Akira tells the story of Shotaro Kaneda, the leader of a biker gang in post-World War III Neo-Tokyo, and his attempts to rescue his best friend, Tetsuo Shima, who develops psychic abilities and has been taken captive by the government. As the story unravels, you learn more about the manifestation of Tetsuo’s psychic abilities, the truth behind the explosion that destroyed Tokyo more than 30 years before, and how the government played a role in it then and has continued to do so ever since.
For a film released in 1987, Akira has earned a place on the mandatory watch list for many fans of anime. While it’s been obsessed over for 25 years, there are probably also some facts about the creation and production of the Katsuhiro Otomo-directed film that you’re unaware of. To gain an even deeper appreciation for what’s considered to be one of the best anime films ever made, take a look at these fascinating facts about Akira.
It Changed Animation as We Knew It
One of the most impressive facts about Akira is that its animation was so ahead of its time that 50 unique colors were created out of the 327 that were used – a record, by the way – just for its production. Most of the film takes place at night or in dark settings and called for the use of 2,212 shots and 160,000 single pictures, which is more than double the usual amount of animated films of that length.
Paying Homage to Home
Like many anime films and shows, Akira started off as a manga (the Japanese phrase for comic books) and was later animated after it became popular. During its original run from 1982-1990, it was published by Young Magazine and was more than 2,000 pages when it was finished. During a riot scene of the film, a character can be seen in the background wearing a sweater that reads “YOUNG” as a way to pay homage to Akira’s first home.
Stepping Away From Old Practices
In most instances, anime voice actors come in after all of the animation has been completed to record their voices. But for Akira, the crew followed a practice that’s more common in Western animation studios by having the actors record their voices first.
Everybody Loves a Little Rock ‘n’ Roll
In some ways, Akira is definitely a product of its time. For example, it has a subtle appreciation of rock ‘n’ roll. In a scene where Kaneda is sitting by a jukebox, you can see posters of famous rock bands, such as Cream, Led Zeppelin and The Doors, hanging in the background.
Predicting the Future
Akira takes place in 2019 – hopefully in a version that looks very different than the one we’ll experience in four short years. In the film, you can see Neo-Tokyo building facilities for the upcoming Olympics. I’m not sure how they did it, but back in 1987, Japan predicted the future somehow because they’re actually hosting the 2020 Olympics.
From a Long Line of Heroes
The main protagonist of Akira is a young man named Shotaro Kaneda. Something fans of the film may not know is that the voice actor in the original English dub is none other than Cam Clarke, also known for his work voicing Leonardo in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series that ran in the early 1990s. If that wasn’t enough, Kaneda was voiced by Johnny Yong Bosch, also known as Adam Park, the black Power Ranger, in the 2001 remastered version. Want one more treat? Bob Bergen, the voice actor that currently voices Porky Pig, voiced Masaru and Kai in the first dub.
High Cost, High Reward
Akira cost a total of $10 million to make back in 1987, which stood as the record for the most expensive anime film for quite some time. But the investment was well worth it given its popularity. Studios even chose to double down on their investment and throw in another million dollars to have the audio and video remastered for another release in 2001.
But Not THAT High of a Cost
No matter what big-budget Hollywood films would have you believe, there is such a thing as too high a budget. When Sony attempted to make Akira a live-action film back in the 1990s they faced the same roadblock they often do now. It’s estimated that it would cost more than $300 million to make it happen. But Warner Brothers is up to bat and still trying to make the movie happen. The studio even tapped Marco J. Ramirez to write the script.
But, until then, you can watch the awesome fan made trailer over and over again.
I’ma Let You Finish This Article, But Akira is Kanye West’s Favorite Movie of ALL TIME!
Kanye West has gone on record (Twitter) by stating that Akira and There Will Be Blood are equally his favorite movies ever. He even went as far as to parallel a lot of the scenes in the anime classic in his music video for “Stronger.”