowrun, Akira. [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sttm8Q9rOdQ&feature=share&fbclid=IwAR0ZOnQmyGabIr8FMiM6Lkz-DBE1%E2%80%93cZrqPuIA2StGx-4WIjVmBrOKS9GeA&ab_channel=IndigoGaming

Neondystopia. (n.d.). What is cyberpunk? Neondystopia.  https://www.neondystopia.com/what-is-cyberpunk/

Week 4 question

What was the cultural impact of Akira (1988), and why does it occupy a key place in the canon of anime greats?

Anime has become increasingly popular through its introduction in Western societies, however it has been a thriving genre in Japan for decades. Bond (2020) explains that anime in the Western part of the world is believed to be Japanese made animation, but in Japan, anime is referred to as any type of cartoon or animation whether or not it was created in Japan. 

Among many anime films, there is one that stands out above the rest as being the most influential and important animes ever created. Akira is a cyberpunk manga/anime and was originally written as a manga by Katsuhiro Otomo in the year of 1988 (Chu, 218). The story is set in futuristic Tokyo, 31 years after an atomic bomb was dropped by the Japanese government due to failed ESP experiments on children. The story follows a bike gang, with leader Kaneda, trying to save one of his friends and members, Tetsuo, who is captured and experimented on as a secret government project. It is later discovered that Tetsuo has supernatural powers that the government is interested in, however Tetsuo struggles to contain them (Lindwasser, 2019).

Akira is labelled by many as one of the greatest anime films to ever grace the earth. It has also been known to have culturally impacted Western society, and it has successfully influenced not only Western television, but also books, and even music. According to Lindwasser (2019), Akira has made an impact on many famous Western music videos, television series, and movies such as The Matrix, Stranger Things, The Simpsons, and even Kanye West’s ‘Stronger’ music video. Chu (2018), explains that Akira’s deep rooted storyline and impressive painted and hand drawn landscapes has opened a window for a generation of new works. Without the film’s success, there would be a shortage in creativeness and there would not be as many inspired people willing to delve into controversial topics. 

The film and manga series of Akira occupies a place in the canon of anime greats not only because of the influence it has had across cultures, but also because of the well told story it follows and the intricate artwork that is presented throughout. Akira also managed to create a whole new generation of fans. Because of the massive success that Akira gained, it also helped bring fans closer to other Japanese anime films which helped the popularity of anime grow. Without Akira’s success, many of these other significant anime films would not be as popular as they are now. Akira has earned its spot at the top as one of the most influential anime masterpieces to come out of Japan, and hopefully there are many more in the works.


Bond, J. M. (2020). Why Anime is More Popular Now Than Ever.  Daily dot. https://www.dailydot.com/parsec/what-is-anime/

Chu, H. (2018). Why the pioneering Japanese anime ‘Akira’ is still relevant 30 years later. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/

Lindwasser, A. (2019). Ways That ‘Akira’ Is Far More Influential Than You Think. Ranker. https://www.ranker.com/list/all-the-things-influenced-by-akira/anna-lindwasser

Week 4 Questions

What features make Akira cyberpunk, and how does it reference the wider subgenre?

According to Jorgensen (2020), Cyberpunk refers to a sub-genre of science fiction and features highly advanced technological societies, cities and landscapes, heightened scientific research platforms and displays urban, dystopian futures with a film noir aesthetic. Cyberpunk contains various characteristics that have become trademarks of the genre such as dystopian futuristic settings, combinations of low-life and high tech, massive class divides between the grossly rich and the poverty and addiction ravaged lower class societies, vast technological advancement to the point of the total destruction and extinction of natural and organic resources as well as the corruption of governments or the systematic oppression by major mega-corporations (Cavallaro, D., 2000).

Akira contains several of these trademark characteristics of cyberpunk such as a dystopian earth. A world based on a near-future earth where technology has become deeply enmeshed in everyday human existence (Nicholls, P., 1999.) as seen with the highly modified street racer motorcycles that are seen prevalently among the youth biker gangs as well as the advanced military technology such as the compression laser weapons used by the Japanese army and military factions as well as the satellite weapon used to injure Akira’s leading antagonist Tetsuo.

One of the other trademark features portrayed within the film is the high tech, low life archetype. Following the destruction of Tokyo, the generational youth have grown up within an advanced technological world which both supports and controls them (Iglesia, M., 2018). We see this with the high presence of law enforcement and military personnel seen interfering with the working-class protests as well as with the youth groups violent criminal rebellion against rival biker gangs. The police and law enforcement presence in Akira is violent, oppressive and utilize advanced machinery such as high surveillance and jet bikes which utilize highly lethal miniguns as a form of intimidation and execution (Otomo, K., 1988).

Akira also uses several tropes from old noir movies, many of the characters represented within Akira are cynical, bitter and disillusioned by the violence and oppression of their every day lives. Kaneda is portrayed as a violent delinquent and malcontent whose only interest is in his biker gang and chasing the skirts of other lead character Kei but is later portrayed as the reluctant hero only after Tetsuo murders their close friend and ally Yamagata with his driving force behind this decision being that “If anybody should be killing him [Tetsuo] it should be us!” (Otomo, K., 1988).

One final feature demonstrated within the film is the existence of a higher authoritarian organization, while in most cyberpunk this power is often demonstrated through mega-corporations which control the earths planetary resources, services and industries, with a largely powerless government, or vice versa, Akira demonstrates this controlling organization as the military, led by Colonel Shikishima, who overthrows the existing government by staging a coup and turns the remaining military to his control by using the fear and uncertainty created by Tetsuo’s supernatural and psychic abilities as well as the prophesized threat of Akira (Otomo, K., 1988).


Cavallaro, D. (2000). Cyberpunk and cyberculture: Science fiction and the work of William Gibson. The Athlone Press.

Iglesia, M. (2018). Has Akira always been a cyberpunk comic?. Institute of European Art History.

Jorgensen, D. (2020). 2019: The year of our cyberpunk future. Artlink.

Nicholls, P. (1999). Cyberpunk. In the Encyclopaedia of science fiction. London: Orbit.

Otomo, K. (Director), (1988). Akira [Film]. Tokyo Movie Shinsha.

Is anime a high or low cultural medium, according to Susan Napier (2005) and what are some of its subgenres

The 1980’s sparked an uproar in anime, allowing it to become mainstream in Japan due to its growing popularity and boom production. Anime otakus’ would  agree that ever since the era of anime uprising, anime no longer identified amongst the niche genres. In fact, it’s previous standing as a low cultural medium promoting fictitious kids cartoons, and trivial themes arise from the stigmatisation and constant  comparison of anime, amongst high cultured Japanese forms of art such as Haiku and woodblock prints. In terms of whether anime  is a high or low cultural medium, Napier (2005)  questions the need to compare anime amongst other high cultured forms of art, her stance questions whether  anime should be analysed as a whole, based on it being a social phenomenon and form of entertainment. 

Unfortunately, vehement debates encouraged by scholars and anti anime ‘fans’ promote anime as being ‘cartoonish’, and unsophisticated- resulting in it being identified amongst a ‘low’ cultural medium. Unsurprisingly, this opinion is inconsistent and rebutted by Napier (2005), who indicates that anime at present belongs to a ‘popular’ or ‘mass’ culture in Japan in comparison to America, where anime is undervalued, and classified as a sub-genre. Anime’s hybrid take on animation and cinematography, in comparison to traditional japanese forms of art have quite frankly left viewers divided when classifying the genre. 

Fortunately, Napier  (2005) nails the root of the problem by diving into the history of animation. She explains the reputation of anime has always been undermined and viewed as a low cultural medium, particularly amongst the western world. Anime has been compared with disney due to it being perceived as entertainment for young children, completely disregarding the complexities of themes present within and beyond the animations, failing to recognise its extensive target audiences. She indicates that the Japanese have always used animations post world war two, and its recognition is respected amongst the Japanese society. Its ability to combine many sub genres into one, alongside making inter textual references from western ideologies rightfully so, classes it as a high cultured medium of art.

Moreover, anime follows similar strategies from other forms of art such as novels, paintings, films and music, often combining various sub-genres in many of its works.For example, Akira is one of the many works that combines post-apocalyptic, cyberpunk, thriller, drama, epic, adventure as well as action altogether. The fusion of sub genres to form anime is notable as it often contains sophisticated and exceptional themes that stimulate audiences in a way that regular or older forms of art could not. (Napier 2005). Napier also points out Shojo, being a popular subgenre as it has a strong  influence on young females worldwide, promoting female  empowerment.

Additionally, the complexity of the themes present within anime makes it far from a ‘low medium’. Naruto is an example of anime that draws on underlying societal issues such as maintaining strong family bonds, and making sure to follow your dreams regardless of the circumstances that one may encounter. Sailor moon also  promotes women empowerment and feminism, an ongoing plight of emancipation from gender discrimainton. The complexity of these themes are usually found in ‘high’ cultured texts globally, so to class anime amongst a low culture medium would be conflicting, at the very least.

Napier (2005) reflects on anime as being an ever changing intellectually challenging form of art. The 1990’s evidenced for anime making its appearance in academic discourse due to it being a high form of art in terms of sociology. To classify anime as  a low culture medium would be discriminatory due to the complex sub genres, themes, intertextual references and engaging animations, present within many of the works. The stigma around anime roots from comparing anime to western animations that are targeted for a completely different audience. Napier (2005) disagrees with the classifying of anime as a ‘high’ or ‘low’ cultural medium,  instead- she evidences the many reasons as to why anime is far more revolutionary.


Napier Susan, J. (2005). Anime: From Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle.

Napier, S. (2005). Anime and Local/Global Identity. In Anime: from Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle (pp.15-34). Hampshire: Palgrave/Macmillan.

Denison, R. (2015). Anime: A critical introduction. Bloomsbury Publishing.