Akira: A deep dive into the tortured soul of Japan

 

DISCLAIMER
*Back in week three, I viewed Akira both in class and at home. I was so thrilled at the ending, I decided then and there at 1am, to write down my thoughts (1.) This piece is an extension, and development, of those thoughts.*

Akira left a particularly strong impression on me. A self confessed film buff, I am yet to properly delve into the world of Anime, and could not have asked for a better introduction. With an deeply symbolic plot, beautiful musical score and rich animation (years ahead of it’s time,) unpacking it’s many layers could constitute an entire book in itself. But personally for me, the autoethnographic process saw me perceiving and analysing this, both due to my background in film, and as a product of a privileged Western upbringing,

Coming from my background, a viewpoint rooted in Western cinema, Akira is somewhat of an enigma, not only stylistically but also structurally.
Budget wise, when 8 number figures are tossed around, films backed by large amounts of money are usually marketed to the common denominator – Take Marvel Studios for example; and their tendency toward big budget transmedia production, mass marketed to successfully reach deep into the pockets of the world’s teenage boys (2.)

As a result, It is quite unusual that a high budget film takes stylistic and conceptual risks, grappling with themes of the human condition, nuclear devastation and imperialism (usually left for the low budget and the indie) but when coupled with the ability to afford beautiful artists, animators and musicians, sophisticated ideas are given the presentation they deserve – and identify with the viewer, right down to their core.
Maybe it’s my tendency to dabble in film snobbery, but I often find myself shaking my head at the amounts of money thrown at your standard cookie cutter, high action blockbuster, and (what I feel is) it’s it’s incredible wastage. It is wonderful to experience a film of incredibly high artistic quality, with not only money, but thoughtful art direction behind it.

But financial management and creative competency aside, it the the film’s dark tone, coupled with vivid scenes of violence and destruction that truly drew me to Akira. Japan’s wartime history obviously lends itself to exploring themes of nuclear violence, not only in the political sphere, but also the visual; a morbid fascination with the imagery of destruction. One only needs to look as far as 1988 film ‘Barefoot Gen’, and it’s famous scene, shot from the perspective of the ground, in Hiroshima on the 6th of August (3.)

I talked of this in my previous piece, but as a young white man, safe in his Australian bubble, I am not often exposed to the true horrors of human nature –  and to immerse into scenes of mass destruction is an experience seldom felt by myself or my peers.
Jed Smith (4,) a favourite journalist of mine, has written extensively on the idea of lived experience. “Without a lived-experience, we are unable to understand or truly empathise. So what’s important is to find some way those sensitivities can be acquired.”
Akira was an especially earnest and powerful experience as it allowed me, lucky enough to have lived a life predominantly free of suffering, a window into the experience of someone literally watching their world fall down around their ears.

As a medium to convey lived experience, Akira hit the nerve for me in two key ways.
Firstly, I watched the tortured character of Tetsuo descend further into madness and anger, before being enveloped by his power, begging for the help of those closest to him. Followed the final scenes of Neo Tokyo, bathed in light before it’s end spoke to me on a level further then imagery, themes or metaphor… For the first time in my life, I watched with a mixture of horror and fascination, at just how devastating mass destruction can be, both on a large and individual scale.

(1) Isaksson N (2018.) ‘Week 3 – Akira.’ Digital Asia, August 10, 2018.
Accessible at: https://digitalasia.blog/2018/08/10/week-3-akira/

(2) Admin (2018.) ‘Avengers: Infinity War and the Marvel Marketing Machine,’ Flickering Myth, March 12, 2018.
Accessible at: https://www.flickeringmyth.com/2018/03/avengers-infinity-war-marvel-marketing-machine/

(3) Kuroihitsuji (2017.) ‘Hadashi No Gen – Release the Bomb,’ Youtube, Feburary 14, 2017.
Accessible at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D22kzf_bDvg&t=1s

(4) Smith J (2018.) ‘An Idiot’s Guide to the Australian Class System,’ Monster Children, March 7, 2018.
Accessible at: https://www.monsterchildren.com/71836/idiots-guide-australian-class-system/

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