And not in the ways you might think.
One of my Facebook friends (Jason Pettus) got into this little spiel about how AKIRA is only about as high quality as most 80s and 90s animation, and my brain just hurt from the wrongness of that statement. The reason why AKIRA is so revered is because of the hand drawn attention to detail, digital paint allows animation studios to make quality animation easier but to say everything post 2000s in animation is superior is just wrong, notably because moe anime has tainted the mainstream appeal of anime worse than the gore and tits aspect of anime of yore ever did. At least most of the time pre 2000s the tits didn’t belong to underage girls.
Yes AKIRA has pacing problems, but so does Scarface which also has a cult following centered around a once obscure film beloved by a subculture, namely hip hop. AKIRA is like to anime what Straight Outta Compton and Scarface are to hip hop, they defined the aesthetic of that artform’s era so much that today their historical importance is easy to forget. It’s also worth mentioning that AKIRA in most countries never goes out of print whereas unfairly ignored anime cinema like The Wings Of Honneamise sadly does. AKIRA deserves the audience it keeps getting, it’s a good movie. The Pioneer remastered dub makes it a good movie. The Streamline dub however devalues this artwork of anime to the point people forget it had substance beyond violence and bikers at all. There’s a scene in the Pioneer dub where Kaneda says he’s gonna send his dead friend his wheels, then crashes the bike in the wall. The Streamline dub destroys this by giving you no context as to why he does this, leaving you with the impression that he crashed the bike with no reason. HAAAATE.
AKIRA is about more than what people give it credit for, it’s about more than just bikers and gore. It’s this epic animated bromance remembered only as that slightly gory biker anime when it should be seen as the political turmoil laden, emotionally driven story about two biker guys whose friendship is torn apart by political and scientific meddling that it is. This movie made me feel emotions I rarely feel about anime or even film these days. And every time I watch it I return to those feelings I still feel now.
The political upheaval subtext in this movie speaks to me now in a post-Wikileaks, Occupy Wall Street world even more than it did when I first saw it in 2007 without a real world context to let this far future tale of biker gangs and psychic energy grow on me. It deserves more respect than it’s already given, and I fear respect for it’s fading away very fast cause it’s cool to hate on a classic.