AKIRA

ICONIC FILM COSTUMES

A sense of style that immediately catches the eye

ICONIC FILM COSTUMES
The lm that changed the way westerners watch Japanese anime is above all an exercise of extreme precision. Style and design applied to narration. The story is, of course, highly evocative. Set in 2019 Neo-Tokyo, the city was reconstructed after the third World War of 1988, with results far from any futuristic utopia; brutalist concrete giants span its skyline, reflecting the same desperation that animates its inhabitants.

Extraordinarily high skyscrapers – crooked, constructed without any sort of urban planning, one on top of the other – stand out from behind the coloured lights.

The crude aesthetics of these modern buildings, which bring us to think of the beginning of the twentieth century rather than the twenty- rst, perfectly endorse the idea of a dead- end prison metropolis. Or better, one with only one way out: destruction. The catastrophic nuclear event that eliminated the old Tokyo had created another city. A dark version of the Japanese capital, born with the death of the old one, and consequently destined not to have a future.

Cosmic nihilism, in short. The same that animates Kaneda, Tetsuo, Kaisuke and Yamagata, young bikers and members of this science ction version of a boˉsozoˉku gang, a sub-culture that was most widely diffused in Japan during the ‘80s. Born in the ‘50s, those gangs are far from the idea that a westerner might have of how Japanese society is orderly, peaceful and without small-scale crime: boˉsozoˉku means casual violence and urban guerrilla warfare between opposing factions, territorial control and clashes with the police.

Unlike the American biker gangs – from the Hell’s Angels down – which appear to have inspired the boˉsozoˉku, the Japanese gangs are far from the adult world: their members are generally between sixteen and twenty years old, the age range in which it’s possible to drive a scooter or a motorcycle, but not an automobile. They therefore represent a truly alternative rite of passage: they play a game that evolves outside any of official social or familiar rule.

It’s not surprising that Katsuhiro O ̄tomo included them in his future without future, dressing them with reference to rebellious juvenile subcultures from all over the world. For example, there are traditional American leather jackets, but they’re highly personalized; Japan has always been the homeland of customisation culture. There are classic examples of Western sportswear – hooded sweatshirts, t-shirts, sneakers – but they’re often excessive in style and size, recalling the oversize garments worn by members of the boˉsozoˉku gangs.

The incredible precision of O ̄tomo returns in the design of every single character: a sense of style that immediately catches the eye, even by the person who finds himself decades and thousands of kilometers away from the reference points of his fiction.

The characters are divided into groups according to social roles and demographic affiliation: grown- ups wear jackets, dress-shirts and ties, symbols of the normalisation imposed by the world of work, while teenagers represent the whole range of the spectrum of rebellion.

As such, there is no shortage of outerwear of military reference; from the Harrington jackets held dear by the mods, to the British punks and skinheads – undershirts and even some ill- tting blazers - that hide the young thugs’ true nature behind a facade of respectability. But the pinnacle of the revolt is undoubtedly achieved by the young Yamagata, who, for most of the lm, wears a sweatshirt with ripped sleeves which has an image of the sun rising behind Mount Fuji printed on it. It seems an ironic reference to traditional Japanese iconography, but also hints at the national pride that was part of the boˉsozoˉku culture. Worn over another ripped t-shirt, the (self) destroyed clothing seems ready for the apocalypse. Perfect to represent young people that don’t care about anything, yet who pay real attention to detail, to style.

If the world is running toward the cliff, the young people created by O ̄tomo appear to tell us that it’s better to go on at full throttle; what’s important is to do it with the right approach, the right means, the right outfit.

SHOP THE STORY