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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A+
  • Video Rating: A+
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: A+
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 24.98
  • Running time: 124
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Akira

Akira: DTS Edition

By Chris Beveridge     December 08, 2002
Release Date: December 03, 2002


Akira: DTS Edition
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
Neo-Tokyo has risen from the ashes of World War III to become a dark and dangerous megalopolis infested with gangs and terrorists. The government seethes with corruption and only maintains a token control over the powerful military that prevents total chaos and hides the secrets of the past.

Childhood friends Tetsuo and Kaneda plunge into Neo-Tokyo’s darkest secret when their motorcycle gang encounters a military operation to retrieve an escaped experimental subject. Tetsuo, captured by the military, is subjected to experiments that make him a powerful psychic, but, unfortunately for Neo-Tokyo, Tetsuo’s powers rage out of control and he lashes out at the world that has oppressed him! Nothing can stop the destructive forces that Tetsuo wields except possibly the last boy to destroy Tokyo - AKIRA!

The landmark anime film Akira is now available with the newly re-mixed Japanese 5.1 DTS Mix to compliment the fully restored video!

The Review!
Going back to the well one more time, Pioneer has produced a DTS Japanese language track just to hook those last few holdouts and those who simply get all warm and fuzzy at the mention of DTS. I’m one of the latter, so it’s little surprise I was looking forward to this a lot.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we watched this disc in its original language of Japanese. This is a given since this release is primarily released for the small set of fans who enjoy DTS. Being one of them, I was glad I could avoid importing the Japanese release of it. As much as I enjoyed the original stereo mix we got last year, and as well done as the English 5.1 remix was, I’m simply all over this track. The clarity and distinctness of the sounds is fantastic. Just queuing up certain areas brings new sounds to life. The opening motorbike chase sequence is a large improvement aurally, and the way you can almost hear every piece of glass tinkling during the shattered building sequence is gorgeous. There’s a lot of great moments like that throughout this track, and the music becomes a huge benefactor as well. Everything sounds much more distinct and warm. For a DTS fan like myself, this is a great release to supplement last years Limited Edition release, as I wanted that for the extras. I can’t see myself going back to the stereo mix after this.

Video:
I only did a few comparisons between versions, but I can’t really find any visual differences, though I’m sure they’re there since it is a different encode. But, any issues I have with the transfer of this release are simply going to be excessive nitpicking. Especially when you look at all the other source material that's out there to work with, and see the condition of the various trailers and promotional reels. This is a gorgeous looking print. The amount of new detail that's visible is astonishing. In many instances, it's essentially like watching it for the very first time again I'm so much I never saw before. The colors are vibrant, the darks are solid, there's no rainbows or line noise. This is about as perfect looking transfer for this film that I think we'll ever see. It's jaw dropping on our HDTV in full anamorphic mode using the Panasonic.

Packaging:
Going with the foil packaging again, the front cover goes different than most of the past releases by giving us the initial opening sequence of the movie where Tokyo gets completely wasted. This is a great dark cover that uses the foil imagery just right to give it a more sinister feel. The back cover uses the foil again but with the future city background, causing it to look even more alive. There’s a brief summary of things, mostly promoting the new soundtrack, as well as the production information and the discs features. The insert has another version of the cover on one side while the reverse lists all the chapter stops.

Menu:
When I found out the folks over at Nightjar, LLC were the ones behind the menus for this set, I only found myself really anticipating it even more. And they haven't failed me yet. The movie disc menu is an exercise in simplicity combined with a great layout and a mix of animation. The menu selections are all listed at the bottom, and are quick an easy to get to. Through the center you have the specially created animation of the various bikes rotating through while you hear the bikes whiz by underneath, mixed in with the black and white animation from the movie. Add in the fact that the menus are anamorphic as well, and I'm in heaven.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
For many, Akira is a love it or hate it movie. A number of fans have a hard time finding a middle ground for it. A lot of this stems from the fact that for many years, it could only be had in dub form, and for many people it was just a bad dub that could be made quite a bit of fun of. That's all we're going to talk about previous releases. Pioneer has gone quite far in distancing themselves from those releases, and their work and effort definitely deserves to move beyond what came before.

Akira's story is like just about any other manga to anime translation, especially in going to a movie as opposed to a series of some sort. The changes are fairly strong, the pacing is entirely different and the ending and a good part of the final act have almost nothing in common. The core storyline though, at least the one I perceive, of friendship and the strength of those bonds is still there.

The film opens with the destruction of Tokyo in a black expanding ball in 1988. We flash forward 31 years later to 2019, where the rebuilt Neo-Tokyo is the shining jewel of Japan. The buildup and restoration is nothing short of amazing. The city has become filled with immense skyscrapers, giving the illusion of reaching the clouds with what looks like hundreds and hundreds of stories. Scattered throughout are tons of smaller but still tall buildings, each adding to the light and activity of it all.

But the story isn't focused up in these gleaming towers. It's down in the dank streets, where the citizenry is restless and there's a feel of something powerful happening. Some of those in power can see it, they can feel that the city has become rotten, but those who appear to be in control are oblivious to it.

And down in these streets, this is where we get to know Kaneda, Tetsuo and others in their bike gang. Our introduction to them is terse, as one of the more experienced bikers, Yamagata, strides into a dank underground bar to get Kaneda. Their street enemy, the Clowns, have been herded to a less used route, and it's time for them to teach them some respect.

What ensues is a bike chase/combat sequence that has been lifted in a number of other shows, including a homage in a recent animated dark knight show. The combination of the music, the visuals with the light streams from the bikes and the energy of the animation provides an exceptionally powerful sequence. Watching Kaneda, Yamagata and the Clowns go at it, the power that comes across from them is fantastic. While it's certainly not the real thing, it's a wonderfully visualized experience.

This sequence brings about a striking change though, as a wrong turn leads Tetsuo to run into a little kid, causing his bike to explode and throwing him off onto the pavement. Half unconscious, Tetsuo finds himself amazed to be alive and even more surprised to see this twisted looking little kid still alive as well. When the rest of the gang catches up to them, their surprise at this kid is quickly forgotten when the military arrives and takes Tetsuo and the kid away, while everyone else gets sent off to the police.

This is where the mystery begins to build, as Tetsuo learns of an immense psychic power that's contained within him. Experiments begin to be performed on him, and those who are keeping an eye on him begin to give him certain drugs that help enhance and unlock his abilities, much like the children that they have kept guarded for so many years in their secret facilities. Tetsuo begins to learn what's being done to him and why, and starts manipulating things to his advantage, as his mind slowly begins to warp under the drugs effects.

On the other side of the Tetsuo/Kaneda coin, Kaneda finds himself getting involved in a group that's after information and secrets about the project that Tetsuo has found himself a part of. His chasing of a particular skirt, namely the main female character named Kei, brings him into their lair after he helps save Kei twice from the military types who are on the lookout for members of this group. Kaneda lucks out though when he realizes that the information they're after is in regards to his friend Tetsuo, and they decided to take a slim chance with him.

The two sides of this coin begin to follow their own objectives, with the spiraling into madness Tetsuo searching for a power supposedly bigger than him and Kaneda trying to impress Kei and figure out what's wrong with Tetsuo. This all serves as the main feature, while in the background there's political wheeling and dealing, riots in the streets and the push of a civilization that's become corrupt trying to find its way back to a place where it can be happy.

As I said earlier, part of my coloring of the storyline is my love of the manga, and I know parts of it seep into my perception of the movies storyline. I've done this with many manga/novel to movies in the past and sometimes it can't be helped.

Since its original theatrical release, a lot has changed in the field of animation. What Akira, and those select few from the years around it, continue to prove is just how far ahead of their time they truly were. While theatrical anime movies of today are indeed flashy looking deals, Akira and its kind are so painstakingly detailed and richly animated, that they can continue to hold their own almost fifteen years later, and in some cases surpass the quality of the latest movies.

This release has given me a chance to really see this level of detail in a completely new light. I've watched it dozens of times over the years, but found myself fascinated by the little things. There are sequences early on where we see the buildings pass by, and looking into them you can see the outlines of desks, lamps and overhead lights, all things I've missed in past viewings. I found myself noticing a lot of little things like that this time around.

Akira is a release that simply had to happen, and it had to happen big. Pioneer's release of it is something that makes my years of building up my home theater all worthwhile. When the show begins, and the widescreen set is filled with the rich imagery and lush deep sound, the movie jumps into the action... it's just a stunner, and a disc that will be pulled out many times to show off to people. Major kudos to Pioneer for pulling off a great release.

Features
Japanese DTS 5.1 Language,English DD 5.1 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

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