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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover



Starring (voice): Mitsuo Iwata, Nozomu Sasaki and Mami Koyama
Manga Entertainment
RRP: £24.99
Certificate: 15
Available 27 June 2011

Neo-Tokyo, 2019, is a city on the edge of social collapse. Bike gangs roam the streets at will, while the militaristic police put down civil unrest with an iron glove. Through the cityscape Kaneda and Tetsuo, with their other gang members, continue their feuds with other local gangs. During one night of fighting Tetsuo crashes his bike, barely missing a strange looking child; it is a meeting which will start Tetsuo’s transformation from delinquent to a being with godlike potential...

Akira (1988 - 2 hr, 04 min, 28 sec) is the seminal anime film by Katsuhiro Ohtomo, which not only broke anime out of its niche slot in the west, but was the film against which subsequent movies would be measured. But does Akira still hold up twenty-five years later?

The first thing to say is that no matter how good Akira is, it is not the film which novices to anime should be exposed to first. The main reason for this is that the truncation of the original manga makes some of the story lines difficult to follow.

The relationship between Tetsuo and Kaneda is a complex one and lies at the heart of the film. Raised together in an orphanage Tetsuo is always the weakest of the pair, even at their first meet Kaneda comes to his rescue and continues to rescue him into their adolescence. This leads to contradicting feelings in Tetsuo and Kandea continuous habit of putting him down in front of the other gang members breed both reliance and resentment.

Unknown to Tetsuo he contains the potential for great power, but as that power manifests itself his darker, angry side becomes the dominating influence. The film does not shy away from graphic portrayals of dismemberment and gore. In this respect it was, at the same time, more realistic and more extreme than many of its contemporaries.

Ambivalence is not only confined to Tetsuo, Kaneda appears to be immune to the effects that his constant ribbing of Tetsuo is having on him. Before Tetsuo’s power manifests itself Kaneda, along with some friends, attempts to rescue him from the military. Oddly, when the two friends confront each other, with Tetsuo screaming his rage at Kaneda and ably displaying that he no longer needs a rescuer, Kaneda doesn’t hesitate in trying to kill his friend with a laser rifle.

This richly destructive relationship comes to a climax with Tetsuo’s revelation of Akira, the creature whose power destroyed the original Tokyo. Having waited so long for the revelation, the film's only disappointing aspect is the realisation of Akira, which is frankly underwhelming.

The Blu-ray is nice and an improvement on the digitally restored DVD version, but not by much. Audio options come in the form of an English and Japanese Dolby HD, Japanese Dolby Digital and Japanese PCM. If there has been little improvement in the picture, the sound of the film is the best that I have heard it.

Certainly if you do not own this film, and if not, why not, then the Blu-ray is the way to go as it just edges ahead. If you own the restored DVD version you might want to rent it first to see if the difference is enough for you, especially because of the lack of extras.

As a twenty-fifth anniversary version of the film I was expecting something special on the extras front. What extras you do get are, for the most part, disappointing as they consist of four teasers and a TV commercial. The one worthwhile extra is the thirty-six original storyboards.

In the end the film still represents one of the best anime movies made, with its hand drawn frames displaying the difference between art and artefact.


Charles Packer

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