Akira is generally recognized as a masterpiece of animation, and it’s highly regarded for a number of elements—including its mature storyline, its gorgeous animation, and the iconically emphatic performance of Kaneda’s English voice actor. One of the film’s greatest strengths that is rarely highlighted, though, is (ironically) its use of light. This video from YouTube page The Nerdwriter looks to change that by breaking down the way Akira uses light and how the very idea of light impacts the story.
As explained in the video, Akira was animated with traditional, hand-drawn cels, which means every source of light was actually drawn and placed with purpose. According to this reading of the film, light comes to represent everything from death and danger to the “run-down dystopic” city that is Neo-Tokyo itself. The film’s atomic bomb imagery may be pretty overt, but Nerdwriter’s take adds a little unexpected depth to the giant balls of light that destroy chunks of the city in the film’s beginning and end.
Now, if only someone would unpack the thematic depth of a kid mutating into a hideous flesh monster.