Mania Grade: NA
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- Audio Rating: N/A
- Video Rating: N/A
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- Extras Rating: N/A
- Age Rating: 12 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
- MSRP: 39.99
- Running time: 124
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Akira
Akira: Special Edition (& Limited Edition)
By Roman Martel
February 06, 2002
Release Date: July 24, 2001
Overall Rating: 4.7
(on a scale of 1-5)
English Acting: 4
How long has it taken for this milestone in anime history to come out on DVD? Quite a long time. But now you have a definitive version of the film with all the bells and whistles for the serious anime collector. You're also able to see the movie the way it should be seen (especially if you have a big screen). This is an anime classic, whether you enjoy the movie or not. And seen in that light, this movie gets all the respect it deserves with this DVD release.
I've seen Akira almost five times. This viewing has been the best of those. I've seen the old Streamline tape. I also had the pleasure of seeing the Criterion Laserdisc Edition of it. But I think that this is hands down the best version I've experienced. The audio and the visuals were superb. This movie has not looked better. All the detail really comes to life here and you are able to really see all the work that went into the animation. The menus are a combination of simplicity and coolness. That's right it must be Studio Nightjar at work again. Great job guys! (I still love your Trigun menus the best though). The tin is classy and well made. It holds the DVDs in place very well, and it comes with an insert with all the information about the extras inside. The cardboard holder for the tin contains all the information you need to know about the movie, how many languages, number of channels used in the sound, what it's rated, what region it's made for, how long it is and what extras you get on it. And boy do you get a ton of extras, a whole disc worth of extras. You get three different documentaries on the film (one is your standard behind the scenes, one is all about the music and one focuses on the director). You get over 4,500 stills of production art, storyboards, backgrounds... you name it. You get a glossary with terms from the manga and movie. You get a grouping of the original trailers and teasers. You also get interviews with the restorations staff and some of the dubbing team. Oh yes you also get an interesting feature that allows you to "pop a pill" and watch the movie. It's a nice little addition to this top notch DVD.
Wow, Akira. I'm not sure where to start and how to express how I feel about this movie. It is an anime classic and it has earned its place as that. But with each viewing of this movie I find it to be more nostalgic and less entertaining. I know it's groundbreaking and viewed as a piece of anime history. You can see how it influenced many sci-fi anime films and series. It also provided a benchmark that many other anime creators to shoot for. But viewed on its own, objectively, the film has some weak points that keep it from being in many peoples top ten lists.
Let's take a look at the story. Neo Tokyo is the setting for this tale and it's a city that is in upheaval. Violence seems to be commonplace and the public is demonstrating against the army and the bureaucracy governing them. Against this background we follow the path of a group of bikers led by the charismatic (if not overly-smart) Kaneda and his friend Tetsuo. The group gets in a battle with another group of bikers known as the Clowns. Tetsuo, in an effort to prove himself, becomes badly injured. He is spirited away by the military, just as they are cleaning up after a messy incident involving the kidnapping of a certain test subject. Well Tetsuo becomes a test subject as well. Meanwhile Kaneda runs into a revolutionary named Kei and decides to annoy her (or follow her around and insinuate they are dating). Well, Tetsuo seems to have received some interesting psychic and psychokinetic powers from his time spent as a military guinea pig. Now what happens when you give a teenager awesome powers and he is going through emotional turmoil... well you get a whole lot of hell on earth. Now everyone has to try to stop Tetsuo from losing control of his powers and destroying all of Tokyo. The military is protecting its interests, Kaneda is trying to save his friend (or end his pain) and the public is using Tetsuo as a reason to riot. And where does the name Akira fit into all this... well you'll have to watch it to find out.
If you see Akira for anything it would be the high level of animation. This film is considered by many to be one of the best examples of animation in the world. And a single viewing will confirm that suspicion, multiple viewing often reveal more and more detail that you've missed. In that way it reminds me of Ghost in the Shell. In fact both films are considered milestones in anime history. Akira is impressive because of all the detail, and fluidity of movement and then you realize that it was created in the late 80's. It's truly impressive. The action scenes are well choreographed and executed, and the dialogue scenes are handled well too. This film doesn't have as much technique and style as some more recent anime (Serial Experiments Lain, Perfect Blue or Ghost in the Shell). It's definitely more straightforward than artsy. The character design on the other had seems a bit bland and some first time viewers might have trouble keeping track of the characters, since they all start to look the same after a while. This appears to be the director's style of drawing, and not a stylistic choice. But the visuals will not disappoint in the least bit.
The sound works just as well as the animation and the restoration team did a great job bringing the audio world of Neo Tokyo to life. The city feels alive with all the sounds that fill the movie and of course the action scenes take your breath away. Tetsuo is incredibly powerful and unleashes his anger several times in the film. The visuals of this combined with the sound and music creates images most viewers will not forget. One effective scene is near the end, when Tetsuo loses control of his power has some of the most interesting sound design I've heard in a while.
The story is a bit difficult to judge, mostly because it's something you see in anime all the time. Youth with super powers goes awry and everyone tries to stop him. But it's difficult to say if Akira started that trend or not. Needless to say, first time viewers might find the story a bit typical and predicable. The plot is pretty straightforward and the characters achieve some depth but nothing to really get excited about. In the end you might find yourself talking with others about the ending but it lacked the punch that Ghost in the Shell and Perfect Blue delivered. You do get the feeling that the manga was condensed down to a two-hour movie, but it does done very well and doesn't end up with huge holes in it. The worst that happens is that some supporting characters are introduced, have a few scenes and then die or vanish (I'm thinking mostly about one of the council members and Ryu). You end up wanted to know more about some of these guys but are left wondering what effect they had on Tetsuo's story. I've been told that the film story of Akira and the manga are basically two different versions of a similar story (just like Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind).
One thing most old time viewers of Akira will remember is the dub. It was pretty bad, and pretty funny. It really didn't really do the film justice. Well Pioneer has heard your pleas and decided to do a brand new dub. And it's very good. Almost everyone does a bang up job in this. Many familiar voices will pop out at you and it was nice to see some of the faces from familiar dub actors on the documentary provided on the second disc (as Ladycat said... "Whoa, Vash is a hottie!"). Yes one of my favorite voice actors from Trigun plays the part of Kaneda in this dub. Again there are some weaker supporting roles, but for the most part this is a good dub.
Akira's music reminds me of the same basic style that Ghost in the Shell used. It's got that more traditional Japanese sound to it. And like the later film, Akira uses the style as a base and builds off of it. The result is a very unique soundtrack that you remember long after the movie finishes. Most of the time the music fits the action and visuals, and many times it adds another layer of depth to the scene. This is not your typical score and there is no J-pop (as far as I heard) anywhere around. Because of this some people don't like the score much. I think that it work perfectly with the film and is unique to it.
Is Akira entertaining? Well, I didn't find it so much entertaining as intriguing. As I mentioned above, when you watch it for the first time, you will be blown away by the animation, so much so that you might miss the fact that the plot is pretty standard. But if you're looking for something that was more artistic in way Perfect Blue and Ghost in the Shell are, you might be disappointed. Akira is Akira: it's definitely worth seeing, but it's not everyone's cup of tea. It's also something that I know I want in my collection, but I'm not sure how much I'll be watching it. When it comes down to it, I was more entertained by Castle of Cagliostro and Perfect Blue than this film. But if you haven't seen Akira I can definitely recommend seeing it once. It's a piece of anime history that every anime fan needs to check out.
Roman J. Martel
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