Akira: A Dystopian Vision of the 21st Century [OWLS Blog Tour 2020: Visions]

Happy New Year! Since it is a new year, it’s a new you! This month we will be talking about various pop culture mediums that focus on envisioning “the future.” What type of future do we want for ourselves, our communities, and the world? Also, we will be sharing our goals and plans for the new year. Once again, happy new year!

Long time, no see, folks and welcome to my first post of 2020! I am terribly sorry for going radio silent over the past few months as I have been extremely busy with work and other things in Japan (more on that later). One of my wishes and plans for this year is to start writing more again on this blog.

Many of you, I’m pretty sure, have watched or, at least, heard about Akira, often regarded as a seminal and influential anime film for both anime fans and creatives alike (it’s also regarded as one of the films that gave anime its broad appeal to the West). I have watched this film many times and every time I watch it I learn something new that I didn’t catch the previous time. With that in mind, it’s interesting, yet scary, to notice just how much Akira predicted how the world was going to go in the 21st century (heck, it even predicted that the 2020 Olympics were going to be held in Tokyo) and this is a film that was made more than 30 years ago.

Set in a dystopian version of Tokyo in 2019, Akira tells the story of Kaneda and his friend, Tetsuo, who are part of a biker gang. During a fight with a rival biker gang, Tetsuo gets involved in an accident, which causes him to gain telekinetic powers. The prompts the military to capture him and use him for experiments. Tetsuo eventually escapes using his powers, but it causes him to become psychologically unstable. It is up to Kaneda to try and save Tetsuo from what he has become before it is too late.

One of the first things you’ll notice when watching Akira is its drab and depressed depiction of Tokyo. It’s interesting when you consider how Tokyo is usually depicted in media: a city filled with bright, neon lights and bustling crowds and massive technological advancements. Here, the city is presented as a victim of its own creation, since it was originally destroyed by a technological singularity before the events of the film. Although this version of Tokyo is still more technologically advanced than modern day Tokyo, like the iconic motorcycle Kaneda rides, it still doesn’t seem like a pleasant place to live. If you consider, for example, the iconic cyberpunk film Blade Runner, the film, too, doesn’t present technological advancement in a good light.

Photo Credit: GaijinPot

When you consider some of the current affairs happening around the world today: the possibility of World War 3, the outbreak of the Corona virus and huge leaps in technological advancement, it’s easy to see why Akira can be considered a film ahead of its time. Though one can argue that its art style is outdated, what makes the film still relevant today is its themes and messages. It is a film that warns us of one possible future if we don’t keep those in power in check and accountable for their actions. While it’s safe to say that we won’t (hopefully) be experiencing an Akira-like future anytime soon, it makes you wonder what would happen if we did live in a completely dystopian world.

Apart from hoping to write more on my blog this year, I hope to also continue learning Japanese as much as possible while I am still living here. I also hope for success with my thesis and that, overall, 2020 will be a new start in my life, given the change of the decade.

If you enjoyed this post be sure to check out Crimson from Cute Boys Central’s post as well as Pinkie from Pinkie’s Paradise tomorrow. For a full list of this month’s schedule, please check out the OWLS Bloggers site.

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