Think about this, even for just a quick minute; Akira first made its film début 25 years ago, since then technological advances have been substantial and have changed not only the world in general but the animation industry in a very big way. How is it that Akira still stands its ground after 25 years of Anime evolution? How is it that Akira, after the countless number of fantastic Anime movies and series that have been released since then, still stays the favourite movie of so many people around the world?
These types of movies do so much more than just take audiences away from their lives for two hours, they leave a legacy, one that we’re constantly reminded of time and time again. How many of you have watched the movie “Chronicle”, an American-made, live-action movie, and thought to yourself; “This really reminds me of Akira”. How many of you have gone back to watch the film after seeing something clearly inspired by it? This is its legacy and while it’s not the only movie that has a huge influence on the pop culture industry, it is one of the biggest and arguably one of the best.
The setting is Neo-Tokyo in the year 2019 and the city is slowly recovering from World War III and a separate disaster that actually ties into the entire premise of the movie, but I wont get into that quite yet. Kaneda and Tetsuo are two street punks and bike enthusiasts who run with a biker gang, the group are constantly in turf wars with other bikers and, after a fairly brutal showdown between them and a rival gang, the two young men stumble on what seems to be a classified and highly-dangerous Government project. Tetsuo literally hits a little boy with his bike, by accident of course, who doesn’t look entirely normal; his skin is a pale blue and is shrivelled of an 80 year old which, last time I checked, is something little boys shouldn’t necessarily have. The small boy somehow makes it out of the accident without a scratch, Tetsuo on the other hand is hospitalised in a secret Government facility…this is where the craziness kicks in.
While in the facility, certain tests are run on Tetsuo, it seems as though the boy he encountered was actually Government experiment and the scientists working on him seem to think that the Tetsuo has similar brain waves to a “prodigy”, so to speak, that was actually the cause of a certain disaster many years ago. Remember I mentioned it above? I said I’d get to it eventually. This secret branch of the government are trying their hands at creating telekinetic humans of which have a limitless number of capabilities, the boy in the accident was one of the many experiments that seemed successful to a certain degree though as much as the agency has tried they have not succeeded at recreating a controllable version of Akira, the prodigy. It seems as though Tetsuo is their next attempt to create the perfect telekinetic weapon and whether it goes good or bad is for you to find out when you watch the film. My lips are sealed but you can guess what happens next, it wouldn’t be much of a movie if the “secret government experiments” went smoothly.
Akira has a fantastic premise which, to my knowledge, is one that really hadn’t been touched on much by that point in time. I love a good story that mixes science with the supernatural and Akira, to this day, is still my most favoured example of such a mix. It is incredibly unique and mixes not only genres but characters from all different walks of life, you get to see the interaction of characters that, had these events never transpired, would never actually give each other the time of day. Street punks, government officials, scared children, and so many more types of people come together for one common purpose.
The characters were thought out and each of them came across well and actually had a purpose within the movie, big or small they all had their scenes and they all told us more about themselves and the characters around them. Characters like the group of girls who constantly hang off the gang, once Kaneda and the rest of the group stop thinking about their bikes and begin stressing over the disappearance of their friend and spiritual brother the young girls decide to ditch them because “without their bikes they’re nothing but skirt-chasers”. The lengths that Kaneda goes to in order to save another or to save his, now deranged, friend is something that he may not have necessarily done at the beginning of the film but it has become almost like second nature to him now simply because of the trouble he and the rest of the nation is in.
When watching Akira you absolutely have to pay as much attention as possible, it’s necessary to get the entire view of the story but it’s also a good idea to pay extra attention just to see the symbolism within it. I’ll give an example that takes place early on in the movie: The small boy I was talking about earlier and a grown man who does not get defined are being chased by the police, it doesn’t seem like they can catch them so the officers decide to release the police dogs to chase them through the traffic on the road and to bring the chase to a halt.
As the dogs duck in and out of stopped traffic you can notice large monitors throughout the street playing what looks like a Disney-inspired piece of footage which has two dogs eating a plate of some sort of undefined food. It constantly switches back and forth between the terrifying hounds and the harmless cartoon in the background, obviously I don’t have to point out exactly what it is doing, the simple comparison between the two is enough to get your brain-juices flowing but I’m simply making a point. I could honestly sit here all day talking about what Akira does right so, at the risk of having this review go on for too long, I’ll instead say this to you: The story will not disappoint in any way, if you watch the movie and feel like there are a whole bunch of inconsistencies and useless scenes, I just don’t think you’re watching it properly.
I’ll start by simply saying: Akira is old, you have to keep that in mind while watching this movie and, take note, there is a big difference between old and classic; a 1998 Ford Laser is not the same as a 1967 Shelby Mustang. Fortunately, and much like an old Mustang, Akira holds up well in 2013 despite its release 25 years ago, I’ve seen a whole lot of Anime movies and series’ that aren’t animated as well as Akira is. The remastered version of the film takes care of a great deal of the “grainy” look that the original film had and while it still has remnants of it, I wouldn’t consider it to be that bad at all. The character design is a really nice and each of the main cast do really resemble what they looked like in the original Manga so you could say it transitioned well from one medium to the next.
The greatest visual aspect of the film, apart from the animation itself, would have the be the environment design. See Neo-Tokyo in HD is one of the many things that got me excited to revisit this movie once again, they did a perfect job putting across what a semi-futuristic city would look like; it’s not all incredibly pristine nor is it unbelievably dingy. For the most part it’s the same as any metropolis but they addition of the “being built” Olympics Stadium and certain buildings that look more advanced than others gives the overall vibe of “moving forward into the future”. It was all done very well and, like I said, the animation was just incredible.
For once in a very long time it seems as though I’ve come across a film that has decided to use a lack of music to perfectly describe what’s happening within a scene to an audience member auditorily. There are only a handful of moments in the entire film that I can remember hearing certain musical tracks and THOSE were used just as well as no music was in other scenes. The music made by what seemed to be some kind of church organ really fit in so well with the theme of the film, there was also a great deal of tribal music used and it almost went from tribal to organ as the story progressed which suits Tetsuo’s growth and change throughout. He goes from being a juvenile delinquent to being the next true form of human evolution, from tribal to holy all in one film. Going back to the lack of music in scenes; it was a great way to put across the feeling of isolation and loneliness, you have to remember that the more Tetsuo grows into his abilities, the more separated he become from normal human beings and, more importantly, the friends his made into his family. Tell me that’s not perfect.
One thing I will say about the voice acting of the movie is that it fluctuates between great and simply acceptable, some voice actors and actresses make up for what the others lack and it times it can be a little annoying, not overly annoying because the voice actors still do a great job but it’s noticeable that some are a great deal better than others. Though the fantastic thing about this release is that, and sorry for being blue, it covers its own arse. It gives you the option to watch the movie in three different dubs; like normal Anime releases you can watch it in both English and Japanese but there are two different English dubs that you can watch it in which are the original dub of the movie and the dub that was done in 2001 so if you don’t like one of them you can always switch over to the one that you enjoy more.
As you can probably already tell by the name of the release, Akira 25th Anniversary Special Edition, it comes with a great deal of extras that are down right perfect for any fan of the movie. Physically the release is very solid, it comes in your standard Blu-Ray case but with an added dust sleeve that looks very nice in a collection, it also comes with a Production Booklet that explains a great deal of the intricacies within the story. It also things like production notes, designs and even an interview with Katsuhiro Otomo who is the original creator of Akira.
The on-disc extras are just as good, if not better, than the physical ones; normal things like trailers and commercials are present alongside storyboards and sound clips but it’s the additions of the director interview and the “Restoring Akira” extras that really hit hard. Obviously the director interview is self-explanatory and incredibly interesting much like the “Restoring Akira” extra which gives you a huge look into the behind-the-scenes areas of the industry. It takes you through how exactly they managed to get the footage into HD as well as stories of the crew’s favourite times working on the film, it gives so much information on the movie and really helps you appreciate the smaller things. There’s so much to see in this release, it really is more than just a movie.
Akira is a classic, it’s an old man that doesn’t want to die, he’s stubborn, he’s defiant, he’ll be around forever and, my God, has he done some great things in his time. The single that that it still stands as a great Anime movie even in this day and age is enough to warrant this a perfect score but it’s for so many other reasons, on top of that one, as to why it deserves to sit atop the Anime movie throne. The one things that bring it down even the slightest is a few of the voice actors in one of the three dubs you can choose from but, like I mentioned above, it covers itself and gives an audience member enough options to make them happy. As a whole release it really has nothing else you could want from it, it delivers in every way it can and it’s simply perfect in my eyes. Remember, at the end of the day it’s my opinion and when it comes to judging a full release the Akira 25th Anniversary Special Edition DVD and Blu-Ray combo really takes the cake.
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