Akira Movie Poster Image


Extremely violent classic introduced anime to Westerners.
Popular with kids
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Release Year: 1988
  • Running Time: 124 minutes

What parents need to know

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

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.


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).


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 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.


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.

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.

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.

Families can talk 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

Theatrical release date:July 16, 1988
DVD/Streaming release date:July 24, 2001
Cast:Barbara Goodson, Bob Bergen, Cam Clarke
Director:Katsuhiro Otomo
Genre:Science Fiction
Topics:Magic and fantasy
Run time:124 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:graphic violence and brief nudity

This review of Akira was written by

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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't say this film is without mature content though. Violence: Lots of explosions, gunfights, and yes, the infamous arm explosion everyone talks about; however, it is all moderate. The one scene I'd classify as "graphic violence" though is a quite gory scene in a hospital in which a doctor and guards are mangled to death through telekinesis. There is very visible gore during this scene, so I'd say "know your kid" when it comes to that scene, or perhaps fast forward. Sex: A girl is attacked by a gang; they tear her shirt, and her breasts are visible for a second or two. It's not erotic in any way or played for laughs. Language: It really depends on the dub. The Pioneer dub released in 2001 (and a bit easier to find) has a scene in the beginning in which a character yells "Aw, f***!", but the original Streamline dub does not contain any spoken F-bombs. Both dubs and the Japanese versions contain sprinklings of mild language such as "d**n", "hell", and "a**", as well as a scene in which someone has graffiti-ed "f*** you" in the background; it's a very blink-and-you-miss-it shot though. Drinking, Drugs, & Smoking: Some characters drink and smoke, but it's hardly worth mentioning.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
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, pills and smoking, high-speed racing, telekinesis, gore, loss of self-control, and the nature of "being" - you'll see them all in this movie. If you are not ready for those themes you'll want to steer clear. But if you are mature enough to take things in stride, this movie will take you into some interesting territory. The lead characters are put into some interesting situations, and many interesting discussions can be had about why they took the paths they chose, and what might have been some alternate paths to consider. I saw this many years ago on the big screen and have since owned a couple versions of the movie. The movie definitely stands up to the test of time and is still relevant today, but you should bide your time before watching it.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
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 violence (guns, motorcycle crashes, gangs, blood, riots, ect.) and mild language (In the Pioneer/Animaze dub, f**k and s**t are each used once but there's plenty of d**ns and h**ls). And yes there is brief female toplessness, but like CSM pointed out, it's in a non-sexual (but violent) connotation. However, the main things parents should be concerned about are Tetsuo's disturbing hallucinations after he becomes possessed by Akira (some long time fans may disagree on how I summarized that but I've only seen this film once). It starts with a scene where he lands on his hands and knees and all of a sudden, his guts spill out of his body (in Tetsuo's mind). This happens for a split second but it's still shocking. There's also the aforementioned "stuffed animals" scene and a VERY disturbing mutation scene (To provide more specifics would be a major spoiler). Other than that, I say iffy for 15+ because even though the hallucinations can get shocking, this isn't the most violent animated film out there (I haven't seen Ghost In The Shell, but my friend has and he says it's WAY more violent than this.) and there's little in the way of sexual content (CSM gave the anime classic Ninja Scroll the same rating as this and it has a fairly graphic sex scene). It's too much for young teens, but older teen and adult anime fans will really enjoy this movie. Personally, I would recommend getting the 25th Anniversary Blu-Ray rerelease.
What other families should know
Too much violence