Akira, 1988. Though I was only a 1 year old when this film first came out, I discovered it for the first time back in 2002 and I can safely say it's the best anime film I've ever seen. Not to discredit such greats as Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Ghost in the Shell and others, but Akira has style and substance.
Akira is most frequently designated as one of the seminal anime films, like 'Ghost in the Shell,' which have done much to define the potential of the Japanese genre. By the making of this film, 'Akira' was already as very popular manga (by Katsuhiro Otomo). Its theme is one that recurs frequently in anime, the good and the bad of human 'evolution.'
Neo Tokyo is Tokyo reborn on the ashes of the devastation of the next world war. Set in 2019, the city is already large, crowded, and apparently thriving. Yet, as you look at the details of this superbly animated film, it becomes obvious that something is seriously wrong. Discontent has fueled a rising level of social violent, motorcycle gangs make war on the streets, and if one listens carefully, one hears rumors about 'Akira, a savior who wields tremendous powers.
Kanada and Tetsuo are bike gangers, friends since childhood. When a conflict with the clown gang turns ultra-rough, Tetsuo is injured, just as the appearance of a child-like stranger brings the army down on everyone. Tetsuo is carted off to a secret facility where the 'examinations' trigger the development of mental powers. Enraged by years of powerlessness, and fury at his captors Tetsuo uses his powers to search for Akira, leaving a massive trail of destruction through Neo Tokyo.
Kanada, the authorities, and a mysterious group of children struggle to prevent the impending apocalypse, but it is clear from the beginning that nothing will be left unchanged in a demonstration of the risks of granting powers to those who are not ready for them
'Akira' is an example of the power of animation, so finely grained that, wherever the eye rests, there is something to consider. While it still relies on non-stop action to carry it through, the characters, drawn from the dark side of the city are equally vivid. Typical of anime, the film drops the viewer into a whirlwind with little or no preparation, but I don't really think the plot of the film is particularly hard to understand. One simply needs to ride with the action, and things gradually become clear.