Wednesday, November 7, 2007


One film in Japanese animation (anime) that has received quite a bit of spot light is Akira from 1987. The introduction is one of the most pivotal points in anime history. It starts with a nuclear explosion which engulfs the city of Tokyo. Nuclear explosions and rhetoric surrounding it is not uncommon in Japanese art. From "Godzilla" to the recent anime series "Paranoia Agent", Butoh dance to the "Time Bokan" paintings of Takashi Murakami - the bomb and its impact on the Japanese society, politics and art have been extremely palpable.

However, Akira stands out because it shows the explosion. Most often it is the mushroom cloud that dominates the popular signifier for a nuclear explosion. And really it is more then just the explosion because in just about any sorcery anime (i.e. Dragonball or Slayers) you can't go 5 minutes without seeing some sort of explosion that can be considered atomic in size. It is the way Akira treats the explosion. It is silent. The sound of destruction of an awesome scale can only be demonstrated with silence. In a way it is similar to Stan Brakhages take on the concept that he used sound on a small fraction of his 300+ films because he felt that sound distracted the audience from the visuals; that they had to choose one or the other. In the opening of Akira the visual is so dramatic, so focused upon that sound is completely erased; there's not even an ambient track - it is pure silence in a sense that is not usually seen this day in age.

This, in fact, harks back to historical accounts of the bombs that devastated the country of Japan (and in a sense the entire world). Where most eye witnesses recalled the utmost silence and stillness in the air just before the explosion occurred in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So, in a way, I suppose, nature has in one respect a similar rule to Brakhage and other filmmakers that silence will accompany a scene of astronomical proportions.

No comments: