Katsuhiro Otomo’s 1988 film, Akira, has been broken down, analyzed and discussed in a thousand different ways, but one of the film’s most important elements has largely gone undiscussed: the use of lighting.
In a new video from Evan Puschak, creator and editor at The Nerdwriter, Akira’s use of lighting and its crucial role in the dystopian storytelling that the film is known for. Everything from how the use of light is used by militant and authoritative figures as a weapon to the importance of neon in a Tokyo setting and cyberpunk genre is discussed in the video.
“Neon has a special significance for both Tokyo and the cyberpunk genre,” Puschak says. “It is the bitter but beautiful light that signifies both the colorful radiance and the gaudy consumerism of modernity.”
Pushcak also goes over how impressive the actual use of lighting is in the film considering it was made in the cell animation style, which was developed in the first half of the twentieth century. While modern films can use 3D elements to create and mimic real world lighting — think of the impressive use of light in high-end animated films that come out of Disney and Pixar — Otomo had to rely on hand-drawn painting on transparent slides and layering them over a background.
Puschak adds that although lighting is an element of filmmaking that viewers may not even particularly notice, the way its applied to certain scenes in Akira is integral to the experience audiences have when watching it.
Akria is still regarded as one of the best animated films of the modern era, and in 2013, celebrated its 25th anniversary with a special Blu-ray release. The film isn’t available to stream online, but can be rented or purchased from any digital and physical retailer.