Akira’s story is among those where you need either high intuitive and perceptive abilities to understand everything that goes on, or to watch it several times. It doesn’t really help that Katsuhiro Otomo stuffed almost 2000 pages of story into 2 hours of screen time, but at least the movie has considerably good re-watch potential, which might help to release part of the strain. What we have is a post-WWIII Tokyo of not-too-distant future, led by greedy politicians and torn apart by terrorists trying to bring down the corrupt power and biker gangs that roam the streets. There is no usual hi-tech cyberpunk fantasies about living online, free information or global communication — just a demonstratively dystopic setting involving modern society abandoned to rot on its own. This is driven up further by the secret military experiments in attempts to magnify and control human psychic powers, which actually led to the WWIII in the first place. These social, political and semi-scientific, semi-mystical aspects mix and intertwine as a couple of teenagers get accidentally involved in all this mess.
I’m still of the opinion that Akira is a masterpiece and deserves watching, whether you like anime (or any form of animation, actually) or not, at least for its great cultural and historic value. There are many movies and cartoons that are far more enjoyable, and it’s not like Akira is the absolute limit of anything and everything. But as more and more titles surpass it in various respects, Akira stays like the Colossus of Rhodes, being a great achievement on its own and one of the most influential landmarks in the history of anime for years to come.