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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
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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?
Themes & Topics
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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.