Michael B. Jordan, amidst his stardom from the smash-success of Marvel’s “Black Panther,” recently defended his long-standing obsession with anime. Anime is a form of Japanese animation that typically tells stories with themes and concepts geared toward adults. Anime’s reputation has historically been patronized in North America due to animated television being perceived as “cartoons” and therefore for kids.
However, more celebrated figures are revealing themselves to be fans of the genre. This mainstream acknowledgment of anime signifies a paradigm shift in our reception of the art-form, which can be traced back to Katsuhiro Otomo’s 1988 landmark film, “Akira.” This film was the spearhead of Second Wave anime obsession in the 90’s and is conducive to celebrities and respected figures being more outspoken about their adoration for anime in the current decade.
Following a teenage biker gang member after coming into contact with an unknown entity, “Akira’s” main focus is submerging the viewer into, “Neo-Tokyo”, a retro-futuristic metropolis running rampant with crime, political corruption and a proletariat revolution.
Separate storylines of dissatisfied youth, government experimentation, and covert operations from the government’s resistance intertwine into a narrative of destruction due to the sheer oversaturation of technology and power being abused in the city. The inhabitants have no concern for the damage that they do to their dystopia, which serves to symbolize the crumbling of their humanity as they sacrifice everything to tend to their own desires.
The soundtrack, consisting of tribal beats and simplistic chanting, further compliments overarching themes of society reverting back to base human instincts in spite of its technological advances. Many musical artists have also sampled from the film, even going as far as creating full-length projectsexclusively comprised of film clips and soundbytes.
Another feat that “Akira” overcomes is visual longevity; the animation, which upon release was considered revolutionary, has aged well. Vibrant colors, attention to detail, and depiction of gore have all withstood the test of time. The unique and clean art-style of the film has been influential to artists of many varieties, such as Stanley Kubrick, Kanye West, and Christopher Nolan, who have all cited “Akira” as a main influence to one or many of their works.
“Akira” is not the only anime to see mainstream success; properties like “Dragon Ball Z,” “Naruto,” “Pokemon” and “Yu-Gi-Oh” have been mainstream cultural touchstones primarily for Millennials as many of them grew up during a time when these shows dominated Cartoon Network’s programming.
With Netflix Japan’s content library being the largest in the world, and 30 additional original anime titles being produced for Netflix in 2018 alone, anime is well on its way to being a priority for streaming services. Demand has slowly been on the rise for decades, which is now culminating into it being brought into the mainstream of North American viewers, whether by celebrity shoutouts, its influence on other aspects of American culture, or even purely on the time at which it has had to grow in popularity.
– Josh Kayo is an English junior