Every genre has films which are not only considered classics, but are seen as the very definition of that genre: Psycho, Double Indemnity, Night of the Living Dead, Breakfast Club, The Towering Inferno. AKIRA is indisputably high — if not in the number one spot — on the list of movies which define Anime.
I can remember watching AKIRA not long after it’s original release in 1988. Well, that’s not exactly true. I had a persistent memory of having seen the film, but after having watched the film (again?) on Blu-Ray I have to admit that I remembered so little of the movie, that it’s entirely possible that I hadn’t seen it before at all.
This movie has all the hallmarks which would later become anime clichés. It’s set in a future which was affected by some epic or cataclysmic event in the past and beings exist who harbour powers beyond those of normal humans: In this case Tokyo had been destroyed by what was believed to be a nuclear explosion in 1988. This event led to the commencement of World War Three. The story picks up some thirty-one years later in Neo-Tokyo, a city build on an artificial island in Tokyo Bay. Not all is well in Neo-Tokyo, the lessons of the past have been forgotten and the city is in a state of constant alert as a result of gang violence and terrorism.
The protagonists in Akira are a group of fairly unlikeable, misogynistic, tool-bags, who get about calling themselves ‘The Capsules’ (a motorcycle gang). Apart from general tool-baggery, these guys don’t seem to have an agenda that goes beyond proving which one of them is the biggest tool-bag. As it stands at the beginning of the film, Shotaro Kaneda holds that title. However Tetsuo Shima resents being in his friend’s shadow and is out to prove that he’s as big a tool-bag as any of them – Especially Kaneda!
During one particularly violent night, a confrontation with a rival gang of tool-bags brings Tetsuo in contact with a strange looking young boy who possesses superhuman abilities. The violence is stifled when the military show up, arrest the gang and haul them off to the police station. All except for Tetsuo, who is taken — along with the strange child — for further study by the military.
This is a fantastic transfer, the image and audio quality are great. The only hint that we’re given to the age of this animation is the fact that it’s not peppered with computer generated elements. This is classic cell animation, and it’s a wonderful example of it. The only area where I felt this Blu-Ray release was a little thin, was in the extras department. There are a bunch of trailers and TV commercials (for Akira) and Storyboards, but no commentary of any type. There are however a myriad of options for audiophiles to choose from.
The release also includes a booklet which contains far more information than any commentary track could regarding the movie’s journey to Blu-Ray and information about the original animation and film production.
With ever growing talk of a live action adaptation of this story in the works (it’s not a remake, it’s an adaptation of the original 6 part manga that this film was based on), it’s probably a great time to get your hands on the original. How else are you going to complain about how wrong for the part Leonardo DiCaprio is! Okay Okay, DiCaprio is only a producer on the new adaptation… shut up and watch the blu-ray already! [source]