88 shades of red

Akira is a cyber punk animation set in a Japanese future called ‘Neo Tokyo’. It hinges on a dystopian WWIII future in 2019, where the city is experiencing the aftermath of the atomic bomb and there are chaos and corruption everywhere.

After the past 3 weeks of watching Asian films, I was expecting a slow-paced animation with dated special effects. I don’t think I could’ve been more wrong. Within the first 3 minutes, I was hooked! It was fast paced, I could keep up with the narrative even with subtitles (I started watching the film in Japanese at home…), the music was captivating and there were graphic scenes you just couldn’t turn away from. What struck me the most was the use of colour in the film. It used 327 different colours, which is a record for animated films. 50 of those colours were exclusively created for the film. From the neon lights and futuristic stylised city, the animation is cinematically captivating.

Power and control are reoccurring themes within Akira and the ongoing battle between uprising rebel groups such as the bikie gang and the clowns and the corrupt government controlling the city. The colour red is also critical to the film, as I can find clear associations between the properties of the colour and power, destruction, violence colour. Healy (2017) states on the Odyssey online that the colour red is also associated with a few key characters e.g. Keneda He wears the colour red because of his influence on his gang and performance as the gang leader, The colour red had more obvious connotations, as there were multiple graphic scenes of blood loss, fire, red smoke and red light tints over the whole screen. I also saw a lot of the colour green and made connections between a technological age being green. With the colour being produced in a lot of the experimental scenes.

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The catastrophic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with 214,000 deaths in total, is the force behind the narrative. I didn’t know much about the bombings, so I researched and came across the website http://hiroshima.australiandoctor.com.au/ It had personal accounts of victims (see images below), I got shivers just reading it.

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Emotions of grief, devastation, psychological and mental struggles are not culturally isolated. It is part of the human condition and that’s what director Katsuhiro Otomo communicates so well through the animation. This is why Akira is such a classic animation as it explores universal human pain that anyone can resonate with and themes that are cross cultural.

Another aspect of the film I wanted to delve into was the legacy of the sci-fi dystopian genre it created and inspired with other films we regard as the western pop culture. The Themes we see in Akira all stem from this aftermath of tragedy from the bombing. The devastating after-effects – orphaned kids, radiation sickness, a loss of national independence, the destruction of nature – would also influence the genre, giving rise to a unique (and arguably incomparable) form of comics and animated film. It turned into its own genre and left a legacy of incredible films. I noticed elements that The Matrix took (capsule, NEO!?), Hunger Games, Stranger things? Stronger: Kanye West (medical pod being examined), same as Passenger! Blade runner (flickering of lights), Tron: The bikes from Akira, the list goes on… Learning point: there is no ‘originality’ in any cinema, film, or art. There are always borrowed ideas. It is just a matter of re-interpretation. Or how you can remix it in a novel way. 

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