Akira

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Akira Movie Poster Image
Extremely violent classic introduced anime to Westerners.
  • R
  • 1988
  • 124 minutes
Popular with kids

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 13 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive messages

This highly complex movie deals with many issues, ranging from the concept that ideas and memories are saved and passed from being to being throughout the universe, to the idea of a messiah that could save (or destroy) everything and everyone. There's also a small argument as to whether to deal with things via violence or science, but movie's overwhelming violence tends to steamroll over any other potential themes.

Positive role models & representations

Since it's not always easy to tell who is doing the right thing in this story, and since nearly every character reacts to nearly every situation with violence, it can be safely said that there are no clear role models.

Violence

This movie has incredible amounts of sci-fi violence, ranging from spectacular, large-scale battles and explosions, to angry mobs, guns and shooting and motorcycle fights. Many characters are shot, and blood is on display. A major character loses an arm. Dogs are shot. A young woman is beat up in one sequence. The movie takes place after WWIII, and shows images of a nuclear explosion. As the movie progresses, the imagery becomes more and more nightmarish, unexplainable, and disturbing (it begins with giant stuffed animals attacking a young man).

Sex

A young woman is shown topless in one sequence; it's a scene of violence rather than sexuality. In an earlier scene, a man in the background of a bar is shown kissing and groping a woman.

Language

Language is fairly strong, but tends to avoid "f--k" and "s--t" too many times, concentrating instead on a plethora of "damn," "hell," "jerk," "loser," "idiot," "piss," "bitch" and "son of a bitch," "bastard," "sick mother," "Goddamn," "Jesus Christ," "ass," and "a--hole." The word "f--k" is never spoken, but can be seen written as graffiti in a few background shots.

Consumerism

The movie's most powerful and most coveted motorcycle has a "Canon" sticker on it, shown often. A Coke can is visible in one shot.

Drinking, drugs & smoking

Characters are seen smoking in the background.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Akira is a landmark of anime, a superproduction in Japan, and a cult classic in the United States; it introduced many Americans to the genre. It's available in an English-dubbed version as well as a Japanese version with English subtitles; this review references the English version. The violence is quite incredible, with numerous battles, fights, and shootouts, with blood, and escalating into nightmarish, disturbing imagery. Language is fairly constant, but rarely escalates to the "big" words, "s--t" and "f--k." "Damn" and "hell" are used regularly. There's one scene of female toplessness (in a moment of violence rather than intimacy), and a moment of sexual groping in the background of a scene. This is essential viewing for any serious teen fans of anime, though it's one of the most intense examples.

User Reviews

Parent Written byDekker September 10, 2013

Complex story with mature themes. Broke new ground for North American audiences.

Definitely not for the younger crowd. Fisticuffs, clubbing, gunfights, fascism, domestic terrorism, political coups, military invasion, religious upheaval, pill... Continue reading
Adult Written byBig-Brother June 24, 2015
Teen, 16 years old Written byPonyo Fan May 23, 2013

Anime classic; some mature content but rated WAY too high.

This is a five-star anime classic film, and it is not "iffy for 17-year-olds". Are you serious, now? This was originally rated 12 in the UK! I won... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byCloudIsC00L723 November 1, 2013

Revolutionary sci-fi anime has more disturbing imagery than violence.

I can definitely agree with CSM that this movie introduced anime to the U.S. What I cannot agree on is their rating for it. Yes, there's a fair amount of v... Continue reading

What's the story?

In Neo-Tokyo of 2019, post-WWIII, old friends Kaneda and Tetsuo are members of a violent motorcycle gang. During a fight with a rival gang, a strange, small boy with a wrinkled face enters the fray. Tetsuo is hospitalized, where a colonel and a doctor discover that Tetsuo has remarkable powers, recalling a mysterious entity known as AKIRA, that has lain dormant for 30 years. As the main characters navigate a complex plot filled with powerful beings, military, activists, and scientists, Tetsuo's powers grow stronger. Everything builds to an explosive, nightmarish showdown in which the future of the world hangs.

Is it any good?

Katsuhiro Otomo co-wrote the screenplay of Akira and directed this 1988 adaptation of his much-loved 1980s-era manga (comic book); it was a huge production that paid off enormously. When it arrived in America, it became a cult classic and introduced Western audiences to anime (Japanese animation), a genre that remains popular to this day.

Akira is extraordinarily dense and enormously complicated, and things like story and characters tend to go out the window in favor of cosmic ideas and mysteries, bizarre imagery, and astounding levels of violence. It takes full advantage of the animated medium with its sheer imagination and intensity. Indeed, to attempt these same images in a live-action setting would have been far too expensive and disturbing. Time has not yet dulled the sheer impact of the work, though, and the level of detail, movement, and fluidity is still highly impressive. It's still essential viewing for anyone interested in the genre.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's violence. Does it seem to get stronger and more disturbing as it goes? How does watching super violent content make you feel?

  •  

  • What is the movie actually about? Who or what is Akira? Is the reappearance of Akira a good thing or a bad thing?

  • Is it possible that memories and knowledge are passed around throughout the universe? What are some of the movie's other themes?

  • When Tetsuo achieves his great powers, why does he immediately choose to use them for destructive behavior? What else could he have done?

  • What makes anime so popular? Why is Akira considered such a great example of the genre?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

For kids who love anime

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate