Friday, October 28, 2005

Portrait of a Badass: Kaneda

Character: Kaneda Shotaro
Actor: Iwata Mitsuo (voice)
Film: Akira (1988)
Badass Moment: Kaneda plays an ill-advised game of pedestrian-on-biker chicken and wins!

The first animated character to be inducted into my prestigious hall of fame, Kaneda embodies creator Otomo Katsuhiro's vision of what no-good whippersnappers of the future could be like. Furthermore, he continues to stand alone as a unique, relatively unimitated character template. (Good thing, too, because characters similar to Kaneda would have to labelled "Kanedian," which would only cause confusion.)

This loud-mouthed leader of a bosozoku (biker gang, literally "speed gang") in post-apocalyptic Neo-Tokyo spends the first half of Akira stealing the show from his wimpy (but eventually omnipotent) cohort Tetsuo. In fact, most of Akira's popularity in the West stems from the biker gang scenes involving Kaneda early in the movie. What's not to like about a cocky, obnoxious hooligan and his ultra-stylish red jacket with the capsule on the back?

He spends the latter half of the movie, however, clinging desperately on to his superiority over Tetsuo, even as Tetsuo morphs into an all-powerful, giant infant made of chewing gum. Being the friend that he is, Kaneda even tries to put Tetsuo down for a dirt nap when it becomes apparent that Tetsuo has become a hazard to himself and others (and by "others" I mean "everybody"). But even as he lays waste to the world as we know it, Tetsuo spares the lives of his friends. Why? Because with divine omniscience comes the understanding that Kaneda is a badass.

Kaneda, you are a badass. We salu -- MY BIKE!!

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