Akira Movie Analysis: Chaos and Redemption in Neo-Tokyo

Akira Movie

Akira is a Japanese name, as evident to everyone, and like any meaningful name, it carries significance. A quick online search reveals that its name signifies "Light," "Clear," "Bright," or "Radiance." Anchored in this symbolism, Akira by Katsujiro Otomo emerges on the storytelling radar, presenting a narrative that delves into themes of destruction and rebirth, order and disorder, power and vulnerabilities, darkness, and... light. This tale is intricately tied, as previously mentioned, to the essence of its name, conveying messages of illumination and the enlightenment of individuals in darkness. It explores the challenge of connecting with a force beyond human understanding and navigating towards the light through the surrounding darkness.

Venturing beyond the storyline of this narrative, be it in the manga or the movie, we encounter a catharsis—the catharsis of individuals finding release from destruction. It captures the essence of people who witnessed the timid approach of a bright star of light, leading them through horror only to emerge from it reborn, with the determination to persevere. In essence, it's a journey of destruction and rebirth. Akira, both a name and a meaning, weaves together meaning and a narrative, a narrative and a reality, a reality and the obligation to rise and illuminate the world with a new light, thus infusing Akira with a renewed significance.


Akira Movie Trailer


Let's delve into the film, unveiling its distinctive elements: a city phoenixing from the ashes, Neo Tokyo, pulsating with life yet descending into political, social, and religious decay. Disregarded societal paths lay wasted, and amidst the interplay of shadows and light emerges Akira, the enigmatic force accountable for it all.

The narrative lays a tense foundation, entangling beings in a mesh of chaos and extreme order. The entire city, driven by ignorance, chooses to follow symbols and beings they dub as their new saviors, oblivious to the nature of salvation or the identities of these symbols or saviors.

Otomo meticulously crafts the contextual spectrum of his work, drawing from his experiences in an era marked by post-war tensions and the Cold War, within a nation scarred by preceding conflicts. These thematic underpinnings are distinctly explored in Akira. However, there's also a profound respect for culture, giving rise to a perpetual duality, evident in cultural and social facets—bridging the traditions of Japan, reflected in the movie's music and philosophical concepts, with the currents of modernity. This modernity manifests in architectural styles, neon-lit landscapes, an arms race, and technological fervor, casting a shadow, the shadow of chaos, delivering a persistent message: keep moving, the world propels forward, and strength lies in adhering to the world's prescribed progress.

To propel the world forward, one must wield the most potent weapon. This message serves as a perpetual caution to Japan as we know it, and Otomo astutely recognizes this truth. His other works, such as Memories, Domu, Fireball, Steamboy, and The Legend of Mother Sarah, uphold a substantial critique of humanity hurtling ahead, outpacing the Earth's axis.

In the realm of duality, the protagonists, Kaneda and Tetsuo, become the living reflections of these contrasting concepts:

Tokyo, often entangled in conflicts with rival groups. He exudes leadership, steering a chaotic gang with little regard for the elderly or those involved in the shadowy underworld dealings. Despite the lack of respect for conventional norms, Kaneda's leadership qualities are undeniable, and Tetsuo recognizes them. Tetsuo, on the other hand, resides in the same gang, positioned as arguably the least robust and most reserved member.

Frequently reliant on Kaneda's protection, Tetsuo harbors a complex blend of love, hate, admiration, and envy towards his leader. While Tetsuo leans heavily on Kaneda, the same reciprocity isn't evident, triggering a crisis within Kaneda—a duality mirroring Japan's struggle with tradition and modernity post-war, catalyzed by Tetsuo's sudden acquisition of immense power, a revelation symbolized by the light, as in the film's title, "Akira."

Subsequently, chaos ensues; Tetsuo gradually comprehends the magnitude of his newfound power, dismantling the foundations of this duality. His emotions of hatred and envy take precedence, marking a profound shift in his personality—a transformation I term "the path of the subordinate." Tetsuo, a loyal follower of Kaneda, simultaneously aspires to emulate or surpass him, albeit from a somewhat unhealthy perspective.

This dynamic underscores the subordinate's pursuit of position over learning, seeking a form of power driven by personal satisfaction, evident in their actions. Following his liberation, Tetsuo's first act is to eliminate a gang member who doubted his ability to handle a motorcycle like Kaneda's. He then sets his other companion free to inform Kaneda—a symbolic declaration asserting, "look who's weak now."

Presently, we encounter an unrestrained and power-hungry Tetsuo, driven by a quest for self-empowerment, though not without a destructive streak. Society deifies him as a messianic figure, a perception Tetsuo revels in. Despite being aware that society supports him, Tetsuo, now empowered, deems their influence inconsequential—akin to an ineffective leader who remains oblivious to valuable lessons.

In Conclusion

Kaneda's journey throughout the movie and manga is intriguing because it mirrors the path of Japan in our contemporary era. Japan has faced the unknown and the destructive force of that blinding and devastating light.

Despite the trauma, it propelled the nation forward, resulting in the construction of the technologically advanced and culturally empowered nation we recognize today—not as an overshadowing of its progress but in tandem with it. Japan has embraced the concepts of duality beyond the commonplace Yin and Yang, integrating them into its entire culture, history, and accumulated knowledge over time. This understanding has laid the foundation for a narrative like Akira, exploring the themes of light and how it can simultaneously bring both destruction and rebirth.

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