When Akira first released in 1988 it acted as a spearhead for Japanese animated films in the western world. The sheer level of animation excellence, combined with a traumatically violent, yet deeply philosophical plot propelled it to western acceptance, thereby paving the way for similar animated features.
Today Akira is still widely regarded as the crown jewel of anime, standing not just in another league, but in practically a different universe. The sad truth is that today a film like Akira would likely not get made at all, given the unbelievable amounts of talent and time that went into the 80s animation process. Simply put; Akira is both the crown jewel of anime, and a benchmark that will most likely never be reachable again. At least not via traditional animation means.
Thankfully, with the world still recognising the excellence of Akira, newcomers managed to experience it in modern cinemas. Akira 4K saw a sweeping, limited release around the world, and managed to stand the test of time.
Kaneda, Tetsuo and their gang of motorbike riding misfits struggle to find their place in a bleak cyberpunk future. Their nights are spent causing mayhem in the streets of Neo Tokyo, and days a mundane slog in a society that couldn’t care less about them. But things are about to change in the most dramatic way. Tetsuo is abducted, and vague experiments are performed on his already fragile mind.
Meanwhile, political revolution is stirring behind the scenes. A corrupt, unstable government is reaching a boiling point, and the city is about to undergo a transformation.
The mutation of Tetsuo runs parallel to the transformation of society, one a grim reflection of the other. But society inevitably tends to break down entirely before being rebuilt, and the same must happen to the young man Tetsuo. Only, transformations of this kind are never pretty, and always violent.
There is no question that the visuals of Akira hold up incredibly well, especially since the original vision is now decades old. Crisp, flawlessly detailed animation showcases a cyberpunk future that looks, and sounds, real enough to touch. That a film released in 1988 can still hold a futuristic vision that is 100% relevant in 2020 is nothing short of a miracle, and a true testimony to how talented the original designers were.
Now, with a 4K makeover Akira explodes with vibrant detail, most of which was likely missed in the original release. Make no mistake, this is a movie that was begging to be given the 4K treatment, and should really have had this level polish from day 1.
Akira is, in many ways, a deeply troubling story, and can still easily shock a modern audience with its levels of brutal violence, and horrific body horror imagery. But what Akira does that makes it truly stand apart is still tell a deeply personal, and emotional story, more than enough to draw a few tears.
Tetsuo, as the metaphorical body horror transformation points out, is a product of the society he lives in. A ‘runt’ forced to mutate into something inhuman, monstrous and bloodthirsty, just to have a shot at survival. His story is tragic, and yes, very much still relevant.
As good as it was the day it released, Akira 4K is on par with any HD game, and more than worth the price of a ticket.