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Akira: The Special Edition
review by Zach B.
Running Time: 125 minutes
Screenplay by Katsuhiro Otomo and Izo Hasimoto
Based on the graphic novel "Akira" by Katsuhiro Otomo
Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo
Retail Price: $39.98
Disc One - THX Optimode, Capsule Option
Disc Two - Production Report, Akira Sound Clip,
Director's Interview, Production Materials, Restoration,
Glossary, Trailers, TV Spot
Specs: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby
Digital 5.1, Japanese Dolby Surround, English Subtitles,
Scene Selection (36 Chapters), Two-Disc Set, THX
Released: July 24th, 2001
It's always hard for me to talk about movies that are so
groundbreaking and so incredible. "Akira" is truly one of
those movies. Released in 1988, it's largely credited for
starting the animé boom in the United States, not to
mention the impact it's had across the world and animation
itself. With it's incredible and really unique style, I
think from "Akira" on, Japanese animation really started to
take shape and find its voice. So many other animated films
have been inspired by it, but what makes "Akira" so
groundbreaking is that it still holds up well over a decade
later. It proves that any kind of animation doesn't have to
be "kiddie" or purely fun, that animation and animé
can be an incredible art form to tell all sorts of different
stories with adult themes such as sex, violence and pretty
deep messages that aren't always meant for younger ones.
Every time I see "Akira" I always think it's breathtaking
and I never get bored of it. I always find something new
within the film.
"Akira" follows two childhood friends, Kaneda and Tetsuo.
It's post World War III in Japan, where Neo Tokyo strives
for survival during the year 2019. However, Tetsuo has
strong psychic abilities and is given drugs to enhance them
after being captured. However, as the film progresses he
gets a bit more crazier and a lot more powerful. He has
hallucinations and soon his anger and powers take control of
them, which is where chaos begins to form. As Kaneda and
Tetsuo's friendship is put to the test, who can stop Tetsuo
from his mass destruction?
There's so much to like about "Akira", I don't know where
to begin. I'll start with the animation. Every time I see
the film or a clip, it makes me go "Wow". It has impressed a
lot of people and myself of course. The futuristic, neon
filled Neo-Tokyo looks so brilliant and still surpasses many
animated films today as far as depth and style (in my
opinion). The backgrounds and the character designs are also
pretty incredible. There's a ton of great visuals to enjoy.
And of course... the fantastic climax and ending. I won't
say much about it, but the first time I saw the film it
really blew me away.
What's so great about the film though is how it's really
a commentary on society. It's a pretty deep story actually,
and points out some interesting things about politics,
violence and the government. You really have to watch the
film a few times to take it all in. I could go on and on
about this, but I'd rather let you see it for yourself.
There's a lot of interpertations of what this film
represents, but it comes to talk about loyalty and honor.
I'd even say it's a character study of sorts, how Kaneda and
Tetsuo's friendship is tested and comes together through the
course of the film.
I mentioned earlier how Japanese animation really took
off after "Akira". While it can be argued, I'm not sure if
it would be as popular if the film didn't start it. After
the film's release in the U.S., more titles began to pop up
and the film as well as Japanese animation started to have a
cult following. While I think animé has gone really
mainstream now with a lot of television series ("Dragon Ball
Z" and "Sailor Moon" come to mind), Japanese animation still
retains a fairly diverse and nicely-sized audience in the
United States. I also talked a little about how the style
really began to define the genre and how other films have
been inspired by it. That still holds true today as I think
"Akira" has defined what animé is all about. I guess
you can say it helped shaped the mold. While there will
always be all different types of stories with Japanese
animated films, "Akira" is credited for helping to create
such a unique and interesting tale with a lot of subject
matter geared for adults. Simply put, I think it really
began the whole animé revolution and helped make the
genre what it is today.
"Akira" is truly a revolutionary movie and truly raised
the bar for Japanese animation. While some of us still think
animé is basically big-breasted women and some TV
series on certain properties meant for kids, "Akira" has
defined a generation of film and animation lovers. Even if
you're not that big into animation or anything, I highly
urge all of you to see "Akira". The visuals are tremendous,
the story is deep and exciting but once again you have the
chance to see a root of a giant tree that still grows today.
The root? A memorable movie that truly broke some major
ground. Whatever you do, don't miss it.
Sadly, the transfer for "Akira" is a bit disappointing.
It's not terrible, but for "digitally remastered picture"
and a recent restoration of the film I expected a whole lot
better. I'd think a movie like "Akira" they would have used
direct digital files seeing this film recently came off a
selected theater run in digital cinema, but alas, it seems
they did not. The film is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic
widescreen, the same ratio the film was originally presented
in and is THX certified. The transfer is pretty sharp, but
not as sharp as I hoped. It is plagued by grain at a lot of
times, a little bit of shimmering at points, some scratches
on the print and quite a few blemishes that I found on the
print were very distracting. On the plus side, there's a lot
to like about the transfer. The bold and wide variety of
colors look incredible and really give that punch to knock
your socks off. Detail is very good and black levels are
right on target. The excellent animation looks wondrous on
DVD and any Japanese animation fan as well as fans of the
film are going to be really pleased. The transfer is also
pretty sharp at certain points. I guess I was expecting
perfection because of the whole digital thing, but I didn't
get it. Either way, this is still a very nice restoration
that shows off the beautiful animation, the gritiness and
darkness the film has to offer.
The audio for "Akira" is quite nice and I don't think
people are going to be disappointed. A new English dub for
the film has been created and is presented in 5.1 Dolby
Digital. As far as dubs go, this one is very good. Words
often match the mouths of the characters, but sometimes they
don't exactly which some may find irritating. The new dub is
very true to the original Japanese script. The voices aren't
annoying at all and fit quite well with the characters, but
perhaps one or two may seem a bit cheesy to some. As far as
the track goes, I'd say this newly created 5.1 mix is
reference quality. This film is heavy on action and
violence, and in that area it does not disappoint with
audio. The .1 LFE is really incredible and some of the best
I've heard lately, while surrounds come active with the
haunting music, the loud gun shots and futuristic bikes
whirling by. I often felt I was caught in the middle of the
action in the bleak, post World War III Tokyo. Even smaller
sounds such as foot steps and doors opening sound so
natural. Yet a lot of the meat with this new 5.1 mix comes
with the fantastic action sequences... explosions, fires
bursting out... I was really impressed. It sounds like the
same old "Akira", but a little updated staying true to the
original sounds. There's a lot to like with this mix, and I
highly reccomend you check out the Restoration feature on
this set to learn more about the creation of this mix.
Also included is the original Japanese track in Dolby
Surround. It sounds pretty cleaned up. While it's surround
use is not as good as the new 5.1 mix, it packs a good punch
in its own right. Dialogue is crisp and clean and easy to
hear, no distortion or muffling. It sounds very natural and
not a day older after the thirteen years it has been.
Fidelity is very good and the sounds do sound very good and
gives it that whole original feeling. While it's not as
immersive as the new 5.1 dub, it's still excellent in its
own right and fans should be happy with this track. English
subtitles are also included.
"Akira" is being released in two seperate versions for
the time being: a standard version with just the film and a
special edition with two discs. If you're the type who loves
supplements and collectibles, this is the version to go
with. It's a two disc set and comes in a really spiffy
metallic case. But hurry, this version is limited to only a
75,000 copy run.
The first disc features THX Optimode so you can
adjust your home theater to represent the film's incredible
video and audio. Also on the disc is the Capsule
Option, a "follow-the-white-rabbit" sort of deal. During
the film when you have this turned on, a capsule (as in the
movie) appears on the screen. When you click on it, you are
taken to some literal translations of the Japanese on the
screen and can get more info out of the film. Chapter seven
is a good example of what this feature does. It's basically
text but does give you the translations, some of the stuff
gives further depth to settings and the characters. Keep in
mind due to this, you can't have English subtitles on or
even toggle to get them.
Ah, disc two, here's where the good stuff is. The
Production Report was a 1988 documentary about the
making of the film. It's divided into chapters and in
Japanese, but thankfully you get English subtitles so you
can under stand it. It has stills from the film, live action
footage of the studio where the film was produced and a
whole lot more. This lasts an incredible forty-eight minutes
and is well worth a watch. It's not the cheesy promotional
stuff so many of us are so used to seeing. It talks about
the creation of "Akira", the characters, backgrounds, the
music, the voices, storyboards and a lot more. Don't miss
this whatever you do.
Akira Sound Clip was also made in 1988, and is
divided into seven chapters complete with optional English
narration. "Akira" features a lot of great sounds that
really bring the film to life, and this nineteen minute
feature has a lot of information about the sounds. It's well
worth a watch.
Director's Interview is a great Katshuhiro Otomo
(the "Akira" creator) interview (duh) where he talks about
the film. It's in Japanese but has English subtitles. Fans
of the film won't want to miss this, as Otomo discusses the
world, creating it, his influences and a whole lot more.
There are clips from the film and stills throughout the
interview, as Otomo shows off his notebooks and the original
notes he had. It's in full frame and a nice length, and
again, fans of the film should really check this out.
Production Materials is the whole film broken down
in hundreds of stills that has storyboards, drawings and a
whole lot more. Pretty interesting.
The Restoration section is pretty neat, as it has
three different featurettes about the film's restoration
which I found pretty fasinating. Each feature interviews and
clips from the film. The first, "Picture", talks about
taking out grain and dirt (even with an example to show),
THX and correcting the picture. I'm always interested in a
procces like this, even though it's technical, it's pretty
cool. "English Voice Over" has interviews with the voice
actors and their thoughts on the characters. It's nicely
done. Finally, "English 5.1 Audio Mix" talks about creating
a new surround mix for the film with interviews with the
sound guys, film clips and behind-the-scenes footage.
Basically, this little piece talks about keeping true to the
original soundtrack while updating it for new technology. It
talks about the machines they use and the process. A bit
short but very cool.
The Glossary section is an amazing stills section
where you can learn about every single thing in the "Akira"
universe. There's a tremendous amount of stuff here that
includes settings, characters and a whole lot more. So if
you've had a question what something was in the film, look
no further and get it here.
Finally, the Trailers section has two Special
Announcments, two Trailers and a TV Spot,
all with optional English subtitles. They're pretty neat to
watch. On another note, I really liked the menus. Inside the
case you'll find a registration card, a McFarlane promo (for
the figures) and a booklet with a chapter stop list.
"Akira" is an incredible film that help put animé
on the map and make it what it is today. The restoration is
very good and the new sound mix is incredible, not to
mention some pretty cool features. This is a great release
for a fantastic film that I think adult audiences should
check out. I for one am incredibly happy "Akira" is now on
DVD. If you're a fan of the film and know you're going to
get the set, you better hurry: the special edition in the
tin case is limited to a 75,000 run. Still, enjoy Japanese
(4.5/5 - NOT included in
NOT an average)