After really enjoying Steamboy (2004), I thought I'd check out Akira (1988). While Akira ultimately shares a certain very mature discussion of complex issues, it's much more violent than the later film.
Akira starts in 1988 with a nuclear explosion over Tokyo, then jumps 30 years into the future where motorcycle gangs crowbar fight in the streets, a rebel group of terrorist try to overthrow current corrupt rule and a stalwart military leader tries to keep the city from melting down again. Each group, each person has its own agenda, own failings, own qualities. There is no easy "bad guy."
Into this feud comes a small group of "pre-cognitive" mutated children (not unlike Tom Cruise's Minority Report. Thankfully, the violence eventually gives way to surreal and supernatural. (And not a moment too soon, I almost shut it off).
Of course my appreciation is unfairly aggravated by having prior seen Steamboy (a much better, less violent production). While Akira's blood splattering is over the top for me, I did enjoy the surreal, and the interesting complicated departure from the often-oversimplified good vs. evil.
Further qualification: Some people have become completely immersed in Anime as an art form and film genre, while others just "don't get it" or assume cartoons are for kids. I fall into neither of those two groups. I love good movies, whether the film is animated or live action is becoming more and more secondary. I want to see a good strong entertaining production.