The year is 2019 and Neo Tokyo is a "mega-tropolis", a new city rebuilt after a massive explosion ravaged the original city in 1988, the result of an accident in the labs of the mysterious Akira project.
In Neo Tokyo things are not going well. The government is corrupt and self serving, leaving the inhabitants angry and disillusioned. Violent protests are breaking out and terrorist acts against the government are becoming common place. The less fortunate live in the old part of the city, a neglected ruin abandoned because of the explosion. It is here that we meet Tetsuo, the youngest member of a motorcycle gang and an angry young man. His best friend is the leader of the gang, Kaneda, who has looked out for Tetsuo ever since the two met at an orphanage many years ago. Tetsuo is a young man with a chip on his shoulder. While he respects Kaneda and the other, older members of the gang he longs for a chance to prove to them that he can now stand on his own. He desperately wants to earn their admiration and respect.
Tetsuo's gang have recently had some trouble with a rival gang, The Clown Faces. They chase some of this gang through the streets and attack them. During the pursuit the gang gets stopped, but Tetsuo manages to continue the chase and defeats a couple of his rivals. While taunting a downed opponent Tetsuo is distracted and nearly runs over a strange young boy. Tetuo's bike explodes into pieces just when it looks like he will run down the boy. Tetsuo is seriously injured by the accident, but before Kaneda and
his gang members can help him he and the mysterious boy are taken away by army helicopters.
The strange boy turns out to be a part of a secret government project and when they examine the seriously injured Tetsuo they discover that he has a psychic profile that will help their research, so they begin to develop his latent abilities. They fail to factor in Tetsuo's anger, however, and when he awakens from his coma he begins to develop his new found abilities, using them to take revenge on the city that treated him so badly as a child. Tetsuo discovers that he is a part of the Akira project and that its secret is held deep under ground. He decides that he must find out what Akira is and sets out in search of the underground storage facility. The leader of the Akira project is determined to stop him and Tetsuo must defeat their forces in order to reach his goal.
|"... mass destruction ... There do you see Kaneda? I won't be needing you to come to the rescue ever again!"|
The Akira story is the brain child of one man, Katsuhiro Otomo. The Akira story was initially developed as a comic strip in 1982 and was first published in Young Magazine where it attracted a loyal following.
Katsuhiro continued to work as a cartoonist, but was also interested in animation and produced a number of short features, as well as commercials, during the early '80s. He never forgot about Akira and in 1987 was able to put together a deal to create a full length animated feature of
the story. This movie runs for just over two hours and yet was produced with only minimal use of computers. Every single image was hand drawn, painted onto cels by a team of animators and then photographed in sequence to produce the final film.
Akira the movie was released in Japan in 1988 where it was a big success. It was then released into the U.S. in 1989, where it stayed in the Variety top 60 for 20 weeks. It introduced the world to the unique work of Japanese animation artists.
The video transfer for this DVD is all new. A new Inter Positive was taken from the original negative, scanned and colour corrected on a Spirit Datacine to produce a high definition master. This new digital transfer was then examined closely and reworked to remove dust marks and scratches from the image before being re-sampled to DVD resolution.
The 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced result is impressive, but not without a few minor faults. The good aspects of this transfer include clearly delineated and bright colours, impressive sharpness and high detail levels. The negatives
are restricted to very frequent but generally minor aliasing, some telecine wobble, some infrequent film artefacts and fine film grain.
This is an RSDL disc with the layer change taking place at 45:40. The placement of the change on this disc is excellent. It takes place during a fade to black and is completed very quickly. Under normal viewing conditions
I doubt that you will notice the change.
Some felt that the original English dub for Akira was not accurately translated and that the actors sounded wooden, so an all new translation of the original script was made for this project. New actors were hired to play each of the characters and more effort was made in the acting. The original music and sound effects were used, but were remixed to take advantage of the independent rear channels and full frequency range of the Dolby Digital AC3 codec. The result is a very effective Dolby Digital 5.1 track that is easily superior to the original Japanese and English surround tracks that are also present on this disc. I did sample the Japanese dub as this is the track that was used for the original theatrical release, but it is out shone by the new, carefully remastered English version.
One of the great features of the sound design in this movie is the score. It features percussive but musical rhythms using a uniquely Japanese instrument that resembles a Vibraphone or Xylophone but is made of bamboo. A choir is also used to great effect in many scenes. The sound effects for this movie were made using a revolutionary (for the time) audio system called a Synclavier. There is a short but interesting section in the "Making Of" documentary that shows this device being used during production of the film.
The new audio track is very good and the new English dub is great. The voices of the actors are always clear and the sync between the animated characters mouth movements and the spoken dialogue is excellent throughout. The surround channels carry ambient sounds in many scenes as well as full
blown effects at times, although they do fall silent during some periods of the film. Split channel and channel transition effects are used during many of the action sequences creating an exciting soundscape when they occur. Explosions, gunfire and rumbles are well supported by the subwoofer but never reach a level that becomes distracting.
Japanese Manga is unique stuff, Zen philosophy mixed with a healthy dose of Schwarzenegger action and a drop or two of horror and humour! It is certainly very "different" and bloody good fun. So, if you haven't seen Manga movies before I suggest you grab a copy of Akira and prepare
to be amazed! I can also recommend Ghost In The Shell, there's lots of action and the DVD is excellent.