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The art of Akira
February 4, 2010 6:15 AM   Subscribe

Announcing: The Art of Akira Exhibit Its stunningly fluid and detailed animation often required as many as nine separate cel layers. The 125 minute feature was comprised of over 160,000 cels and almost as many backgrounds, each one completely hand–drawn and hand-painted. Purists recognize Akira as the last completely hand-created animated feature.

Joe the Peacock, in collaboration with Toonseum, presents a project to 'expose as many people as possible to the brilliance' of Akira.

Akira previously: 1 2 3
posted by shakespeherian (76 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
The anime was fantastic. But allow me a moment to give a silent rant that the manga was better.

"..."

Great. Glad that's over with.
posted by festivemanb at 6:22 AM on February 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


I love that film. Thanks for the post, shakespherian! I regret only that I have but 1 favorite to give.
posted by BeerFilter at 6:23 AM on February 4, 2010


I can see the 2011 ad campaign now.

Akira on Blu-Ray: finally a reason to take drugs again.
posted by Theta States at 6:29 AM on February 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's amazing, but here in Japan, most people I talk to don't even know about it, or, if they do, they're stunned that a foreigner does. I usually explain that, if there's a American guy in Japan, currently between the ages of, say, 25-40, more than likely they've seen at least Akira, if not Ghost in the Shell as well.

This is followed by various mannerisms to express shock and disbelief on the part of whoever I'm talking to.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:30 AM on February 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


KANEDAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:30 AM on February 4, 2010 [11 favorites]


TETSUOOOOOOOO!
posted by pyrex at 6:35 AM on February 4, 2010 [12 favorites]




DOMUUUU!

Damnit Guillermo. Make that movie for us.
posted by uandt at 6:38 AM on February 4, 2010


I love AKIRA, for the same reason as Joe Peacock: the attention to the smallest detail. One of the scenes in the film and in the manga shows Tetsuo being held aloft in a futuristic medical scanner that flies through him like a magician's linking ring trick. The scanner then "explodes" itself open like an intricate geometric puzzle. Otomo spent untold hours on the design of this scanner from every angle, building this objet d'art for its own sake. It enriches the world in which his story and characters live, although we only see this work for a few brief, passing moments.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:38 AM on February 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Akira the anime has insane visuals, but slightly wonky storytelling. Akira the manga is my favourite comic ever. When Steamboy came out I got to interview Katsuhiro Otomo, which made my year. His meticulousness is a rarity in a world of corner-cutting and tight production schedules - it's very refined creativity, an expansive imagination focused into a laser. I imagine his attention to detail has given the bean-counters a few stomach ulcers over the years.
posted by RokkitNite at 6:49 AM on February 4, 2010


I remember seeing Akira in the movie theater when it was first released. The opening city scape scene and the motorcycle fight scenes absolutely blew me away.

Those two scenes--which are just the first few minutes, right?--completely justified the price of admission for me. If the movie had ended right there, I would have been perfectly content.

That movie was probably the most awesome movie-going experience I've ever had.
posted by oddman at 6:56 AM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why Akira matters.
posted by antihostile at 7:02 AM on February 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Now that I think about it, a remastered Akira might be the thing (combined with Atenborough's BBC docs) that pushes me to ever upgrade to a fancy home theatre.

I love the manga (my god, Tokyo is destroyed in it 5? 6 times?), but the wow-factor of the movie art combined with one of the greatets movie soundtracks of all time is simpy stunning.
posted by Theta States at 7:05 AM on February 4, 2010




I never read the Akira manga, but I have a feeling that it would have ruined the movie for me in exactly the same way that reading Ghost in the Shell ruined that movie.

When Ghost was about to be released in the US, I got all excited. I went out and bought the manga so that I could read it before seeing the movie. It was fantastic, and I am not a manga fan.

Then I saw the movie. I thought it sucked. I still hate it. Everybody I know that didn't read the manga loves it, but I thought they just butchered and hacked the whole thing.

Shameful, really.


This is why I refuse to read the Akira manga.
posted by kaseijin at 7:16 AM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's funny, but when I first saw Akira, it totally blew my mind. Years later, it still blows my mind. But for some reason, I could never quite get into Anime. Could somebody who understands these things better help explain why Akira stands apart so strikingly?

I think some of it has to do with the plot and setpieces -- Akira was all sci-fi and pscyhological and dystopian, whereas a lot of anime just seems too fantastical and pointlessly violent.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:19 AM on February 4, 2010


This movie was responsible for me riding my bike around my suburban neighborhood with some nuts and bolts attached to a shoelace - I wanted to be just like that rascally motorcycle gang at the beginning of the movie.
posted by Think_Long at 7:20 AM on February 4, 2010


I am with he of the white afro on that point, as well. There are one or two anime features that I love. Akira.... pretty much anything by Hayao Miyazaki....and I liked Evangelion OK.

And that's pretty much it. Everything else I have seen sucks. I am not sure why I like the ones I like and not the others, really... just that some of them float my boat, and the rest really, really don't.
posted by kaseijin at 7:22 AM on February 4, 2010


I'm sort of with Afroblanco--I loved Akira the movie, but I have never been motivated to see any other anime. I think I will watch Akira again this weekend, if I have the chance! I bought the score back in the day--I still listen to it occasionally. Wild stuff.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:23 AM on February 4, 2010


but here in Japan, most people I talk to don't even know about it, or, if they do, they're stunned that a foreigner does

Really? Can any other Japanese Mefi's confirm this, because this is blowing my mind a little.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:26 AM on February 4, 2010


I think the answer for the "I liked Akira but never got into anime" crowd is that while anime has its own set of tropes, it is more of a medium than a genre. Think of anime like American comic books - just because you like Sandman doesn't mean you'll want anything to do with the Justice League. For anime, just because you like Akira doesn't mean you'll want anything to do with Lucky Star (and who would?)
posted by cimbrog at 7:28 AM on February 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sweet - I work across the street from the Toonseum. This is a perfect reason to go. Thanks for the post!
posted by chinston at 7:32 AM on February 4, 2010


1) I love Akira (who doesn't?)
2) First anime I saw - Picked up the first book in the Manga on re-release in the early 2000s or so. Never got into it as much -- also didn't have much extra spending money.
3) First time I saw Akira was my friend Yuko (exchange student) had her mom send a VHS so I could watch it. It was in Japanese. No subs. Heh. I understood no words, but the visuals blew my mind. Don't remember if I watched the full thing or just part of it, then decided to rent it and get into it.
4) I had thought everyone knew of it, but my current girlfriend hadn't heard of it (and she knows some geeky people)
5) I don't dig too much anime, either. I tried, but I need something very artistic or headfucky.

Akira
Neon Genesis
Ghost in the Shell (and I concur the manga is better, but I enjoy the anime, too)
Serial Experiments Lain (that thing is a pure headfuck. have to re-watch it again. It's waiting on my hard drive).

Any other recommends?

I think cimbrog nails it, in fact, it's almost a little "stereotyping" to say "anime" as a genre... Comics is one example, but really? It's cartoons. So you could say the same for american cartoons. "I like anime" is as generic as saying "I like sitcoms"
posted by symbioid at 7:37 AM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have no problem saying that I don't like cartoons and I don't like sitcoms.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:41 AM on February 4, 2010


I can see cibrog's analogy there... and think that he has a very good point.

I have never been a comics fan, either. Didn't really get into the whole superhero thing when growing up. In my 20's, however, I discovered the likes of Chris Ware, Ron Rege, Archer Prewitt, and the like -- indie comics. I fell in love with those.

I just finished reading a friend's copy of Dash Shaw's Bottomless Belly Button, and was bowled over. But I would never self-identify as a "comics fan" because of the association "comics" have to me with that whole superhero thing.
posted by kaseijin at 7:44 AM on February 4, 2010


Could somebody who understands these things better help explain why Akira stands apart so strikingly?

I'm not sure, but I'd imagine it would be like someone from another country who has seen 2001: A Space Odyssey and loved it, but doesn't get into much American film and wonder's why that one is such a different experience. I believe there isn't an easy reason for it so much as there's a confluence of factors involving the way our society has evolved over the centuries, the nature of financing feature films within a given economic model and the occassional completely unpredictable arrival of a director whose talent and dedication was simply beyond anyone else's at the time and since. you might be able to tell this person "well, we've had some other pretty spectacular films you may not have seen, try X or Y if you like 2001," but other than that it might be pretty difficult for them to separate the wheat from the prodigious amount of chaff we generate every year, to say nothing of picking something out of our entire history of film making.

anime's kind of like that. I simply can't sit down and watch any old thing, because most of it's total crap, but occasionally I get hipped to something of real quality, like Millenium Actress or Grave Of The Fireflies, and I'm thankful for it. I'm sure there's more out there, but damn if I have the time or dedication to really go look for it. It's difficult enough to keep up on what's worth watching over here, as it is.
posted by shmegegge at 7:44 AM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've got an epic-comics copy of #18 signed by Katsuhiro Otomo. It was given to me when the English edition was being printed.

But somehow the cover aquired a two-inch tear. A chipped diamond. I have over a thousand other comics that nothing like this happened to. Why this one?
posted by clarknova at 7:59 AM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can someone explain to me where Studio Ghibli fits into the whole Japanese animation scene? The lipsync seems to fit English too well, so I've always assumed that they are made for an English speaking market and are (possibly) less appreciated in Japan.

The reason I bring it up is that (other than Ghibli) I've only ever 'got' Akira, Ghost in the Shell and Cowboy Bebop, and I have no idea what makes them special.
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 8:08 AM on February 4, 2010


i second the experience with the japanese (my cousins, specifically) not knowing what i was talking about when i brought up akira.

at first this puzzled me, but when you watch the popular anime or read the popular manga there, it's usually never, ever as dark or deep all the way through. even the more serious stuff is interspersed with goofy comedy and/or sexy kawaii females in school uniforms. japanese life is stressful. they like escapism on the lighter side of things.

of course i'm just generalizing here, as it is the japanese who actually MAKE movies like akira, but it's understandable why it's not so popular when there are thousands of other anime movies and series to choose from that aren't massive buzzkills.

i guess a relevant analogy would be a japanese person coming to america and asking a member of the general moviegoing populace if they, too, thought the works of jim jarmusch were sugoi.

odds are good they'd get a response like "who? was he the guy in transformers 2?".

i think a lot of the reverence for akira here stems from the fact that it was really the first taste of anime a lot of americans had ever had that wasn't speed racer or battle of the planets. in japan, it was probably just another anime film in a long line of them, despite otomo's cred. it is a mistake to think just because everyone's heard of it here, the same must be true in japan.

anyway, i love the film (visually), and this project is all kinds of awesome. my biggest beef with akira, however, and one that makes me avoid it for long periods of time, has to be the poorly told, impenetrable story. it's hard to squeeze an entire manga into 125 minutes, and despite having seen the film countless times, each time in awe of its technical brilliance, i still couldn't really tell you what the fuck it was about.
posted by clarenceism at 8:08 AM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can someone explain to me where Studio Ghibli fits into the whole Japanese animation scene? The lipsync seems to fit English too well, so I've always assumed that they are made for an English speaking market and are (possibly) less appreciated in Japan.

On the contrary. Princess Mononoke broke the Japanese all-time box office record. It was beaten by Titanic, but Miyazaki took back the crown with Spirited Away (I'm not sure what has the record now, I wouldn't be surprised if it was Avatar). Also, Howl's Moving Castle broke the opening weekend record.
posted by zsazsa at 8:18 AM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


sodium lights the horizon:

At least on the Princess Monoke DVD, one of the extras describes how Pixar handles the English language dubbing. It's been a long time since I have watched it but I remember that they have a team work on translating the script so it makes sense and then altering it so the actors lines can match the animation. They also adjust on the spot when they are recording.

One of the Pixar people speficially mentioned how great Billy Bob Thornton was because he is a drummer and he was able to get the rhythm of speaking the lines with the mouth movements.
posted by spec80 at 8:18 AM on February 4, 2010


OK, I'll raise my hand as the chump who doesn't get Akira. Despite seeing it at the right age, despite having a deep nerd love for animation and Japanese culture and sci-fi and difficult ground-breaking movies. I watched Akira, didn't really get it, and moved on. Maybe it's time to try again? There's something about the typical anime character that just really doesn't work for me. I've never succeeded in playing a Final Fantasy game, either.
posted by Nelson at 8:20 AM on February 4, 2010


I watched Akira and have mixed feelings about it. I like the animation so much and it's so ... cool. It's a really cool movie, weird things happen interesting things happen. But the overall narrative arc is just so unsatisfying to me; the cool things just sort of happen without much of a reason.
posted by I Foody at 8:26 AM on February 4, 2010


I'm reading the manga finally after finding it at the library (halfway through book five now). Love it. I loved the film, but it had plenty of moments that I just didn't quite get, or that were kind of oblique. Now I'm like, Oh! Ok!

I just wish I could find Lone Wolf and Cub in the similar huge format.
posted by klangklangston at 8:34 AM on February 4, 2010


Why Akira matters.

Not bad, but I always thought this was a better advertisement for Akira.
posted by happyroach at 8:44 AM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I grew up watching Star Blazers, and then Robotech. Loved those series (still do). Especially Star Blazers and its depth of characterization and willingness to take the story into directions that would never happen on an American series.

But then I saw Akira. Holy fucking shit. The original english dub of the movie was confusing as all get-out, and I had to watch the movie about 5 times before the details of the plot made any actual sense to me at all. (The grand sweep is pretty easy to grasp, I think.) But every time I saw it I was completely blown away by the intensity of the hand-drawn animation and its attention to detail and realism. Light trails for the nighttime motorcycle lights? Each of those individual stuffed animals that melds into the giant teddy bear? The half-second flashes and glimpses of things which are CRUCIAL to the understanding of the plot, but which aren't just HANDED to the viewer like they would be in an American movie? It is a whole new level of insistence not only on detail but also that the viewer is an active participant in the movie and can actually grasp meaning which isn't spoon-fed.

And yes, I Foody, every thing which happens in Akira happens for a reason. It took me many, many viewings to completely grok the plot (as I said, the original english dub is pretty opaque), but there is not a scene in it which does not have purpose and which does not arise from someplace. It may seem like an incomprehensible stream of cool things happening, but it isn't. Watch, and watch, and rewatch. It's worth the effort.
posted by hippybear at 8:49 AM on February 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


ditto hippybear.

As an american boy in the sweet spot post super mario brothers but pre netscape (and certainly pre matrix myfacester firefox farkcetera) akira was just a fantastic visual aural messed up story sensory experience. sure the plot was all manga'd up. but the language, visuals and sounds were all so foreign and fantastic. Ok, maybe not so foreign, as I too grew up on robotech and couldn't get enough (I mean, how much cooler than gijoe could you possibly get?), but I digress. The soundtrack was a work unto itself and I listened to it over and over, where I've only watched the film all the way through maybe twice.

I had the good fortune to be in japan a few years back, visiting a friend who sort of went native there. we were out on the town at a music store of his choosing, and I was more into the peoplewatching. Tokyo is some crazygood peoplewatching. Hell, tokyo is some crazygood tokyowatching, and is one hell of an experience itself. but again I digress.

I wasn't looking at the music so much, and in my head I poo-pooed the globalness of the selection. really, it could have been in any westernized music store in the us. or germany. or whatever. that I really only listened to the radio, and hadn't bought a CD in years. itunes sure, but a whole CD? non. but then I tracked over to the classical section, thinking maybe I'd pick up some min'yo or maybe taiko. And I can't remember how it happened exactly, but there buried in all the classical was a shortstack of yamashirogumi.

Soundtrack by Geinoh Yamashirogumi - an interesting story/creation in their own right. (YT link 1, YT link 2).

One by one I listened to the CD's, which given the exchange rate were not innexpensive, just to make sure they weren't bad recordings, or wacked out experimental voice crap (Mr Bungle second album Disco Volante I'm looking right at you!). after an hour of sampling and smiling with each passing track, I left with everything they had.
posted by ilovemytoaster at 9:23 AM on February 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


It sounds like they put a lot of love into the animation and I definitely appreciate that. But there are SO MANY techno-futuristic action animes out there and the stories are often SO dull and shallow and filled with plot holes. I've never seen Akira so I can't make any specific judgments but these are the reasons why I've never been attracted to it.

Don't get me wrong, though. I love good animation; I just think that it has to be accompanied by an equally compelling storyline. Ghibli gets this. The guys who did Cowboy Bebop get this. Ralph Bakshi got this. Mike Judge and Peter Chung got this. Story first, THEN pictures.

But like I said, I haven't seen Akira so I could be totally off. Feel free to correct me.
posted by cman at 9:28 AM on February 4, 2010


I suspect that I need to re-watch Akira. I saw it when I was in high school and, while I was seriously blown away be the animation and visual style, it generally left me cold. It's been too long for me to pinpoint why. So, yeah, I think a re-watch is in order.

Like others in this thread, I've never been able to get into anime in general. As I understand it there's some real gold out there, but nothing I've seen was for me. With the exception of Cowboy Bebop, which is awesome.
posted by brundlefly at 9:29 AM on February 4, 2010


I'm another that was never that wowed by Akira. I saw it initially when it was released, and again a couple years ago. I can appreciate the animation and attention to detail. But I don't find Akira particularly notable in those areas. Much of the anime that makes it to the US is similarly detailed and full of interesting stylistic touches. But I don't particularly care about cartoon characters striking way too cool comic book poses or yelling with much passion and anguish. And I always get the feeling that there is just too much lost in translation, both literally, and culturally. Plot devices, ideas and twists just seem to be pulled out of thin air. Too many times it causes eye rolling rather than interest. These characteristics often apply to Myazaki's popular releases, too.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:36 AM on February 4, 2010


I'm with a lot of the people here as far as the manga goes. I'm terrified of reading it for fear that it will kill all enjoyment of the anime. Anyone out there who has read the manga have a comment on this?

sodium lights the horizon Let me second what zsazsa said, and add this: Ghibli merch is insanely common in Japan. Tokyu Hands, one of the main department stores, has an entire section devoted to Ghibli merch. Sit in any subway and you'll see Totoro cell phone fobs. Studio Ghibli maintains a sort of tour/theme park thing that is so packed that you have to book ahead by at least a month simply to get in the door. Popular doesn't even begin to capture how the Japanese feel about Ghibli and Miyazaki.
posted by sotonohito at 9:53 AM on February 4, 2010


I had never been an anime fan (and generally snickered at the fanboys at cons), until my daughters and I watched Akira, in japanese, on an old vhs found at my father's property in '95. I was so blown away I watched it again immediately. This movie turned me on to anime and I've seen thousands since. I was thrilled when the dvd came out and I was able to get more information from the movie (i.e. translations of signs, english dubbing). I can only imagine how awesome it would be on blu-ray.
posted by _paegan_ at 10:02 AM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


When I saw Akira in the theater the first time (Little Art Theater, Yellow Springs, OH; probably 1990 or thereabouts), my friends and I marveled at the amazing detail in the clouds. Otomo clearly must've had an entire team just working out how the clouds would billow and blow. Everything else was great, too, of course. That was just the thing we managed to talk about.
posted by jiawen at 10:18 AM on February 4, 2010


Ditto spec80 on dubbing: writing scripts for a re-dub is hard because you 1) need to know both the literal and figurative story (few dubs and subs get into the cultural details that foreigners won't understand or will simply miss), and 2) the new script must fit the mouth movements of the characters on screen.

If an anime seems like it fits the English dub, that's because the dub writers and voice actors did a great job. The US DVD for The Cat Returns (an overlooked Ghibli film) has a bit on how the dubbing was done, with voice actors watching the film while speaking.

As for enjoying anime vs other movies, it's like others said, anime is just a format, not a genre. Japanese animation is different from US animation because of style and cultural norms, but the same could be said about any sort of films from any country. There are certain "modern Hollywood" styles that either entertain or bore people, just as some people prefer older films to the newer, or German cinema to French.

The problem with anime is that it gets lumped under "cartoons," like comics get classified as "super hero stuff." Plus, there are some Japanese norms that might seem odd to outsiders (not that I claim to be an insider). Look beyond that, and you'll find stories in both anime and comics that cover every imaginable topic and subject, from pop culture to historic re-enactments.

symbioid - If you like the headfuck of Lain, I recommend anything with involvement from Satoshi Kon. It's not all WTF material, but it is all good. Tokyo Godfathers is something of a revision on the story from Three Godfathers, and the 2nd and 3rd story from Memories are pretty straight-forward and funny, but all of these have twists to keep things interesting.

sotonohito - the story expands with the manga. I had the same experience with Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. I saw the movie first, and it was lovely, but the manga expanded the storyline and fleshed out some areas that were thin in the movie.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:47 AM on February 4, 2010


Filthy Light Thief, thanks for the recommends... I actually have a comic version of Magnetic Rose, and loved it, so i think I'll enjoy it. Will check it out.

For some reason, Perfect Blue I didn't grok, or like, but I think maybe I'll try it again. I'll try Tokyo Godfathers, too :)
posted by symbioid at 11:08 AM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Could somebody who understands these things better help explain why Akira stands apart so strikingly?

The video in the first link does a pretty good job... he basically reduces the entire question of "why is it great?" down to a six second clip. And I have to say, it's fairly convincing.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:20 PM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Useless anecdote with lots of buildup:

Sometime in the early nineties my D&D group got a spot in the FIL (second biggest book fair in the world), running short games in the teen and pre-teen section of the children's section. After DMing lame, safe for families, short adventures all day and failing to get 13 year old girl's phone numbers (I was 14 or 15, you perverts), we got bored and decided to play a game of killer.

One team, the terrorists, had to 'kill' one of the guests of honor by tagging him with a post-it note, the other team, the cops, had to kill all the terrorists and prevent the attack. It was the hardest game of Killer I've ever player, the target had lots of real security because some real killers were after him. His name was Salman Rushdie, and we got him. Take that jihadists, a bunch of bored 14 year old nerds beat you.

Anyway, in the process of playing killer someone in the group found an unattended large screen TV with a decent sound system and a VHS player. He popped in an Akira bootleg that the japanophiles in the group had subtitled with an Amiga 500 and a genlock. It blew my mind from the first scene.

That scene where the tank is crossing the bridge? The sound is so good and so well synchronized that I looked around for a real tank. I could smell the wet pavement in some scenes, the burning rubber in others.

When the movie ended, we just let the VHS player auto-rewind and start again. At some point I looked back, and a bunch of drunken adults standing behind us were watching the movie, very interested. They were most of the invited writers and editors and publishers, who wanted the TV for a presentation but had decided to watch Akira instead. I like to think Rushdie was among them.

To summarize: When I was 14 or 15 years old I killed a dragon, killed Salman Rushdie, watched Akira for the first time and out-cultured some of the best writers of my parents' generation, all in the same day.

It just took me another 4 or 5 years to get my first girlfriend, but it was totally worth it.
posted by dirty lies at 12:26 PM on February 4, 2010 [12 favorites]


Can someone explain to me where Studio Ghibli fits into the whole Japanese animation scene? The lipsync seems to fit English too well, so I've always assumed that they are made for an English speaking market and are (possibly) less appreciated in Japan.

Studio Ghibli is the most successful animation house in japan, and one of the most successful studios. Princess Mononoke, for instance, won the award for Best Picture at the 21st Japanse Academy Awards. Spirited Away made about $300 million in Japan alone, and is the highest grossing film in Japanese history.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:30 PM on February 4, 2010


As I recall (and it's been a while since I either read the manga or watched the anime of Akira), they are more or less the same, up until the end. They end very differently -- or rather, in the case of the manga, not end, because the comparable point to the end of the anime happens only about a third of the way through the manga, maybe less.
posted by rifflesby at 12:31 PM on February 4, 2010


Oh, but I guess that doesn't really address the issue of whether reading the manga spoils the anime.

...I would say no, not really. I mean, the scene where Kaneda kicks the clown off his bike is still as "FUCK YES" as it ever was, and the imagery is still as gorgeous. If you read the manga, you will start to recognize that there's maybe a little bit here or there that, had it been left in the anime, would have made it a little easier to follow the plot. On the other hand, having read the manga, you will now find it easier to follow the plot of the anime. (Up until the end, like I said.) It basically evens out, I think.
posted by rifflesby at 12:43 PM on February 4, 2010


heh, I was just going to recommend Satoshi Kon. I'd recommend Paranoia Agent over any of his movies, though -- that series is amazing. Millennium Actress is the only one of his movies that's quite on the same level. Bring tissues.

Patlabor and Patlabor 2 are a couple oldie-but-goodies, too, perfect if you like thoughtful-yet-actiony anime. Same director as Ghost in the Shell. There's an entire series (three of 'em, actually) which have a different tone -- less action and intrigue, more daily-police-life with a bit of comedy. For my money, this is pretty much the best anime series ever made. The writing is top-notch, and it paints a fantastic picture of Tokyo in the 80s.
posted by vorfeed at 12:45 PM on February 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


My random Akira anecdote: A few years ago I saw Akira on DVD for the first time at a party (it was a pretty low-key party). Despite having seen it on video many times years before that, I was so stunned by the sound and vision of the big-screen DVD experience, I actually wondered if someone had spiked my drink for a while.
posted by MetaMonkey at 12:55 PM on February 4, 2010


For anyone on the fence over animé, or anyone looking for something accessible but simultaneously utterly brilliant, I offer Tekkonkinkreet. Occasionally, I do honestly believe that it is my personal filmic top of the pops: additionally, the manga it is based on is equally superb, I think.
posted by specialbrew at 2:46 PM on February 4, 2010


I'd recommend Paranoia Agent over any of his movies, though -- that series is amazing.

I was tempted to bring this up myself. If you want mind-bending but incredibly human and touching stories, that is the go-to point. FLCL resonates with me, as well, though it's incredibly silly. (to emphasize: INCREDIBLY SILLY.) but FLCL is more a winky-nudgy look at adolescence that focuses on that age's general incomprehensibility for someone who's going through it.
posted by shmegegge at 2:51 PM on February 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


As I recall (and it's been a while since I either read the manga or watched the anime of Akira), they are more or less the same, up until the end.

Oh, I would disagree so much so that I would recommend you have to read the manga to pick up fully on what happens in the film. The storyline is very similar between the two and a lot of the same scenes happen, but in the manga you'll see a huge expansion in themes plot. Seriously, read the manga and you'll be glad you did. Personally, it's one of my favorite comics.

I'd recommend Paranoia Agent over any of his movies

What? Paprika is one of the best anime films around! I'm not saying Paranoia Agent is any good, but they are by manifest two different beasts.
posted by P.o.B. at 4:25 PM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


*is not any good*
posted by P.o.B. at 4:26 PM on February 4, 2010


Actually, I want to reiterate something. There is quite a bit of difference between the film and manga.

SPOILER

In the manga - there actually is an Akira.
posted by P.o.B. at 4:29 PM on February 4, 2010


Can someone explain to me where Studio Ghibli fits into the whole Japanese animation scene? The lipsync seems to fit English too well, so I've always assumed that they are made for an English speaking market and are (possibly) less appreciated in Japan.

Ghibli is the Disney of Japan. Everyone knows Studio Ghibli, and Miyazaki is a national treasure. The movies are very family friendly, and are the polar opposite of the image a lot of Westerners have of Japanese animation (tentaclepr0n LOLZ). Far more Japanese have seen any randomly chosen Ghibli movie than have seen Akira. My Neighbor Totoro in particular seems to be cherished above all others. Then again, Ponyo was a massive hit as well.

Anyway, this is about Akira. A plea for those of you who didn't "get" Akira--get the DVD. This was released around 2002 (?) or so (or maybe even later), and it is far superior to the original VHS version on which most of us first saw it. They rewrote the dialogue, had all new actors do the voices, the colors look far better, and they may have even re-edited it a bit. It's like a different movie and it's just so much better. Some of the dialogue in the original is just plain bad, and you can tell that the English translation and voice acting was a rush job. They put a lot of thought and care into the DVD version. I imagine it's on Bluray by now; that would be even more amazing.

The ending is still too cryptic and disappointing for me, though. It's the movie's Achilles Heel. But as it happens there's a thread over on reddit on Akira and themanwhowas gives a really good explanation of the ending of Akira.
posted by zardoz at 4:35 PM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


They rewrote the dialogue, had all new actors do the voices, the colors look far better, and they may have even re-edited it a bit. It's like a different movie and it's just so much better. Some of the dialogue in the original is just plain bad, and you can tell that the English translation and voice acting was a rush job.

Sadly, I've seen the original dub of this movie so many times that I cannot bear to watch the new translation. For me, it loses some of its magic when it's not full of oddly poetic moments of incomprehensibility that I've had to struggle hard to understand. I'm certain beyond a doubt that the new dub is better, but I find that it really is not the same movie for me at all.

FWIW, Amazon is offering 4 (somehow different? hard to tell) versions of Akira on DVD, and yes, a Blu-ray version.
posted by hippybear at 4:51 PM on February 4, 2010


Ninja Scroll. Seriously. Dude cuts off this guy's head but he just picks it up and puts it back on!

The greatest expression of the human condition since Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
posted by wobh at 4:54 PM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Damn, I was going to recommend Three Godfathers and Paprika. Innocence as well. The thing is, not all of anime is guns and giant robots and Ghibli. There's a lot of anime out there that just happens to be stories told in animation, rather than with live actors. Usually there's a bit more of a fantastical element to it, but, y'know, there's also stuff like Graveyard of the Fireflies.

I have to admit, I'm jealous of all the MeFites living outside of Japan. I don't really have a chance to watch these movies (I recommend Paprika based on the previews I've seen and the general buzz around it), because most films in Japan are released, as you would expect, for the Japanese market. No English (or any other language) subtitles. This means that I see previews for all kinds of films I'd love to see, and just sigh, and move on. The exception is Ghibli. Every DVD they release has options for English dubbing, as well as English and French subtitles.

As an aside: dubbing sucks. Even the Neil Gaiman rewritten, Hollywood voice Mononoke (aside from Minnie Driver saying "This is how you kill a god" line). Avoid it where you can. I've used this example before, but in the original dubbed version of Totoro I saw, a) the nekobus speaks in a horrible, grating voice, and b) in order to explain things to people who didn't understand cultural touchstones taken for granted in Japan, the voice actors would continue to speak even after their character stopped. It was clumsily done. The subtitles are so much better.

As for Ghibli, they're not unlike Disney in terms of popularity, but Disney is mostly popular amongst kids. In Japan, almost everyone loves Ghibli. Think of it as Disney, mixed with the more mature, less patronizing Pixar, mixed with that person who used to tell you stories as a kid, maybe your mom, maybe your dad or grandfather, all wrapped up and given to you with art that is crafted and stories that never ring false. It might not always be clear what things mean (the train scene in Spirited Away is hauntingly beautiful to me, but I know I don't really understand it), but you know it's meant to be there.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:35 PM on February 4, 2010


but here in Japan, most people I talk to don't even know about it, or, if they do, they're stunned that a foreigner does

Really? Can any other Japanese Mefi's confirm this, because this is blowing my mind a little.


I've not discussed it with that many people, but I haven't had the same reaction as Ghidorah has. Most Japanese aren't all that well versed in anime to begin with unless it's Sazae-san, Chibi Maruko-chan, or a Hayao Miyazaki picture. But Akira is fairly well known by the 20-40 age group in Japan, and saying that in America it's pretty much a landmark film among that same age group doesn't seem to be all that unusual.
posted by armage at 5:48 PM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, and for those who like the Ghost in the Shell manga, Masamune Shirow's Appleseed series is in a similar vein and doesn't seem to be as well known in the US. (The 2004 film and its sequels aren't bad, but I prefer the manga.)
posted by armage at 5:52 PM on February 4, 2010


Can someone explain to me where Studio Ghibli fits into the whole Japanese animation scene? The lipsync seems to fit English too well, so I've always assumed that they are made for an English speaking market and are (possibly) less appreciated in Japan.

As others have mentioned, they are essentially the Disney of Japan, but much more culturally beloved than Disney is in the US. The impact they have had on Japanese media and culture is massive, and their movies routinely break records. I can't think of a single Japanese person I've met that doesn't love at least one of their movies. Hell, the theme song from the latest one (Ponyo on the Cliff) sold 3.5 million copies on CD and from digital downloads, it's is *still* played all the time two years after it was released, and the little girl who sang it has gone on to star in several commercials. There's a Studio Ghibli theme park, a nationwide chain of stores selling character goods, etc. etc.

So no, they are definitely not intended for English-speaking audiences alone. I hesitate to say that they are made for Japanese audiences first because I think that many of their movies are well-received around the world despite their Japanese origin.
posted by armage at 6:03 PM on February 4, 2010


No one has mentioned it, but I recently saw Paprika and thought it was a total head-fuck and completely completely awesome.
posted by stratastar at 7:36 PM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Armage, I guess part of it is that most of my time spent talking to Japanese people (other than my wife, who doesn't like animation of any kind, and still has no interest in Wall-E) is talking to my students, most recently university students. 18-20 year olds (like many places) who have no idea of things that came out twenty years ago.

Kids who, when you mention Star Wars, their only reaction, if they've heard of it, is to think of the prequels, for the love of god...
posted by Ghidorah at 8:41 PM on February 4, 2010


ADRIENNE!

No, wait...
posted by obiwanwasabi at 9:53 PM on February 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


So am I the only person who only watches anime in Japanese with subtitles?
posted by shakespeherian at 10:01 PM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Watching anime subbed or dubbed is often quite a spirited debate between anime watchers. I watch all foreign films with the original voices, including anime, because it displays; tone, temperance and a host of other things better, that are generally lost when dubbed. I could care less how other people watch anime, but I still think it's a travesty the way Spike in Cowboy Bebop was dubbed with...the...lazy...voice...that...totally...changed...the vibrant and dynamic character he was in Japanese.
posted by P.o.B. at 10:14 PM on February 4, 2010


Armage, I guess part of it is that most of my time spent talking to Japanese people (other than my wife, who doesn't like animation of any kind, and still has no interest in Wall-E) is talking to my students, most recently university students. 18-20 year olds (like many places) who have no idea of things that came out twenty years ago.

That probably explains it, since most of my friends are in their late 20s and early 30s, which means they were around 10-15 years old when Akira came out and stuck with them.
posted by armage at 11:37 PM on February 4, 2010


Seconding the recommendations of Grave of the Fireflies (bring tissues!) and Perfect Blue. Also, the Ghost In The Shell sequel ("Ghost In The Shell: Innocence", I think?) is good if you like mindblowing visuals and don't mind an occasionally incoherent story.

For those who dig Cowboy Bebop, you might try picking up Samurai Champloo, also by Shinichiro Watanabe (same director) - It's like Cowboy Bebop, but samurai flick instead of sci-fi space opera, and hip-hop instead of jazz. If that makes sense.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 7:37 AM on February 5, 2010


So am I the only person who only watches anime in Japanese with subtitles?

certainly not! on the other hand, back in suburban your town USA 15-20 years ago finding anime VHS at all certainly wasn't easy, and if you found it dubbed instead of subbed you just kinda put up with it.
posted by shmegegge at 7:59 AM on February 5, 2010


certainly not! on the other hand, back in suburban your town USA 15-20 years ago finding anime VHS at all certainly wasn't easy, and if you found it dubbed instead of subbed you just kinda put up with it.

I understand that, I was mostly asking because folks are talking about the superior translation on the DVD and I was like 'translation?'
posted by shakespeherian at 9:32 AM on February 5, 2010


I'm up there with those that find anime and manga to be a bit hit or miss. Keepin' the name though.
posted by tetsuo at 11:16 AM on February 5, 2010


I was mostly asking because folks are talking about the superior translation on the DVD and I was like 'translation?'

ah. nemmine, then.
posted by shmegegge at 11:17 AM on February 5, 2010


What? Paprika is one of the best anime films around! I'm not saying Paranoia Agent is any good, but they are by manifest two different beasts.

Frankly, I didn't think much of Paprika. I saw it subbed in the theater, even, and I definitely enjoyed it, but it's not on par with Paranoia Agent or Millennium Actress, or even Perfect Blue. I'd put it in the same category as Tokyo Godfathers: great, but not amazing. Guess I like Kon's downbeat pieces much more than his more upbeat stuff.

That said, I should probably see it again; maybe I missed something.
posted by vorfeed at 1:04 PM on February 5, 2010


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