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Ōtomo Katsuhiro’s 阿基拉 [AKIRA]

Akira Film Posters

阿基拉 [AKIRA]

阿基拉 [AKIRA], Japan 1988. Directed and screenplay by Ōtomo Katsuhiro, based on his own Manga (1982–90).

Bambi Theater 1, Row 1, Seat 6. Original version with German subs.

(This post originally appeared, in slightly different form, at my Instagram account betweendrafts.)

Don’t get me wrong—there are many anime out there I’m very passionate about. But Akira’s got to be, even after all these years, the best fucking anime ever made.

Haven’t seen it for years, and once again it savagely reminded me of what a monster of a movie it really is. It starts off with a dazzling action scene reminiscent of Hong Kong Heroic Bloodshed cinema, but its dramatic development never lets up from there until the very climax and beyond. Every frame’s a fucking painting; both its cinematography and animation are breathtaking beyond belief; its sound design blasts you right off your seat; and Yamashiro’s score with Gamelan, Noh music, and sudden church organ blasts—again reminiscent of Hong Kong Heroic Bloodshed cinema—follows you into your sleep.

Until now, I’d watched the movie only with various versions of English subtitles or none at all, so the German subtitle set this theatrical version came with was a first. They made some puzzling decisions. Time and again, on the one hand, they tried to translate particles (phrasal and others), which worked out about as well as you might expect. On the other hand, they skipped the honorifics, which are pretty important indicators of how the characters relate to each other. All in all, however, they did a decent job.

Finally, in case you haven’t read the manga, you should! It’s far from being identical with the movie, even though Ōtomo himself directed the anime and wrote the script. The manga is an incredible artistic achievement in its own right.

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