An ongoing inspiration over the past two years has been the seminal Japanese anime/manga ‘Akira’.A story detailing a dystopian future, and set in ‘Neo-Tokyo’ a sprawling metropolis built after the destruction of the original Tokyo during World War III; the story follows a biker gang as one of their members, Tetsuo Shima begins to gain latent psychic powers, and attempts to control them as they develop quickly and almost uncontrollably. The book continues on after the films story, dealing with more complex themes of war and revolution amongst the characters within the original biker gang, the government, as well as a religious cult that begin to worship both Tetsuo, and Akira, an enigmatic child with incredibly powerful psychic powers, who caused the initial explosion that set off the war. The manga is meticulous in detail, and often has entire panels detailing destruction/chaos on a massive scale. There is also a theme that runs through the storyline of giving the power of a higher being to a lesser being, effectively casing them to ‘transcend’ their physical limitations through the use of such energy. This is very relevant to my own interests concerning the transcendence of man; especially concerning how technology provides us with more power than we were ever originally meant to have.
The film is well known for it’s excellent use of colour, and is considered by many to be a landmark in animation throughout the world; prompting the burgeoning interest in Japanese animation that began to dominate western interests over the last 30-40 years. The use of colour is often applauded, as well as forms of Chiaroscuro, in which the dark, brooding atmosphere of the city is often depicted being lit only by artificial light. There is no moon shown, only the glow and buzz of humanity and it’s technology. The way that the film is set out; with class warfare apparent everywhere, as well as oppression of rebels and uprisings, reminds me of a certain bleak future that appears to be coming forth within our own society. Laws are being passed in order to quash the fun and enjoyment of others, whereas the higher ups in society seem to be able to run around freely, doing what they desire. There is also a sense of technology posing an immediate threat, both in the hands of such higher ups, as well as within it’s own capabilities. Google is crafting an A.I., and technology is everywhere. How close must we get to the fire until we burn ourselves? Who will save us then? This image on the right; of the containment chamber that Akira is held in miles underground, reminds me of an image I had for an artwork a short while ago. Relating to the ideas of the supercomputer, and the eventual ruler of humanity being a form of technology; the ominous, almost squid-like chamber appears to look right a the approaching human with it’s light; as if it’s some form of red eye. I envisioned an artwork that made this ‘lovecratian’ mechanism corporeal, and would serve as a manifestation of dread and foreboding. Much like the techno-sublime I have been fascinated with; the intense immensity, and the fact that we could not even begin to comprehend the entirety of technology within our feeble minds, promote a fear inside of us, much like that of a god
The manga also explore the idea of ‘immensity’ in detail through it’s art style; here, there are two important parts within the story, the first is when the final explosion of Tetsuo’s energy culminates within his body and breaks free, culminating in another explosion much like that of Akira at the eve of the Third World War. The second is an image of Tetsuo when his energy begins to become uncontrollable, and he reverts to a simpler form (a baby/foetus) before he becomes an uncontrollable amoeba, and eventually pure energy. It’s interesting, as we see a regression in form as one gains more power; reverting back to nothingness. Technology becomes more sleek and streamlines as it grows, and eventually becomes rather minimalist in nature; as seen in ‘2001: A space odyssey’, in which the alien life forms are nothing more than black monoliths, blank and seemingly lifeless. Although, in concept, there is a final emptiness when the chaos that predestines it finally gives way under itself and collapses into emptiness. Am I fascinated in the detail and chaos? or am I concerned with the final emptiness and vacancy? The cold, dark, immortal future of the machine entities. We can become a God, but there will be no-one left to protect us.
This is the point in which Tetsuo mutates within the film, and becomes ‘amoeba-like’ in form and nature. Unable to control his power, he becomes violet and dangerous, destroying the environment around him and absorbing it into his body. The reason for this being that earlier in the film, he loses an arm, and replaces it with a metal one controlled by his ESP. As the power within his boy attempts to escape the confines of his being, it spreads out into the technology attached to him, and begins to mutate and grow at an exponential rate. It then absorb matter into itself; humans, metal, stone, biological matter and so on, until the body can control it’s power. Of course, as the power is constantly growing, it can never be contained within the body, and eventually explodes out of his being. This is much like the slippery slope of technological advancement. We are growing, much like a virus, and technology is the same. As we were created in the image of God, technology will eventually begin to emulate us on a metaphysical level; gaining consciousness, and developing far quicker than we can even begin to understand. We are becoming more and more powerful, until we shall die at the hands of, or be consumed by, our bio-mechanical society. Then, there shall be nothing but technology; but it will come after a storm.