Reshaping the sound of Neo-Tokyo for ‘Akira’

Above: People walk past a mural in Tokyo’s Shibuya district depicting scenes from the “Akira” manga.

A crack of thunder. Pulsing polyrhythmic percussion. The roar of a passing motorcycle. A haunting symphonic chorus.

Once you’ve heard the soundtrack to “Akira,” the anime classic that turns 30 years old this month, it’s almost impossible to forget it.

Like every other aspect of the film, the soundtrack seemed to mark an impressive departure from most anime. And to create the epic sonic world of his cyberpunked Neo-Tokyo, director Katsuhiro Otomo turned to composer Tsutomu Ohashi, also known as Shoji Yamashiro, and his musical collective, Geinoh Yamashirogumi.

Geinoh Yamashirogumi had recently released “Ecophony Rinne” at the time, an album that fuses traditional Japanese and world music with digital manipulation. Listening to this album, wrote Otomo, “I became more and more confident that

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