Editorial: Let’s Talk About the Akira Slide

Editorial by William Burgess

Forty years ago on this very day, December 20, the Japanese comic Akira premiered in the publication Young Magazine. The comic ran for eight years and six volumes and went on to inspire a video game, an action figure lineup, and a movie.

The 1988 cyberpunk film, also called Akira, has long been considered a top science fiction criterion film, with its impact on pop culture undeniable. Film critic Roger Ebert gave it two thumbs up and even proclaimed it the Video Pick of the Week on his long-running review show, Ebert and Roeper at the Movies.

The plot of Akira is at once as violent and action-packed as it is prophetic. The story kicks off with Tokyo being destroyed by a mysterious explosion, followed by a devastating World War. Japan later rebuilds Neo-Tokyo into the dystopian, Blade Runner-esque society, in which this film is set.

The infamous Akira bike driven by Kaneda throughout the classic Japanese anime film, set in a futuristic, dystopian 2019. | TMS Entertainment Co., Ltd.

Now taking place in the distant future of 2019, there are even overt references to a 2020 Neo-Tokyo Olympics (and a public cry to have it cancelled).
Rife with corruption and anti-government protests, gangs roam the streets, one of which gets wrapped up in a plot to uncover the government’s complicity in experimenting on children with psychic abilities in order to weaponize and benefit from their powers, all tying back to the bombing of Tokyo so many years ago.

Akira ultimately culminates in a bloody final battle followed by a stunning climax that can best be described as transcendental.

The groundbreaking film left such a mark on those who watched it, Michael Jackson sampled it in his 1995 music video for Scream and the Wachowskis have often cited it as an inspiration for the Matrix films, just to name a few examples.

The Honda NM4 motorcycle, featured at the 2014 Tokyo Motorcycle Show | Source: Wikipedia via Rainmaker47.

Even Honda built a motorcycle, the 2015 NM4 concept, a recumbent-style bike, which they state was inspired by the bike driven by the film’s protagonist, Kaneda.

And it is that very motorcycle, and this very scene, that has been imitated, by some accounts, over one hundred times in popular Hollywood media ranging from Marvel and DC, to Transformers, and even Jordan Peele’s 2022 film, Nope.

So what is the Akira Slide anyway? Simply put, it’s any shot of a two-wheeled vehicle sliding laterally into frame, stirring up brake and road dust (maybe a little static discharge for flavor), until it comes to a complete stop, as the rider stares dead on toward the camera. The end result being a visually impressive movie stunt and a purely cool motorcycle trick to boot!
When you know what to look for, you might be surprised just how many times you can spot this iconic slide being given the homage treatment.

The iconic Akira Slide, featured in the 1988 anime film Akira (top, TMS Entertainment Co., Ltd.) as well as the 2022 thriller Nope (Universal Pictures), starring Keke Palmer, performing the stunt. | Source Wise-Emperor Tumblr

As the legacy of this 40-year-old comic continues to resonate today, director Taika Waititi has strongly expressed an interest in bringing a live action remake of the film to theatres, and there are talks of an animated television series in the works too.

All this means, without a doubt, this won’t be the last Akira Slide you’ll be seeing any time soon.

Cover: Keke Palmer as Emerald Haywood in the 2022 Jordan Peele film, Nope. | Source: Universal Studios

Will BurgessΒ is a journalist with Adrenaline Powersports Mag


A version of this post appears on the PartsPitStop.com Facebook blog.

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