AKIRA - remastered and out now on BluRay

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Akira: Collector's Edition Steel Book

Label:
Manga UK
Certificate:
15
Format:
BluRay (+bonus DVD)
Discs:
1 + 1 bonus DVD
Running time:
124 mins approx + extras
Subtitles:
English, Japanese
Video:
anamorphic 16:9
Sound:
English TrueHD , Japanese TrueHD, 5.1 or 2.0
Release date:
27th June 2011
RRP:
£20.00(ish) Amazon - Play

Brief synopsis:

2019, 30 years after the opening salvo of WWIII decimated Tokyo, the sprawling futuristic megalopolis of NeoTokyo now covers much of it’s ruined predecessor. But the glitz and glamour of this technological city is just a façade, hiding a crumbling city still recovering from the devastation unleashed upon it decades before. Rival biker gangs roam the highways, anti-government protesters take to the streets and the police do their best to stop the city from overflowing into anarchy. When two life-long biker buddies - Kanada and Tetsuo - both members of the notorious “Capsule Gang”, cross paths with a strange young boy with even stranger telekinetic powers fleeing from the military, they are suddenly caught up in a government plot to create super-human super-weapons. When Tetsuo is captured by the military it’s up to Kanada to effect a rescue… but what Tetsuo really needs rescuing from may not be either the Military or the Government, but from himself.

Comments:

OK, so if you know what Akira is, then you’ve probably already made your mind up whether to buy this BluRay or not. But, if you haven’t heard of Akira (shame on you), well let’s put it this way; It’s not just an anime movie from the 80s… it’s the anime movie of the 80s. Thinking about it, it’s pretty much the movie most to thank (or blame depending on your point of view) for bringing anime to the western world. Originally released 23 years ago (1988), directed by Katsuhiro Otomo and based on his own long running manga of the same name, Akira broke so much new ground that you could have built a shopping mall the size of Bluewater in it’s wake.

So much that we take for granted today, what with our 3D CGI extravaganzas and epilepsy inducing eye-fests, just hadn’t been dreamed off back in the 80s, let alone attempted on the big screen.

Back in the day, things like the streaking of motorcycle tail-lights, the shattering of glass, fog and smoke effects, all of these were cutting edge visuals and all done by hand. Yes, by hand!… all of it!. It’s said that during production they realised that there wasn’t actually enough shades of red paint available so they had to create a whole new swath of shades just to be able to cope with the animators needs. Nowadays we’d just get a computer to do it all which, though quicker, easier and a lot less demanding on the old human labour so therefore much, much cheaper, loses some of it’s… well humanity. Even the slight imperfections work in it’s favour and often stop the animation from slipping into the uncanny valley effect that many modern animations can so easily fall prey to.

But, does it still look good 20 years later? Well surprisingly yes, it does, and don’t just mean it looks good, I mean it still looks really good. OK, there may be some elements that are looking a bit dated (come on, it was the 80’s) but I’d still go so far as to say that Akira in it’s new re-mastered form is still as impressive and exciting today as it was when it was it was first released, which in all probability was before many of you reading this review were even born.

So what have they done with this re-release to warrant parting with your cold hard cash? Well firstly there’s the visual re-mastering and, unlike with some other recent releases (Ghost in the Shell 2.0 for one), what they’ve done is resisted the urge to add in new CGI or “enhance” the special effects whilst making the transfer from the original prints over to it’s new HD digital home, instead opting to use the new technology now available to tweak the colours and clean up any imperfections which may have sneaked in over the last 20 or so years.

And I feel this restraint was an excellent move as adding in anything new to this anime classic would have been akin to taking the Mona Lisa away for a bit of a wash & brush up and then gifting the old girl with more cleavage, adding in a bit of bling and sticking a Ferrari in the background for good measure. Or even worse still, messing about with a bunch of CGI so that now our roguish antihero no longer shoots first… Sacrilege I tell thee!

But what’s most impressive is what’s been done to the sound. The audio for this film was always good - and the Director Otomo and Composer Ohashi tag team can do more with ten seconds of near silence than the likes of Michael Bay can do with a full five minutes of ear splitting cacophony - but this re-release really excels in it’s audio. If you’ve got a decent sound system set-up then this is the BluRay that you’re going to be benchmarking it off for years to come

The English dub is offered in Dolby TrueHD using the second version of the English language dub (the Pioneer version from 2001 aka “the good one” rather than the Streamline version from 1988 aka “the crap one”) but it’s the Japanese Dolby TrueHD version that really rocks all kinds of socks. Remixed at 24-Bit & 192kHz (instead of the usual 24/48kHz) from the original recorded elements by the original composer, and presented in something that the boffins are calling super dynamic “hypersonic” audio, it’s said to work not just on your ears but also on your brain as well. To put it in layman's terms, just one single “hypersonic” audio track contains so much data that it can only be used on BluRay releases as it would pretty much fill an entire DVD on it’s own without leaving any space for the video as well. Now I’m not exactly sure how the science behind it all works and what those numbers mean but to paraphrase Cave Johnson “I run those numbers through my ear-holes and I get a happy face”. The only problem here is that most home entertainment systems will have no chance of ever playing this release at it’s full audio potential, which is a crying shame. Personally I had to take the disc for a sneaky viewing at a well-known home entertainment equipment stockist in order to get the most out of it, and boy was it worth it.

Extras:

Well apart from a 40 page booklet exclusive to the UK release there’s also the whole film again on a separate DVD, a lengthy “production report” featurette, trailers & teasers and literally hundreds of pages of storyboards. And if that’s not enough, the whole thing comes in a very nice (and I’m not just saying that, it is actually very nice) brushed steel case.

Akira: Collector's Edition Steel Book is available from most high streets and online retailers. A trailer can be found here at Manga UK’s website. You can also buy it in DVD or BluRay only versions.