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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Akira (Movie_Only Edition)
Akira (Movie_Only Edition)
Pioneer
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted July 25, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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The Movie:

Japanese Animation (often called "Japanamation" or "Anime") is frequently becoming more and more of an influence in American animation, as some subtle touches of it seem to have influenced recent Disney efforts. A grander example would be "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within", the recent mega-release that seemed to have influences from the more traditional Japanese animation while also providing some of the most life-like animated characters that audiences have ever seen.

The one film that many consider to be one of the best, if not the best, example of the genre is "Akira", the 1988 film adaptation of the novel by Katsuhiro Otomo. The story takes place in Neo-Tokyo, 30 years after World War III broke out. Although the city has been rebuilt, things are not exactly going too well - the military has attempted to rule the city, but biker gangs do battle in the streets at night and crime still remains. Kenada is one of the leaders of the biker groups, and they search for their friend Tetsuo, who has been taken away by the military after it's realized that he has special powers.

In their quest to find him though, Tetsuo's power grows too rapidly for him to handle and he becomes psychotic, driven to try and unleash the feared power of "Akira", which will destroy Neo Tokyo again. The film is a breathtaking example of not only Japanamation, but animation in general. The amount of detail to nearly every frame is exceptional and the use of color is truly amazing. The film definitely stands out as a classic.


The DVD

VIDEO: Although not without some flaws, Pioneer's restoration of "Akira" can be mostly called a success. Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, the presentation provides exceptional sharpness and detail, as the animation of the film has never looked so exceptionally well-defined in the past editions that I've seen of the film. Even the darkest sequences provide impressive visual information.

The problem that I found with the image quality is not due to age. In fact, "Akira" looked remarkably clean. I simply noticed some grain and the occasional speckle - otherwise, there were no major marks, scratches or flaws. I didn't see pixelation, either. What I did notice was the occasional instance of edge enhancement, which made for some very slight distractions at times. Had it not appeared, I'd find it hard to make out any concerns with this transfer as it looks superb otherwise.

Colors look outstanding - "Akira" presents a rich, vibrant color palette that practically leaps off the screen in this new edition as colors look well-saturated and clean, never "smeared". This edition is not without a few small faults, but I would guess that it's never looked this good in previous releases to home video. THX approved.

SOUND: The new DVD edition thankfully includes both the original language (Japanese Dolby 2.0) and a newly created English Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation so that viewers have the opportunity to choose, although the formats both provide a different listening experience. The Japanese track provides a respectable amount of activity along with the benefit of the original language and English subtitles instead of the dubbing - although actually, the dubbing isn't terrible. Certainly, there are quite a few moments where what the characters are saying don't match up to their mouth movements, but there were also some stretches that appeared closer than these kind of dubbed editions usually appear.

Surround use on the English 5.1 presentation isn't constant, but surrounds do come into play quite nicely throughout the film for either the music or sound effects. Although I can't understand Japanese, the actors seemed to offer better line readings than the English dubbed speakers. Still, the audio quality of dialogue on both presentations sounded clear and clean.

MENUS:: Basic, non-animated menus livened by pictures of Belluci.

EXTRAS:: A capsule option provides additional information such as translations of important elements of the scene. If turned on, viewers will see a logo at the bottom of the screen and after pressing enter they will be taken to another screen before being brought back again. A limited edition tin is also available, and that contains extensive supplemental features. Yet, one should act fast if they want to purchase this set, since some retailers like Amazon.com have the movie-only edition, but are already sold-out of the special edition tin.

Final Thoughts: "Akira" is an absolutely breathtaking epic of animation that definitely deserves to be seen, although with its violent content, this certainly isn't a film for children. Fans of the film will want to seek out the Limited Edition, although that may not be easy as retailers like Amazon.com have already sold out of that edition, while the movie-only edition remains widely available. Recommended.

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