Best Blu-ray Deals
Best Blu-ray Deals, See All the Deals »
Top deals |
On July 16, 1988, Tokyo was destroyed by what was believed to be a new type of bomb, triggering World War III. Thirty-one years later, in 2019, Neo-Tokyo has arisen from ashes under Japan's new political system; but the glittering city is built on foundations of poverty, ignorance and despair. Kaneda and his friends, a bunch of juvenile delinquents, rumble with a rival group of bikers. While the police attempt to disperse a riot with tear gas, the rumble continues. Tetsuo takes the lead and, after disposing of his opponents, nearly runs down what looks to be a 100-year-old baby. Tetsuo's bike suddenly explodes and he is taken prisoner by the top-secret Akira Project where he is subjected to a series of tests which unleash his latent psycho-kinetic powers. But he is really more powerful than anyone imagined and breaks out, creating a swathe of destruction across the city as he mutates into another life form.
For more about Akira and the Akira Blu-ray release, see Akira Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on November 8, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Cameron Clarke, Mitsuo Iwata, Jan Rabson, Nozomu Sasaki, Lara Cody, Mami Koyama
Director: Katsuhiro Otomo
» See full cast & crew
Akira Blu-ray Review
A classic turns 25.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, November 8, 2013
Akira is almost universally held up as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, anime feature films of all time, and in fact as I mentioned in my recent review of Royal Space Force: Wings of Honneamise, when curious neophytes ask longtime anime fans what they should watch as an introduction to the genre, Akira is almost always at or near the top of the list. Now some 25 years after its initial release (wow!), Akira still stands tall, one of the few supposed landmark films that actually manages to live up to its hype. Any lover of anime will no doubt recognize a wealth of accomplishments Akira bestowed upon the genre. It's all here: the post-Apocalyptic setting, the dense, painterly animation style, and perhaps most of all, the unabashed philosophical bent which would later inform such anime legends as Mamoru Oshii's vaunted Ghost in the Shell franchise. Akira's ultimate plot plays a little like the flip side of the Star Child in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Instead of depicting human evolution and/or mutation as a fetal wide eyed wonder, we're instead shown the tempestuous Id driven world of a teenager or young man confronting newfound powers and leaving a trail of devastation in his wake. The film's director and co-writer Katsuhiro Otomo was also responsible for the almost insanely long manga series that provided source material, and he probably wisely severely whittled down the patently huge scope of the manga, deleting huge amounts of plot information and streamlining various characters in order to provide a clearly comprehensible through line for the adaptation. Still, Otomo delivers an undeniably epic production, one which lovers of animation in general, rather than "only" anime, really should consider required viewing.
Despite Otomo's redaction of his original source material, Akira is still an incredibly complex and layered film, one which defies easy categorization, despite the fact that it's regularly lumped into what has frankly become a cottage industry in the ranks of anime, the post-Apocalyptic outing. There's a very brief back story alluded to in the film's opening moments, where Tokyo is devastated by an atomic explosion. Decades later, Neo Tokyo, a gleaming array of glass and steel, has taken its place. Beneath the utopian skyscrapers, however, a teeming mass of unruly misfits roam the streets. Among these folks are dueling motorcycle gangs, including The Capsules, led by a kid named Kaneda whose best friend (despite some good natured ribbing) is fellow cycle mate Tetsuo. These two and the rest of their gang are involved in a skirmish with a rival gang called The Clowns when Tetsuo is seriously injured when he tries to avoid hitting a really odd looking little boy who seems to be suffering from progeria, the premature aging disease. (This is neither here nor there, but I have always thought that at least two of the kids suffering from this syndrome in Akira bear a rather unlikely resemblance to actor-songwriter Paul Williams.)
That "kid" (despite his appearance to the contrary) turns out to be Takashi, one of a group of mutants known as espers, who have been part of a top secret government program where they've been utilized in a manner that bears a perhaps passing similarity to the Precogs in Philip K. Dick's Minority Report. After the accident, both Takashi and Tetsuo are secreted away by a paramilitary group. Kaneda attempts to find out what's happened to his friend, but ends up getting interrogated by the police, which only raises his suspicions. He also meets Kei, who turns out to be part of the revolutionary group which had attempted to free Takashi from his imprisonment. A quest of sorts then unfolds where Kaneda and Kei work in tandem to not just figure out what's going on with Tetsuo and the espers, but to also divulge a much more pervasive conspiracy that actually traces back to that nuclear explosion shown briefly in the film's opening seconds. A mysterious esper named Akira seems to be the key to that holocaust, and Tetsuo, who it turns out has his own esper-like superpowers, is convinced that finding Akira will create a New World OrderŚwith Tetsuo in charge.
This prÚcis barely hints at the labyrinthine world of Akira, a film which traffics in many ideas which later became anime staples, but which here offers up a veritable smorgasbord of interlocking plot points which deal with issues of loyalty and friendship, governmental malfeasance, the limits of power, and indeed the corruptive influence of power. It's a remarkably well modulated piece of writing, one which ultimately pits Tetsuo against Kaneda and with a glut of supporting characters entering the fray for a "different" kind of apocalyptic showdown. The film is highlighted by its incredibly expressive animation style, where virtually every frame is stuffed to the gills with visual information. This very aspect is itself hugely influential in the next generation of anime, as even casual fans of the genre will no doubt realize. But Akira also has a surprising amount of emotional depth, something that many offerings which followed in its wake weren't able to recreate. (As brilliant as Oshii's efforts undeniably are, for example, they frequently appeal more to the head than the heart.)
There are a couple of things to keep in mind if you're new to the Akira universe. This is most definitely not a "cartoon" for kids. In addition to its rather adult skewing subject matter, there's rather graphic violence scattered throughout the film, and some of the imagery is also a bit on the provocative side, including some scenes that younger kids especially will probably find frightening. But Akira is that rare filmŚanime or notŚthat repays repeated viewings. The depth of the imagery as well as the multilayered plot and fascinating characters reveal new nuances in subsequent visits which only speak to the fact of how supremely wrought this outstanding feature really is.
Akira Blu-ray, Video Quality
Akira is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Funimation Entertainment with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.85:1. Lovers of this film will already know that Bandai Visual imprint Honneamise released a Blu-ray edition of Akira several years ago, which my colleague Dustin Somner reviewed here. As you can see from the screenshots accompanying that review, that release was slightly window boxed (something Bandai Visual also did with its release of Royal Space Force: Wings of Honneamise). Interestingly, while Maiden Japan's new release of Royal Space Force: Wings of Honneamise preserves that window boxing, Funimation has eliminated it on Akira, preserving the film's 1.85:1 aspect ratio with the now more common simple black bars above and below the image. Otherwise, the differences between the first Blu-ray release and this one are minimal at best. Colors appear to be slightly brighter and better saturated on this new release, though not by any huge degree, but that said this release looks spectacularly vivid, especially with regard to the very distinctive hues that I have sometimes called "Akira reds" (see screenhot 7 accompanying this review for a good example). The two releases are virtually identical in terms of grain structure (which can be quite heavy at times, especially during opticals like lap dissolves) as well as the general overall look of the image, and both have minor issues with noise spiking in some very dark scenes. Akira has never been a razor sharp offering, and younger viewers especially may find it supposedly "soft" looking, when really this is just an accurate rendering of the hand drawn and hand painted approach the film offers. There's excellent density overall in this release, with crisp line detail, though black levels are just slightly inconsistent, sometimes tipping slightly toward a milky dark blue. Once or twice there are also minimal frame alignment issues which cause the image to slightly shift (look at the scene where the kids are gathered around the outdoor fountain for a good example).
Akira Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Akira continued to make news past its theatrical premiere and subsequent cult status among anime fans when the first Bandai Visual release presented an astoundingly forceful Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix at 192kHz (16 bit). That track is ported over to this Blu-ray release, but an added draw for fans, despite their relatively meager sound when compared to the Japanese track, is the inclusion of both English dubs. The first (1988) dub is presented in Dolby TrueHD 2.0 while the 2001 re-dub is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (both 96/16). Each of these dubs has their fans, but I have to say once you've sampled the Japanese track, I personally can't imagine anyone other than those who can't stand subtitles opting for either of the English tracks. Just the difference in amplitude alone should be enough to keep any serious audiophile glued to the Japanese track. This is one of the most relentlessly immersive tracks ever released on Blu-ray, one filled with unbelievable panning noises (listen to the roar of the motorcycles zooming through the rear and side channels in the early racing sequence), and a glut of other well done foley effects. Dialogue is cleanly presented and the score is also rather aggressively pumped up (though never overbearing) in this mix. The English options by comparison come off as pallid also rans, especially the 2.0 mix which suffers from some minimal distortion and an oddly tinny sound that belies its "not that old" genesis. All of this said, it can be fun to actually experience the film three times with the different tracks, as they are manifestly divergent at times. There are even discrepancies in dialogue. At around 38:20, the English 5.1 track has a line by a scientist that neither the English 2.0 nor the Japanese 5.1 includes, despite the fact that the character's mouth is moving.
Akira Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Like many fans of Akira, I've bought a lot of different versions through the years (yep, including that pricey steelbook DVD edition as well as the Special Edition Blu-ray that was released a few years ago). Completists may be disappointed to see that not all available supplemental material has made it to this Blu-ray release, but there is a still a decent assortment of bonus material here, including:
Akira Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Akira deserves its reputationŚit's really just that simple. This is one of the most consistently amazing anime from a visual perspective ever produced, and even better, it backs up its incredible aesthetic with an actually intelligent plot. Some may frankly be put off by the film's overt violence, and younger viewers may not cotton to the film's "old school" animation style, but anyone who loves the art of animation really should check out Akira at least once. My hunch is, those sampling it for the first time are going to want to return to it repeatedly, as I have over the years. This new release doesn't offer a huge uptick in video quality from the previous Blu-ray release, but it offers both English dubs and a very good assortment of supplements. Highly recommended.
Akira: Other Editions
Use the thumbs up and thumbs down icons to agree or disagree that the title is similar to Akira. You can also suggest completely new similar titles to Akira in the search box below.
Similar titles suggested by members
Akira Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Akira: 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Detailed - September 12, 2013
FUNimation has revealed a number of details about its Blu-ray/DVD combo pack release of Akira. The new 25th Anniversary Edition not only includes a variety of bonus content, it features original Japanese audio and both the Kodansha/Streamline and Pioneer/Animaze ...
• FUNimation Announces November 2013 Slate - August 20, 2013
FUNimation Entertainment has announced its November 2013 release slate, which includes five titles on Blu-ray: Akira: 25th Anniversary Edition, Maken-Ki! Battling Venus: Limited Edition, Binbo-gami ga! Good Luck Girl!: Limited Edition, One Piece: Strong World, ...
Akira Blu-ray, Forum Discussions
» Show more forum discussions for Akira Blu-ray
Akira Blu-ray Screenshots
Back to Akira Blu-ray »
Trending Blu-ray Movies
Trending in Theaters
This web site is not affiliated with the Blu-ray Disc Association.
All trademarks are the property of the respective trademark owners.
© 2002-2014 Blu-ray.com. All rights reserved.