young girl is nearly raped before being punched in the face to bone-crunching sound effects. Meanwhile. her boyfriend lies prostrate on the ground at the mercy ofa motorbike gang. A pirate snuffvideo'.’ An action scene that sent the censors screaming for the scissors? No. it‘s just everyday life in neo-Tokyo as portrayed in the lZ-certificate Akira.
Here — if it needs to be pointed out — is an example of the arbitrary nature of film censorship. Akira contains many scenes of gut-wrenching mega-violence that would make even Arnie ﬂinch. but because it is animation. and therefore a ‘cartoon‘. it is passed with nary a glance. In this particular case. however. it is unlikely that many
unsuspecting kiddies will wander into the cinema to emerge as hardened psychopaths. as Akira is destined for midnight shows on the arthouse circuit as a prime example of Japanese animé— subtitles and all.
Japan’s highest grossing film in 1988. Akira has gone on to stun cinema-goers across the world with its state-of-the-art animation techniques. At its recent run at the ICA in London. it broke box office records on its first weekend. Its British success is the reaction ofa nation brought up on Disney cuteness. whose most revolutionary animated feature concerns a group of rabbits. and which is just not accustomed to such a sophisticated combination of image and story. It is also worth noting that the film is set in 201‘). the
same year as B/adermzner. While that film harks back to 40s film noir. Akin: appeals to juvenile delinquents ofall ages as a
high-tech version ofRebc/ Without/l Cause or The Wild 0216.
When compared to all that is on offer in Japan in terms ofmunga (comics) and (mime (films). its violence and animated power is
not as extreme as our Western sensitivities would have us believe. Kiyo Murakaml. a
Japanese comic artist now living in Scotland.
‘ explains how notions of censorship vary ‘ acrossthe globe.
‘I hadn't really noticed the violence in
(mime before coming here.‘ he says. ‘ln Japan. the kids are used to comic book
violence and their parents generally accept it. Even erotic scenes are allowed. as long as
Teen rebels take on mutant kids with psychic powers in the hugely successful animated film Akira. But, as Alan Morrison discovers, this is only the tip of the Japanese iceberg.
8The List l9April—2 May 1991
A YEN FORVIOI-ENGE