Posted on Monday, January 7th, 2019 by Eric Vilas-Boas
This article contains spoilers for Akira and the Batman-centric DCAU films and TV shows.
A giant explosion of light and sound. Biker gangs and crime-ridden streets. A city run by crooked politicians and a militarized police force. A flawed hero who operates outside the law and is pitted against a villain who thrives on chaos. All these make Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, the spinoff film of Batman: The Animated Series, one of the most iconic representations of the DC Comics hero ever put to a screen, but they’re also major parts of what make the legendary anime film Akira tick, too.
Both films celebrated big anniversaries last year — Phantasm turned 25 on December 25, and Akira crested its 30th birthday on July 16 — and they’re both still widely respected as classics of their respective art forms. It’s not an exaggeration to say Katsuhiro Otomo, creator of the Akira manga and director of the film, influenced a generation of artists around the world, and you can say the same for the film’s version of Batman created by Bruce Timm, Eric Radomski, and Alan Burnett.
What’s harder to pin down is what the two iconic movies have in common. While they couldn’t be more different plotwise, both films share a lot of DNA that showed up not just Phantasm‘s source TV series Batman: The Animated Series, but the rest of the DC Animated Universe properties for years to come. There’s clear homage to Akira, yes, but over the years the B:TAS spinoff properties have also borrowed its animators and — most importantly — ideas that enrich how we understand the character today.