Disney+ (weirdly) has a small but very good selection of anime on the platform. Unfortunately, you also have to have a Hulu subscription to access it, but if you do, you can watch Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, Chainsaw Man, Mob Psycho 100, and more. However, the first thing you should watch is the anime film that all of these animes owe at least a small creative debt to – 1988’s Akira.
If you ask someone to name some of the best anime films of all time, Akira is inevitably going to come up in the conversation. In fact, if you ask certain people to name some of the best films of all time, animated or not, Akira might come up in the conversation. It’s a sci-fi classic that transcends its medium, offering a compelling story, awesome sci-fi concepts, engaging themes, and groundbreaking animation.
Akira takes place in the futuristic city of Neo-Tokyo and follows a bike gang leader named Shotaro Kaneda, whose friend Tetsuo Shima accidentally acquires incredible telekinetic powers that threaten both a clandestine military project and the city at large. The movie is directed and co-written by Katsuhiro Otomo and based on Otomo’s 1982 manga of the same name. Interestingly, the film differs from the manga quite a bit, and the back half of the manga wasn’t adapted, so there’s more to read if you end up liking the film.
The terms ‘influential’ and ‘masterpiece’ are thrown around a lot, but both terms are accurate ways to describe Akira. All you have to do is look at how many films and TV shows have paid tribute to the iconic “Akira slide.” Countless creatives have felt the need to pay homage to the film, and many more will continue to do so in the future.
Put simply, Akira is a must-watch if you’re a fan of anime, animation, sci-fi, cyberpunk, action, or just great movies in general. It’s frequently credited with helping break barriers with adult animation, showing people that animated movies aren’t just for kids. It’s also often credited with helping to herald anime reaching a global audience outside of Japan, paving the way for series like Dragon Ball and Pokemon to break into the international mainstream.
Of course, anime is now more popular than ever, and we’re even seeing major studios green light live-action adaptations for anime films and TV shows. While these have been historically bad, things are starting to look up as shows like the live-action One Piece have proven that there can be anime adaptations that please both fans and newcomers. Which gives everyone hope, however small, that the eventual live-action Akira film will be good.
Warner Bros Discovery (then Warner Bros) acquired the rights to the film adaptation of Akira in 2002. The project was in development hell for over a decade before it was announced that Taika Waititi would direct and co-write the project with Michael Golamco. However, the development limbo didn’t end there, as the project was delayed indefinitely as Waititi went to work on Thor: Love and Thunder.
Taika Waititi actually gave a fairly recent update on the live-action Akira film, saying that he will work on it after he finishes his upcoming Star Wars movie (which doesn’t have a release date yet.) In other words, it could be a while before we see the live-action movie of this anime classic come to fruition, but most people are perfectly alright with that. It’s not hard to wait for a live-action version of a film when the original masterpiece is readily available to watch whenever you want.