One of the bleakest depictions of Tokyo in all of film is part of Olympics celebration projection mapping project.

When Tokyo was announced as the host city of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, plenty of anime fans were happy, but some of them weren’t at all surprised. They’d seen this development coming as far back as 1988, when the monumentally influential anime film Akira was first released. The events of the film take place in 2019, and include references to the upcoming 2020 Olympics, which, just like in real life, are scheduled to be held in Tokyo in the anime.

With Japan’s pop culture media currently enjoying unprecedented international popularity, the real life 2020 Olympics’ coordinators haven’t been shy about leveraging a love for the country’s fictional characters into excitement for the Games. The latest large-scale example of that is set to unfold in a projection mapping display at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, or Tocho, that prominently includes scenes from Akira.

During a rehearsal for the event (which marks the three-years-to-go point to the opening of the 2020 Olympics on July 24, 2020), Akira’s gang leader protagonist Kaneda can be seen revving his iconic motorcycle and cruising the streets of the anime’s Neo-Tokyo, with footage of real-life Tokyo spliced into the sequence.

On the one hand, it’s a cool tip of the hat to anime fans and a winking acknowledgment of the incredible coincidence of the Olympics actually ending up in Tokyo 32 years after Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo called it. It’s also worth noting that Otomo isn’t just some lazy gag manga doodler, but a talented visual artist whose cultural contributions go beyond just his comics.

But all the same, including Akira in the festivities is an odd choice because in the anime Tokyo, or Neo-Tokyo, is a terrible, terrible place to live. In the sequence shown in the projection mapping clip, there’s a shot of Kaneda and his buddies making a hard left through an intersection. If you watch that same scene in the anime, it’s followed exactly 30 seconds later by a group of bikers throwing a pipe through the window of a stopped car, with the driver still inside it, and then blowing the vehicle up with a Molotov cocktail.

As a matter of fact, just about all of Akira’s depictions of life in Neo-Tokyo are pretty bleak, with civil unrest, oppressive government policies, and urban decay being present, in some combination, in just about every frame of the film. So it’s not a surprise that the projection mapping show, which will take place nightly from July 25 to July 29 (at 7:30, 7:50, 8:10, 8:30, and 8:50 p.m.) also incorporates plenty of non-Akira-based imagery.

And while Otomo’s anime classic is helping promote the games, you can probably expect Kaneda, like Pikachu, to be left out of lineup of official Olympics merchandise.

Images, video courtesy of Pouch reader
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