Katsuhiro Otomo’s magnum opus, based on his own manga that stretches for more than 2000 pages, is one of the landmarks of the anime genre, being universally acclaimed and having garnered a large cult following. The film is the epitome of post-apocalypse, one of the genre’s most cherished themes. Furthermore, the permeating violence, the not-so-obvious messages, and the complex story established the fact that anime were not only addressed to children and young teenagers, creating in the process a completely new market for the category.
Neo-Tokyo is a post-apocalyptic megalopolis that was built near the remains of the old city, which was destroyed during World War 3 by a nuclear attack. There, a motorcycle punk gang headed by Kaneda, is in constant fights with another gang, whose members call themselves “Clowns”. Unfortunately, Kaneda and his comrades find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, in an incident that includes government officials and some mysterious creatures. Furthermore, the government later arrests Tetsuo, a member of the gang.
Otomo describes a dystopian reality where gang wars, violence, abandonment, fear, and death synthesize the environment of a decaying metropolis, where violence and mayhem seem to be everywhere. In this setting every institution and setting has the role of the villain. Politicians misguide the people, the army has his own agenda, even using extreme experiments on kids to accomplish it, the police is not much different than the criminals, religion provides a futile solace, just addressed to the fanatics. Expectantly, the circumstances have created revolutionary groups, but they are also prone to violence, occasionally killing indiscriminately, while their struggle seems to have no avail.
Otomo seems to mock all of the above, since neither of them seems to have any effect except from making the situation even worse, science included. The sole virtue that seems to hold some value is male friendship, as exemplified by the relationship between Kaneda and Tetsuo, and love, between the female interests of both. Even these, though, are presented as single-sided sentiments, that actually torture the ones who feel it.
Almost completely hand-drawn, “Akira” is nevertheless an audiovisual masterpiece, incorporating exquisite animation and a vast palette of colors to depict the futuristic and industrial environment of Neo-Tokyo, despite the fact that red seems to dominate. Considering that this is a 1988 film, the detail of the characters’ design has not reached the level it is today, and some of them look much alike. However, this is a very minor fault, since the detail on both clothes and setting, does not let the anime to be confusing in any fashion.
This detail is evident in every aspect of the film, from the buildings, both interior and exterior, to the futuristic motorcycles, even to the interior of the helicopters and tanks that occasionally appear on screen. Shoji Yamashiro’s minimal and at the same time extreme and outworldly music accompany the film perfectly, heightening the aesthetics Otomo wanted to give in each scene. All of the technical aspect, along with the artistry of “Akira” find their apogee in the ending sequence, with the morphing of Tetsuo being astonishingly drawn and animated. The visual aspect definitely benefits by the 1080p presentation while the sound on Dolby TrueHD is truly impeccable.
Manga UK offer Akira: The Collector’s edition in a triple play edition that includes Blu-Ray, DVD, and digital copy. The video resolution is 1080p, retaining the original aspect of 1.85:1 and the audio includes four options: Japanese: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (192kHz, 24-bit), Japanese: LPCM 2.0 (48kHz, 16-bit), English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (48kHz, 16-bit), Japanese: Dolby Digital 5.1
The special features include Akira Sound Clip (1988), Music for Akira, Director Interview (subtitled), Storyboard Collection, The Writing on the Wall, Original Trailers (subtitled), Original Commercials (subtitled), Restoring Akira, Glossary, U.S. 2013 Trailer, Trailers.
Lastly the impressive packaging includes Rigid collectors box, Art cards, reversible inlay and classic movie poster.
Overall, “Akira” is a must-watch, one of the most influential anime titles of all time, and this edition is the ultimate package.