Welcome to the first official edition of From the Ashes: Anime Night. This will be a weekly segment where I bring to you the best in modern classics/nostalgic anime, as well as some of my personal favorites and recommendations. This will be a review segment, so please be aware there may incidentally be spoilers; though I will do my utmost best to only give an overview. And with that said let's begin!
Those who know anime well have probably done some research as to the history of what is commonly known as anime today. First off, the term"anime" is simply an abbreviation of the word animation spoken in Japanese. Be it slang or short cut this generalization did not start being commonly used until about the mid to late 1980s. Go figure; so many other things we today would call nostalgic were also spawned in that time.
One cannot fully take this journey through anime without acknowledging some fundamental contributors to the establishment of anime's popularity in world culture, particularly Western culture. Osamu Tezuka (1929-1989), considered by many the "godfather of anime" was the creator of classics such as: Astro Boy, Kimba The White Lion, Black Jack, and Princess Knight. He also wrote a manga version of Metropolis in 1949, which was adapted into an animated film in 2001. He is also responsible for the staple "big anime eyes" and the beginning of the mecha genre.
Another name to know is Go Nagai (1941- ). With Cutie Honey, he began the ever fruitful "magical girl" genre and refined upon the mecha genre by creating the "super Robo" subgenre, starting with Mazinger Z.
Eventually others such as Yoshiyuki Tomino (1941- ), would build up on that legacy with the establishment of the Gundam series, starting with Mobile Suit Gundam in 1979. Shoji Kawamori creates the now legendary anime space opera The Super Dimension Fortress Macross in 1982, and the rest as is often said is history.
Now to finally bring you to our first selection: AKIRA (1988). This was both created and directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, who also wrote the manga which ran from 1982 to 1990. Collected in 6 large volumes that still barely contain the weight of the story is this magnus opus. As I stated earlier my intention is to give an overview because I feel that everyone should seek out these films and watch them because they are masterpieces. If you're not one for graphic violence, dystopian society, and the adventures of a group of delinquents forced into the situations their very real cruel world pushes them into, then let me tell you this might not be for you. But hell, its awesome! If you want an impactful introduction into the world of anime film I cannot think of a better starting point. Not only does this film satisfy its own genre requirements (cyberpunk, thriller, action, dark humor, among others), it serves as a strong allegory to man's desire to seek out the power of God or the universe and how that power corrupts. This film is beautiful. The visuals are groundbreaking ( no pun intended), and still highly exceptional even today. The soundtrack hits when it needs to and leaves silence in moments when no sound could possibly enhance what one is seeing on screen. For first-time viewers I personally feel the Japanese cast performance was far more synonymous with the film's tone, but the English cast is still quite adequate. For a long time viewers of anime in English you may recognize many of the voice actors in this film. But seriously back to the visuals. The level of detail in this film is astounding. Every movement a character makes every explosion and all the background images are done exsquisitly well. With all this in its corner it's no wonder Akira is considered one of the most prevalent anime films and just about singularly responsible for the boom of interest in anime in Western culture. Akira has also been listed in Time magazine's list of top 5 anime DVDs.
From The Ashes, V.~