If I was to describe my relationship with anime as if it were a person, anime and I would be acquaintances, the type of acquaintance you have due to a mutual friend and every once in a while you may cross paths, say hello and make small talk about the weather. Anime has not been on the radar for me in terms of the pop culture I generally choose to interact with, I have had brief encounters with the genre such as dressing up as one of the Sailor Moon characters to a party in high school, and having watched the film Spirited Away (2001) thanks to my younger sisters persuasion. Both interactions with anime I enjoyed, especially watching the Spirited Away, the animation was beautiful and the storyline pleasantly unsuspecting. I appreciated that the story was suited for enjoyment by both children and adults, my sister is much younger than myself and she was hooked for the whole 2 hours, as was I. I recently discovered my positive experience with anime isn’t uncommon feedback for the genre, it is critically acclaimed with many films receiving raving reviews all over the world. Timeout Magazine released a list of all the greatest, must see anime films, Spirited Away owned top spot but not far behind was the screening from this week, Akira (1998).
Although I was pretty clueless going into the screening of Akira, perhaps my expectations were based on my viewing of the sweet Spirited Away, which could explain the confusion and shock I felt for the majority of the 2 hours Akira for. The beginning of the film began abruptly, my attention was captured but I was overwhelmed with the violence and graphic images. In the live twitter feed, I made a comment which basically generalied my expectations for how I saw the movie playing out.
I made the assumption that this film would be heavily based around good guys vs bad guys, revenge and redemption, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The film encapsulates a dystopian theme, Tokyo is in a state of impending doom as riots and gangs spread over the city like a plague. The plot thickens when ultimate superpowers possess a member of a teenage rebel bike gang, Tetsuo, and it’s up to his best friend and psychic children with aged and tired faces, to guide Tetsuo out of his destructive behaviour. Although I found the story very confusing to follow at times and I will probably have to watch it a few more times to truly understand what the heck is going on in this movie, I believe Akira to be a dynamic animated story, a similar opinion I formed on an American blockbuster film cut from the same cloth, Blade Runner. The entrancing patterns and effects in every single scene were of a level of advancement pretty incredible for its time of release in 1988. It was a refreshing experience for a western audience member who has not been exposed to animation catered specifically for mature age persons (I’m talking 16 years and up). Discussed in the online journal, Film School Rejects, Akira stands as a significant creation in film history proving animation is not reduced to one age group.
Ellis, Adams and Bochner state in, Autoethnography: An Overview (2011), that reflecting on epiphanies is an integral stage of the research process for understanding the unfamiliar (9). In this post, I have taken a journey of specifically zoning in on how anime has seduced my senses, ie. the unforgettable complex storylines and stunning illustrations. Although I have been aware of anime’s existence, without enough curiosity it can easily stay out of sight out of mind, as unfortunately, I don’t find it to be commonly advertised in the western culture. Through the approach of researching Akira in an Autoethnography format, I have drawn some interesting comparisons between the Asian culture and my own (their animations are on a whole new level of creative genius) and developed an understanding for why people watch and enjoy this particular screen genre. You could say I am a newly confessed anime enthusiast.
Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095