Akira and me

So last night my wife and her friends went out to dinner, and I stayed home for a quiet evening alone with my dogs, a homebrew, and ​Akira. If you haven’t seen it, and you like anime, science fiction, cyberpunk, or some combination of those things, I highly recommend it. In the US, it’s streaming on Hulu Plus, and the Blu-Ray is amazing.

This is the movie that introduced me to anime, way back in 1988 or 89. I remember buying a bootleg VHS at a comic convention, which had a photocopied paper wrapped around the outside, entirely in Japanese. One of my friends said he had heard it was a great movie, so I dropped the twenty bucks or whatever and picked it up. When we got home, we put it into the VCR (kids, ask your parents – it was like a streaming media server that only served local files to a single device, off of very inefficient, removable storage medium) and watched.

It wasn’t dubbed, it wasn’t subbed, and we had absolutely no idea what was going on, but we loved it. In 1988 or 89, there just wasn’t anything like this movie. We had Voltron and Robotech and Battle of the Planets, and they were all pretty awesome, but the breathtaking beauty of Akira was unequaled. We watched it over and over again while we played tabletop games, until we wore out the VHS. We invented some sort of story, where Kaneda and Tetsuo were fighting the espers for some reason, and were eventually defeated by them when Akira is reborn. I remember finally seeing it with subtitles in the mid-90s, and being blown away by the story that was actually being told, which was quite a bit more interesting and complex than the one we’d made up.

I loved Akira so much, it lead me to Ghost in the Shell, all of Miyazaki’s movies, and unintentional hentai (boy, it sure was a shock to us when we picked up a thing called Demon City, only to discover that it was all about tentacle dicks fucking everything in the world. I don’t recall the story, but I can clearly recall how we were all traumatized but unable to look away from it.)

I don’t keep up with the world of anime now, because I have too much other stuff to keep up with and not enough time for everything, but I will always have time to watch Akira.

62 thoughts on “Akira and me”

  1. I remember the first 3 anime titles I ever watched were Akira, Golgo 13, and Bubblegum Crisis – those were all classics! If you watch Akira dubbed, get the Streamline Pictures dub – not the Pioneer one. The older dub was much better than the steaming pile they came out with years later.

  2. Hi Wil. I’m dropping this here because, reasons… and honestly, I can’t think of where else on the web I could share it without people misconstruing why. My real and only reason: I need to tell someone, and the geek quotient where I live is tad too low to expect anyone near me to ‘get’ this.

    Remember how the X-files’ spinoff, ‘The Lone Gunmen’, had an episode where the guys avert a plane flying into the WTC; then 6+ months after it aired, 9/11 happened for real? And how the few of us who remembered the episode at the time were freaked out a bit by the show’s apparent prescience?

    Fast-forward to last night.

    My wife and I were shocked and saddened by Robin Williams’ passing a few days ago, as like many still are. Last night she asked if we could watch the next episode we were up to in ‘The Crazy Ones’, which as it happens we had finally started watching only a week ago, but had stayed away from for a few days out of respect. She thought something funny and recent with him in it might help us move on, so I cued it up. We’re now both a bit freaked out…

    Now remember, these were actually made over a year ago. The ep we were up to, number 4, aired back in October 2013.

    Some way into the show, the creative team are shown brainstorming for ideas. One character, Lauren, decides to read some of her own poetry to help inspire them.

    This blog page at http://www.pixel51.com/blog/archives/9453 relates that episode’s plot and includes the words to the poem. This is how it went:

    I tie the rope with a careful touch
    A simple noose that kills and such
    It kicks and moans till half past noon
    It’s OK, I say, it’s all over soon
    A timeless love, an affair so bright
    Good night sweet Charlie
    Head toward the light

    Goddamn. Just… no words…

    To reiterate, I’m only posting this here because I can’t think where else to, and (sad as it is) I feel more kinship with you and your readers than with many people I meet every day.

    Our continued thanks for such a great blog and for how much you continue to share the real you with so many of us.

    Michael and Lori

  3. “Akira” opened myself and many westerners to a fantastic new world of film and style. Before it, all I knew of animated movies were children’s shows, after it another great and serious story telling medium was made, not to mention the art and style, even almost 3 decades later it is still one of the richest detailed and most visually stunning animations. But I loved the organo-techno style of Kaneda’s bike, and since I grew up designing and building things, I decided to build Kaneda’s bike. Akira fans, check out my prototype on the way to a fully functional high performance motorcycle inspired by Kaneda’s bike! http://www.matus1976.com

  4. I had a very similar experience, quite possibly the same year even, with Vampire Hunter D. No sub, no dub, just pure Japanese. There was a guy in the room who was half Japanese, who acquired and provided the VHS for us, but he only knew a smattering of the language, so we didn’t get much from him.

    I loved every minute of it. It was engaging, it was beautiful, it was visceral. The group of us were all experiencing it for the first time, and we would pause it periodically and discuss what we thought was going on. We even made up names for some of the characters who we couldn’t quote derive from the dialogue. “Pointy Nose-san” and “Narrow-eyed Sama”. ;) Totally awesome. I miss that. Ever since then, I try to only watch anime with subtitles, so I can pick up the words and inflections from the original actors.

    To be fair, they’ve been doing a better job with the American dubs these days, and a few of the voice actors I now count amongst my friends, so I try to make a point to at least sample the dub, if not immerse myself in it. But there’s nothing quite like the original rip.

    Good times. Glad you could have a night to yourself to revisit this experience. Hope it cheered you up. :)

  5. I first saw Akira about the same time as you did. I also remember Battle of The Planets. Did you get the same version of Battle of The Planets in the US as we did in the UK, where most of the violence was removed and you had the character 7-Zark-7 to fill in the gaps?

  6. Wil,
    My house hold are table top gamers as well. Many types from D&D GURPS, Star Wars, wargaming. We spend the day with a two friends laughing our butts off, eating home made pizza

    You make home brew. Cool. Beer, moonshine, wine. whatta’ ya’ make? Hubs and I are have been searching how to make our own ales, and lagers, maybe mead. Any tips to avoid fermented disasters all over the bathroom? (Hadn’t started yet.)

  7. Don’t worry Will, you arem’t missing much not being up to date with anime… they mostly suck nowdays (apart from the rare gem here and there).

    Long gone are the days of good solid anime.

    Cheers

  8. I watch Akira at least once a year, and the Bluray is fabulous. I’m always amazed about the smoothness of the animation 26 years after…
    I discovered it after reading the manga, in 1990.
    I picked a volume at random during summer vacations. We had a traduction with a volume per month, following US publication. It was interrupted 2 volumes befor the last one because as US troops are being asskicked, us publication stopped… We had to wait 2 LONG years to have the traduction made locally by the editor and finally have the ending !
    In between, I saw the movie in cinema, (1991 in france) and it became the starting of a japan anime frenzy :D

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