Five Ways Akira has Impacted Pop Culture
Akira not only helped propel anime to the West, but it also influenced pop culture in ways you might not ever have imagined! Your favourite musicians may have been inspired by Kaneda’s horrific adventure through Neo-Tokyo, or even your favourite TV shows and movies might have taken a page out of Katsuhiro Otomo’s workbook?
Ahead of Akira’s 4K release across IMAX cinemas next week, we take a look at how Akira has and continues to have, an immense impact on pop culture around the world.
Kanye West has stated several times to be inspired by Akira
A bit of a shocker there, right? Kanye West has positively spoken about Akira in interviews before, but the biggest evidence of its impact on the popular artist is in his “Stronger” music video, which features scenes directly inspired by Akira. The original plan for the music video was to feature scenes from the movie, but they instead opted to pay homage to it.
If you check it out, you will see several references ranging from when Kanye is stumbling in a hospital, to the light trails on the bike, the large, red Japanese text, and the robots performing surgery.
Even Michael & Janet Jackson Reference Akira
It is not every day that the King of Pop highlights an anime in their music video, which is made doubly more impressive when that very song, Scream, features both Michael and Janet Jackson. It is a blink or you will miss it moment, but towards the end of the music video, there is a clip showcasing Tetsuo falling to the ground, pulled directly from the movie. Other anime shown are Vampire Hunter D and Zillion.
We will take this moment to note that Akira really has been associated with some really good bops.
Have you seen The Matrix? Steven Universe? Stranger Things? Rick & Morty? Ready Player One? Punch Line? Looper? Chronicle? Elfen Lied? Black Mirror? The Simpsons? Pokémon?! Yes, even Pokémon. There was a yes in there somewhere, right?! We are going to assume you are familiar with at least one of those things!
Many of the creators behind some of these works, most notably The Matrix, have explicitly confirmed Akira’s influence on their work, whilst others have a clear reference to the movie which is often hard to miss. Oftentimes the scene where Kanade skids to a halt on his motorbike are referenced, but themes such as children being used as test subjects for ESP purposes (telekinesis, telepathy, etc) are seen in the likes of Stranger Things, with the similarities running deep. Sometimes, a show will directly reference it, such as when Rick & Morty sees a character reference a terrible situation as an “Akira-type situation”, among other scenario similarities and direct throwbacks.
Keep an eye out as we will be compiling references in a near-future article!
Did you know that Akira was notoriously difficult to dub into other languages because of how each lip flap was animated to accurately reflect Japanese speech? This was something that was rarely, and still is rather rare, to see in animated media, and it was a painstaking process that is still admired today. Also, the English dubs have been positively received, so props to the team behind that hard work!
Some works, notably the Final Fantasy series, have worked hard to match various voice-overs with the lip-syncing. You may not see it often in anime for budgetary and dub reasons, but the intense dedication to traditional hand-drawn animation, entirely without computer aid, has gone on to inspire countless animators and creators who create their own content today.
It is no secret that anime was not well-known or seen in the Western world until the likes of Pokémon and Digimon hit kid’s TV, but Akira managed to catch the eye of many when it was shown on the likes of BBC Two and Channel 4 throughout the 90s. Us folk in the West were introduced to a gritty, mature animated movie unlike any we had seen before, and it blew minds and amazed those who saw it. Akira proved to the West that anime is more than children’s cartoons and that it was capable of groundbreaking animation, storytelling, and even violence.
So those are a few ways how Akira has influenced pop culture, across various different forms of media. Has Akira referenced one of your favourite shows, movies, or games? Let us know about them via Facebook or Twitter!
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