This Akira article was written by Steven Loftin, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Nick Roseblade
Akira is a science-fiction thriller, set in a dystopian Tokyo in the year 2019, involving the namesake ‘Akira’ as a teenager with psychic powers, being sought out by a biker gang. Being a piece of Anime filmography that broke grounds in terms of detail and committal to giving the audience the best view possible, Akira is a watch unlike any other Anime.
At this point you won’t be reading this if you aren’t aware of it, and this isn’t a review of the film itself, but of the soundtrack. We are a music website after all.
Soundtracks provide several purposes. These range from giving the audience a sense of context, which can be done through tense, violent sounds, to even no sound. The soundtrack also provides a talking point, and another accessibility point for the film. In this case the original soundtrack which was recorded by Geinoh Yamashirogumi, a Japanese collective of several hundred people from all walks of life. They were brought to the attention of director Katsuhiro Ōtomo after creating an album based around their own MIDI translation of traditional gamelan music.
Of course, the most recognisable track is Kaneda’s theme. A pounding, drum filled, decent into insanity, featuring gamelan chanting and some of that classic 80’s faux-reverb that makes you feel as if you’re in the middle of a concert hall.
The entire soundtrack mostly is comprised of this setup, percussion with the occasional foray into synthetic sounds. They manage to give each scene its own atmosphere and sense of depth without changing the formula. Being a group that consists of hundreds of different people they utilise this advantage and compose what can only be described as cult-like chanting that gives the scenes, when involved, even more urgency and villainy.
The occasional use of synth in the forms of tubular bells, aids during the film’s final climactic scenes. This is one of the few times they use a different approach, and it has an eerie, empty effect on the mood.
When listened to with the film, the soundtrack gains more dimensions. It helps the director paint this dystopian picture. As a solo listen it becomes something more than just a film soundtrack. It’s a haunting foray into the aforementioned traditional Gamelan music,that can as easily put you into a trance as it can increase your heart rate.