Plot: What’s it about?
The government has been working on a top secret project called Akira and of course, it ends up causing serious problems, though not right off the bat. Tetsuo is a member of a biker gang and becomes involved in Akira, but his friend Kaneda thinks it is a bad idea and decides to save him, but things don’t go as planned. Kaneda is also the leader of the biker gang and as such, can handle himself well and in this case, he will need to do so quite often. As he tries to get Tetsuo out of the experiment, he runs into all sorts of problems, from antigovernment factions to ruthless scientists, all of whom have personal agendas to push. As time passes, Tetsuo becomes enraged at all the people he sees and as a result, something snaps inside of him, due in large part to the experiments he underwent as part of Akira. He soon shows his supernatural powers and begins a bloody path of chaos, which leads to the Tokyo Olympiad, where something that’s been hidden for a long time could soon be revealed to all…
Akira stands as one of the true anime classics, so it is well deserved that it gets released in a superb two disc special edition. As you might know, Pioneer spent some cash having the film restored and even created a new English dub, for those interested in that option. But more on the specs of this release later on, let’s use this space to discuss the film itself. I am not a diehard anime fan by any means, but I own a large selection of titles and of those, Akira is one of my personal favorites, to be sure. The animation is very good and while a little dated when compared with modern releases, it still stands up well enough. But what makes Akira so good is the writing, the animation, and of course, the great character designs. This flick really hit a chord with mainstream audiences, perhaps more than any other anime movie, including Princess Mononoke. It takes a hard edged violent streak and throws it into an intelligent script, which is a recipe for a memorable picture, without a doubt. And remember, this is rated R for a reason, so don’t assume that because it is animated that it’s for kids, as Akira is for a more mature audience. The film itself is very highly recommended and if you decide to pick this up, make sure you nab the two disc version, as it packs more of a punch.
Video: How does it look?
Akira is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. As I mentioned, Pioneer has restored the image here and it shows, I’ve never seen Akira look this good, even in theaters. The print is so clean and sharp, it is almost like watching a new flick at times, to be honest. The colors no longer look faded and instead seem vibrant & bold, but never too much so, by any means. The black levels are dead on also, starker than ever before, but never at the expense of detail, which remains high at all times. The crispness and clarity of this transfer simply boggle the mind, I never imagined it would look this fantastic here. As you can tell, I am very pleased with Pioneer’s restoration of Akira, as well as this transfer and I think fans will be also.
Audio: How does it sound?
I also mentioned the new English language version created for this release, which is much better than the old one, but still can’t compete with the original Japanese edition, if you ask me. The English track here is Dolby Digital 5.1 however, while the Japanese is a simple surround option, which could let down some folks. Even if it lacks some of the punch, the Japanese track is still great and has a nice range and scope, I think. The English option sounds better though, with more punch and power when it needs it, which enhances the atmosphere. This disc also includes English subtitles, just in case you’ll want to use those.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This two disc special edition is packed with goodies, including a special “capsule mode” option, which can be activated to run as the flick plays. If you enable this mode, a capsule will pop at times and then you press enter, to see the additional information on that scene. We’ve seen this kind of feature before of course, so it shouldn’t be hard to get the hang of, by any means. I am pleased this was included here, as the more information, the better, if you ask me. Even more goodies can be found on disc two, such as the complete storyboards for the film, unused storyboards, unused backgrounds, initial character designs, comics & magazines, movie & promotional art, and VHS, CD, and other artwork. These features are awesome to say the least, especially all the storyboards and the unused stuff, very cool indeed. You can also view extensive material on the film’s audio designs, available with or without English narration. A total of seven segments have been covered and you can view these as single featurettes, or as one large piece, which is what I chose to do. These offer a lot of insight into the soundtrack and if you like it as much as I do, then you won’t want to miss this section on the disc.
Next is the production report area, which is a series of ten brief featurettes which focus on various areas of production. The origins of Akira, the storyboard process, voice recording, even the creation of the trailer, it’s all covered here and even more topics get discussed. If you want a look behind the scenes of Akira, then look no further, as this is all you need to know and then some. Again, you can watch these as a whole or as more specific shorter pieces, with optional English subtitles provided. An extensive interview with director Katsuhiro Otomo is also included here, which runs just under half an hour and adds even more insight to this release. This piece has optional English subtitles and that’s good for those of us who don’t speak Japanese, as we’d miss out on some terrific information from the man behind Akira. In a most unique and welcome notion, this release also has a complete glossary to terms, people, and places found in the flick, all presented in an easy to navigate format, awesome stuff indeed. From A-Room to Yamagata’s Bike, you’ll find it all listed in this in depth guide to Akira, which fans will treasure, I’m sure. You can also view three featurettes on the film’s restoration, which cover the video overhaul, new English dub track, and the new English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix found on this release. This disc also includes two special announcements, two theatrical trailers, and a television spot.