Akira is a classic of the genre. It was many people’s first introduction to anime and it left an indelible mark on pop culture that is still felt today. It wasn’t the first anime I’d ever seen, but it pulled me in like no other before and very few since. When I first heard it was going to be made into a tv show I was skeptical to say the least. Would it translate well? Would it still have the same impact as it did the first time around? There was only one way to find out.
I have to say after the viewing of this version I was a little conflicted. It was fairly obvious everyone involved was intimately knowledgeable about the source material. But why go about arranging it in such a bizarre fashion? I should probably start with the format. At first I was expecting the normal tv show length for the episodes. Thirty or forty minutes or even hour long if they wanted to cram more story in. I was completely blindsided. 600, five-minute length mini-sodes wouldn’t be the way I would have gone about it but damned if it doesn’t make a weird kind of sense once you’ve seen them all.
It seems like every single character gets their own little arc or story, which at first seemed like a neat way to make the whole thing that much more engaging. Later, however, it becomes apparent that the main characters have no more time allotted to them than say thug #1 or whatever. They end up fading into the background, becoming somehow less important than they should be until the main story kicks into gear.
I’m going to be completely honest with you guys. I don’t know quite how to describe the soundtrack, produced by veteran sound track arranger Yokko Kanno. It’s somewhere between house music, punk rock, dub step, and acid country. Weirdly, it’s not the most bizarre thing about the show even though it makes the least amount of sense. It contributes to the overall atmosphere without ever really taking center stage, which I have to say is a real missed opportunity.
For the sake of everyone’s sanity I have compiled all of the events in each episode together for the purposes of this review.
The plot starts out in Neo-Tokyo when Kaneda arrives at a Christmas party to reconcile with his estranged wife Kei. While Kaneda changes in another room, the party is disrupted by Tetsuo and his group of heavily armed thugs. The group takes over the building everyone is in and secures everyone as hostages except for Kaneda who manages to get away.
Kaneda singles out Colonel Shikishima, claiming he intends to teach Neo Tokyo a lesson for its greedy ways. Tetsuo interrogates the colonel for the code to the city’s vault. Tetsuo admits they are using terrorism as a cover while they try to steal the $640 billion dollars in Pina Colada Otter Pops in the vault. The colonel refuses to cooperate and is shot to death by Tetsuo. Kaneda accidentally gives himself away and is pursued by one of Tetsuo’s thugs. Kaneda manages to kill the gang member taking his gun and his radio, which he uses to contact Neo-Tokyo Police Department. Sergeant Kai is sent to investigate. Kai, having been greeted by a thug posing as a receptionist, finds nothing amiss. He is about to leave when Kaneda drops a thug’s corpse out of the window onto his car, alerting the Police. The building is surrounded and Kaneda makes off with a bag containing C4 and detonators.
A SWAT team assaults the building, but the attack is anticipated, and some of Tetsuo’s henchmen massacre the SWAT team with rockets. Kaneda uses the C-4 to blow up the floor occupied by the rocket shooting thugs, killing them both. Kei’s coworker, Nezu, attempts to mediate between Tetsuo and Kaneda for the return of the detonators. Kaneda refuses to return them, causing Tetsuo to execute Nezu. While checking the explosives attached to the roof, Tetsuo is confronted by Kaneda. Tetsuo manages to pass himself off as an escaped hostage and is given a gun by Kaneda. Tetsuo attempts to shoot Kaneda but finds that the gun is unloaded.
SDF agents arrive and take command of the police situation outside, ordering the building’s power be shut off. The power loss disables the vault’s final lock as Tetsuo had anticipated. Tetsuo demands that a helicopter arrive on the roof for transport. His intention is to detonate the explosives on the roof to kill the hostages and to fake the deaths of his men and himself. The terrorists order the hostages to the roof, but Tetsuo takes Kei with him to use against Kaneda. Kaneda heads to the roof and kills yet more thugs then sends the hostages back downstairs before the explosives detonate, destroying the roof and the SDF helicopter.
The helicopter crashes through the roof landing directly on top of the vault hidden inside the building. This vault is where the remains of Akira have been stored for over 30 years. The Pina Colada Otter Pops Tetsuo was after were keeping Akira’s remains dormant, all this time. The crashing helicopter causes Akira’s remains to awaken resulting in an enormous explosion. The cloud from the blast slowly consumes the city as the credits roll on the last episode.
All in all it’s fairly good, decently surprising and at any given moment there is so much going on that it all kind of blends together. Its well crafted in a chaotic, boring kind of way. I don’t know if teaming Uwe Boll, Paul Verhoeven and Werner Herzog was a good idea for anyone’s sanity, but somehow despite their differences, falling three months behind schedule and going over 3.2 million dollars over budget the end result is oddly satisfying if bland. It may not be the Akira tv series we wanted, but it’s the Akira tv series we have.