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. That is pretty much exactly how I got into anime, through Ghost in the Shell, Ninja Scroll and indeed, Demon City.
    I got a ticket to a press screening for the German dub of Akira from my local games shop and the quality of the animation (dynamic shadows, waving hair) blew me away. I really wish there was some more classic cyperpunk, horror, feudal Japan/mythology or Sci Fi around these days so other than Studio Ghibli, I don’t watch much anymore.

  2. I remember first time I watched Akira back in the 90s. We watched it dozens of times That was the first time I was really impressed by anime.

    It’s been years but I remember really liking the manga as well. It tells essentially the same story but just with more details.

  3. very similiar to me. maybe because we are nearly the same age. just lost my “answer to all questions” status of today.
    akira was a super amazing experience and drove me into manga and comics in general. and in these days of nearly no virtual boarders i have the chance of catching up with so many good anime and stories out there.
    great to live today.

  4. Don’t know exactly how I pulled it off, but I got to see Akira during its first limited North American theatrical release. I remember the awful dub – couldn’t hear any of the dialog – but the images, just wow!! I never really knew what was going on until a new dubbed version came out around 2000.

  5. This was my first anime as well, aside for some half hour TV shows in the 80’s that I didn’t even know were based on Japanese shows (Robotech and Star Blazers primarily). I don’t remember how I heard about it, may have only been ads in newspapers or something, but it was showing at the local art house theater in Sacramento for one weekend only, I think in 1990, and I was grounded that weekend. I made a deal with my mom she could ground me for a week if she would just let me go to the theater to see it. She agreed. Mind was officially blown. It has been the touchstone of animated film for me ever since, and led me to many others that have been mentioned above.

  6. “Tetsuooooo!”
    “Kaneeeeeda!”
    “Tetsuooooo!”
    “Kaneeeeeda!”

    BOOM!

    heh heh. Really was a great movie, though I was kind of spoiled by having seen Miyazaki stuff by the time I saw it. Of course, I grew up on Robotech…

  7. As someone who hasn’t followed any anime regularly for over a decade, I recently watched Attack on Titan after recommendations from a half-dozen people. HIGHLY recommended and available on Netflix.

  8. Why haven’t you tweeted this entry?

    Like so many people I can’t watch ALL SciFi shows – but I love to watch what interests me the most. I have never really been into anime or animated shows – but I get everyone who loves a show, because I also love certain shows. I think that’s what unites us!

  9. akira is amazing (and makes more sense now that i’m older) and i was lucky enough to see it in the theatre last winter (the great digital film festival!). another classic anime film that i really love is wings of honneamise. i highly recommend it; its a slow paced story, but really beautiful, in my opinion.

  10. My first anime was Bleach, and it still holds that special place in my heart. Now I watch Black Butler and Trigun when I am in an anime mood.

  11. I personally have lost track as to which anime got me into the genre I’ve been with it since I was young. However, I do go in and out of the genre when it becomes somewhat predictable like right now.

    The anime that got me back in the 90s was Excel Saga which parodied practically every anime genre and others at the time. After a while it sort of became lame and predictable.

    The other one that brought me back for a while was Macross Frontier which made me appreciate the non-resource management version of protoculture that was altered by Robotech. I’m not dismissing Robotech though, I still find the overall plot to be good back in the day when I wouldn’t really appreciate that music has power.

    Gundam 00 made me appreciate Gundam series again for a while after the predictability and cry-babiness of the SEED series.

  12. Grew up in Japan and Hawaii (born in Japan) and watched Anime and Tokusatsu action shows my whole life…hell, still watch them. First Anime were Tiger Mask, Ashita no Joe, GeGeGe no Kitarō, Lupin III, etc… While in Tokusatsu action I was watching Kamen Rider, Ultraman, Ultra 7, Rainbow Man, Spectraman, Go-Ranger, etc.. These and others like them are shows I will never stop watching…

  13. Even after watching the dubbed DBZ and Sailor Moon, I don’t think I really got into anime until I saw the movie Tokyo Godfathers. Brought me to tears. But mangas will always have a special place in my heart <3

  14. My husband and I are in the same boat. We actually met because of anime but we haven’t been able to keep up with new stuff in a long time. We still have our old favourites on DVD (and some on VHS still, even though it’s been years since we had a working player) and we’ll pull them out and watch them again.

    Out of all the things that have changed over the years, I think falling out of the anime community is one of the ones I regret the most.

  15. I love anime still, Death Note is awesome. Saw Akira in high school in ’98 and came across La Blue Girl at some point…jaw was on the floor…

  16. My first anime was Nausicaa of The Valley of The Wind… but it was called Warriors of the wind, was English dubbed, and I had no idea it was Japanese until ten years later. The first anime I bought was Akira. I still don’t totally get it all, but years later I still watch it.

  17. Any chance you can change your signature phrase from “Don’t be a dick.” to “Don’t be a tentacle dick.”? If not, I may just have to adopt it as my own.

  18. Akira was my first anime as well. Around the same time frame, a friend brought over a copy of a VHS tape. It had been copied with the macromedia protection and was a really, really bad copy. My friend kept saying how cool the smoke from something (cops? grenades?) near the beginning. As the movie progressed I kept asking him to explain what is happening. He just laughed at me and said he had no idea and to shut u and watch.

  19. The original VHS dub was fantastic, and sadly the Bluray in everywhere other than Aus were not able to use it. The “updated” dub is pretty hit and miss. But, I think its cool you never even had a dub, or even a sub and still found that the artwork is just brilliant. Also, yeah, Utsogigiou or whatever that demon city movie was came out right when Akira exploded. It was the Goatse of our generation.

  20. I do believe that Akira was the first Anime I ever watched, and was somewhere around the late 80’s early 90’s. I was both supremely impressed and somewhat grossed out, lol.

  21. I don’t know if it’s sad or impressive that I recognized every reference here…even goatse…Akira was awesome and while maybe not the first, it was one of the earliest. I found out years later that both Star Blazers and Battle of the Planets were not the originals but I loved them anyway and even the originals once I saw them (have to say that while the US versions were dear to me through the golden haze of childhood remembered, I liked the originals better)..

  22. Akira was also my first exposure to anime. And i didn’t really like it.

    Some people i knew in high school were really into it, and when we were hanging out in the computer lab (’92? ’93? ’94?) they kept playing clips of it over and over again. The one i remember in particular was the one of the guy getting gunned down. I vaguely recall wondering where they’d found such a violent cartoon, i think i assumed it must have come from MTV or some such. (Aeon Flux was big at the time, and they were into that as well if i recall correctly.) I wasn’t disgusted by the violence, but i really didn’t see the attraction either.

    During the summer between high school and college i went to my first ever con (and also the last for the next six or seven years, until i started going to Anime Expo ironically enough) and they showed a lot of movies, including a lot of anime. And one of the ones they showed was Akira. So now i knew where the people in high school had gotten the clips from, but i still wasn’t impressed by it.

    However they also showed several other movies that i liked a lot more, and the one that stood out the most was what i later learned was Nausicaa. (I think they’d even somehow gotten a hold of a fan sub rather than the “Warriors of the Wind” monstrosity.)

    What then cemented my interest in anime was when i got to college, made new friends, and was introduced to Ranma 1/2, Urusei Yatsura, Bubble Gum Crisis, and eventually much more.

  23. It’s rather humorous that I can say now that Akira is a classic (yikes). I discovered Akira through an old roommate back in the days when we were watching you saving the day on the Enterprise. We’d get home from work, watch a rerun episode of ST:TNG, then keep it on Ch13 here in L.A., put some good music on while Baywatch (eye-candy with tunes) filled the hour between the rerun and a new episode TNG. Ah, those were the days.

    My roommate was doing production work between screenplays he wrote for a couple of movies that were released and was into a lot of Anime, Akira, Robotech, and The Bubblegum Crisis being among some of the titles in his collection. Akira was state of the art containing, by far, some of the most amazing graphics to date for Japanese Anime, and still remains one of the most visually appealing features even today with a well written story to accompany the fine animated work.

    I agree with you wholeheartedly, Wil, regarding your recommendation for those who haven’t seen Akira to make a point of seeing it. Even though it’s around 25 years old now, the colors are so vivid and the story isn’t dated, so it should be as great today for new viewers as it was and is for those of us who have seen and already enjoy the feature.

    Thanks for sharing. Great rec!

    ~R

  24. Akira also began my introduction to anime – can’t remember how I watched it though (it may have ‘arrived’ via the internet back in the late 90’s. This led me to Trigun and my favorite ever – Ghost In The Shell and GITS: Stand Alone Complex (which is so unbeliviably awesome I cannot put into words).

  25. I was lucky to have grown up (roughly around the same time as you) in PR, where– for some reason– a good percentage of cartoons were 60s & 70s mecha, dubbed into Spanish.
    Then, in jr. high, while helping out in the A/V room by shlepping equipment, someone brought in a VHS copy of Akira. Holy crap– that just changed the game completely.

    I still pop it in my dvd player every once in a while.

  26. I grew up on Speed Racer, Star Blazers and Battle of the Planets as well. My introduction to Akira was actually quite lucky. Someone brought it into the comic shop I hung out at(RIP Periodicity Comics in New Brunswick, NJ). We also had someone there who spoke Japanese so they were able to describe what people were saying.

    Heh, with Star Blazers they changed the air time so I couldn’t see it after school anymore. I faked being sick a whole week so I could see the end of the comet empire arc.

  27. A buddy in high school introduced me to anime by lending me some VCR tapes. My first one was Gunbuster; it was like I was transported to another world. Then came Demo Hunter Yohko, Akira, Cutey Honey, etc., and I kept asking to borrow more and more. Until, that is, months later he lent me one (forgot the title) that had those things similar to the octopus dicks you mentioned. I stopped asking to borrow anime tapes from him after that.

  28. Growing up in northern Vermont, we had access to Canadian television. While the Boston stations were showing the Flintstones and the Jetsons, the Canadian stations were showing Speed Racer, Star Blazers, TranzorZ, Force:Five (with Gaiking, Grandizer, and StarVengers), and of course, Battle of the Planets. It took me a while to find the MazingerZ, Getter Robo Z, and Gatchaman. With some Gigantor, Marine Boy, Rocket Robin Hood, The Mighty Hercules, and Johnny Socko in for good measure.

    Akira put me over the moon, and was “wow”…and like Wil, led me to “Ghost in the Shell” amongst others.

    I still think Science Ninja Team Gatchaman is the best ever….

  29. Midnight showing with a friend years ago at a hole-in-the-wall art house cinema; I think I was one of three women in the place. We staggered out afterwards clutching each other and howling “WTF did we just watch? And is there more of it?”

  30. My first Akira experience was similar. I was but a young lass in the late 80s and saw it at a comic book festival with no dubbing or subtitles. Blew my mind!

  31. My first experience with anime was Akira but I didn’t like it because I had no idea what was going on. I think like most genres, there is a lot of crap anime and some good ones. Best anime ever = Excel Saga, fantastic show even though a lot of their in jokes go over my head since I’m not Japanese.

  32. My progression was Tezuka’s Kimba The White Lion (can still sing that theme song through verbatim and I saw that thing when I was like 2, so that’s a useless skill) and Speed Racer growing up in LA in the late 60s, Star Blazers in the 70s, then Akira, Ghost in the Shell. First saw Totoro around 1994, then Laputa in 1997 in Hong Kong when I was staying at a hostel and it was on the telly. I was so engrossed in the movie, I barely noticed the effing cockroaches that kept turning up in my take-out noodles.

  33. Recently, Death Note and Attack on Titan have impressed.

    Also, gotta get around to watching this Space Dandy thing because I enjoyed Bebop so much.

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