New To Blu: Akira

Akira finally gets a proper blu ray re-release this week.

Akira was my personal gateway to the drug known as Japanese anime. I remember distinctly the first time I ever saw it. I just happened to catch it one Saturday on The Sci-Fi Network (they used to play anime movies on Saturday mornings back in the 1990’s). I was around thirteen at the time and my mind was utterly blown by what I saw.  Cartoons with blood and violence were virtually unknown in the west at the time and Akira was officially the coolest thing I had ever seen.  I was immediately hooked and spent most of my teenage years obsessed with anything Japanese-related.  It’s tapered off now that I’m in my thirties but I still watch anime from time to time and I am still fond of the classics. Akira is probably the most revered and well-known film in all of anime fandom and inspired many movies and books/manga in its wake.

Cyberpunk was at its peak in the 1980’s and Akira is one of the best movies ever made in the genre. The setting of Neo-Tokyo is brilliantly realized and executed with a gritty and sleazy atmosphere that is layered with a brilliant, neon luminescence that is absolutely awe-inspiring.  The animation is incredibly fluid and life-like and has that organic feeling that only cell animation can provide.  There is so much minute detail crammed into every single frame--you could see this movie ten times and still notice new things.  The plot is very complex and requires your full attention to keep up with but it’s still action-packed enough to keep the casual viewer engaged in the story. This movie introduced a lot of concepts that are considered cliché in anime today: troubled punk teenagers, secret government labs, superpowers, overly complex metaphysical explanations and bad ass fights.  It’s done expertly though and still holds up to today’s standards.

This film had a complete restoration done for the Blu-ray release and it looks incredibly crisp and clear.  In my opinion, it is one of the best looking animated films on Blu-ray and it can definitely be used to show off your TV/surround sound set-up.  The film was originally released on Blu-ray in 2009 by the now defunct Bandai Entertainment, but to my dismay it was missing the cheesy but endearing Streamline English dub (TETSUOOOO!) and had a brand new one replacing it. The Japanese language track is of course the preferred way of experiencing the film but I was a little bummed by its omission.  However, the classic Streamline dub is added back in the 25th Anniversary Edition Funimation release which is a nice little nod to the older American fans of Akira.

If you haven’t seen Akira then you owe it yourself to watch what is arguably the greatest anime film of all time.  It inspired so much popular culture with films like Blade Runner and The Matrix to literature such as William Gibson’s Neuromancer.  It’s an iconic cyberpunk classic that should not be missed.

-Review by Michelle Kisner