Akira, directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, is based off of the mange Akira and was created in 1988. The animated cyberpunk action film is a landmark for Japanese animation. It was one of the first anime movies to gain fans. Different techniques were used in Akira that generally were not before. For example, pre scoring the audio allowed for lip syncing. The movements of the lips were based on the acting that happened before hand and allowed for a more realistic feel. The art itself is amazing between the light trails and the night scenes. The night scenes manage to be detailed but not with just bluish colors associated with colors of the night. Instead, there is a large color palette used with subtle shifts that might be easier to view in a theatre. Akira helped to popularize anime, especially outside of Japan.
The art for the animation was done on separate sheets of plastic. It gives a faux three dimensional appearance. Even the giant cityscapes are hand created. The characters were not those found typically in anime. For example, the female characters were not the usual cutesy appearance. Villains also did not have the typical big eyes or grotesque appearance; they actually looked like humans. Of course the dubbed version of Akira does not give the characters as much credit as the Japanese version. The Japanese voice actors do with their voices what actors do on screen or stage to give the character a real personality and ‘soul’.
Compared to another animated film such as The Land Before Time, Akira’s art style differs vastly. The Land Before Time’s audience is intended to children. The characters are round, happy dinosaurs. The protagonists have cute, children voices. Akira’s characters have a variety of types of voices. They are not stylistically all happy. Instead, it is a realistic anime take on human features. The color palette of The Land Before Time also differs vastly. While they both use a wide variety of colors, Akira’s is certainly darker being that it takes place mostly at night. The Land Before Time mostly contains bright, cheery colors; something that would normally be seen in a child’s animated film. Each film’s animation is smooth and the story is not always happy, not even in The Land Before Time such as the theme of death.
Another film created around the same time is Oliver and Company. The characters in Oliver and Company have sketchier outlines, also including brighter colors. The city in Oliver and Company is shown mostly during the days with a bright color palette than the night scenes in Akira. Depth is also created in this film with the use of different layers. There are also points in the film, like with the cars, that things are created on the computer. The humans in Oliver and Company are also less realistic in their appearance with rounder faces and oddly proportioned bodies. Humans in Akira have more of a realistic take with proportions for their characters and more angled faces.
Akira was certainly a stepping stone to help anime become more popular. The action packed cyber punk film opened the doors for other anime.