Akira Blu-Ray Review

Akira (Otomo, 1988) the cult classic anime which proved animation wasn’t solely for kids has recently been re-released on Blu-Ray and DVD after a long period out of print, and it is still every bit the landmark achievement in both animation and film that it always has been. Based on Otomo’s 1982 manga (Japanese comic books) of the same name the film has such ambition, and such attention to detail that it still outdoes many, if not all of its contemporaries. The fantastic thing about this is that the film is greatly improved by being shown in HD as all the subtle details that the animators worked painstakingly over are more apparent, this definitely adds depth to the story and creates an atmosphere where the ability to suspend ones beliefs becomes easier, no easy feat for animation.

For those who are not familiar, Akira follows a post-WWIII ‘Neo-Tokyo’ biker gang, led by Kaneda (Mitsua Iwata), and its chance collision with a secret government project which studies and utilizes telekinetic children, one of the gangs members, Tetsuo (Nozomu Sasaki), has his own telekinetic powers realised, from this point on the plot follows a corrupt government, a revolutionary group, a single-minded military leader, as well as Kaneda and Tetsuo as the secrets of his power are unleashed culminating in a poetic ending that requires multiple viewings to truly gain the gravitas of.

The film offers many points on politics, religion and Japanese culture. Politically the film displays the government as corrupt, shown to be hoarding money, double dealing, and running the nation in their own interests, this government have created a ‘Neo-Tokyo’ which is displayed as a decaying society rooted in hedonism and violence. The revolutionaries are desperately seeking a way to show the government for the corruption of its nature, but to what end is not made clear, what is clear is that it is not communism, that is the military leader Colonel Shikishima’s (Taro Ishida) ultimate aim. Perhaps the starkest commentary is on Japan’s perpetual state of destruction and renewal, be it through natural disaster or war, a theme regularly explored by Japanese cinema, but Akira brings a fresh and original take on a theme that was previously explored through monster flicks, known in Japan as kaiju, like Godzilla (Honda, 1954).

The Blu-Ray does not have much in the way of bonus features, offering five variants of the trailer and the films storyboard, the Blu-Ray experience may be improved with additional extras, however the film is the star, and it has never been seen in such quality before. The Blu-Ray comes with both the original Japanese in the updated digital HD and the English dub also in digital HD, both options are available in the traditional Dolby 5.1 as well. Options for no subtitles as well as English and Japanese subtitles, and are generally very good bar one or two moments when the colour of the screen makes them difficult to read.

Overall this is a landmark film that to this day influences science-fiction worldwide. It is a film which transcends animation and played a major role in creating Western interest in Japanese cinema. It is a must watch, and a film any movie-buff should have in their collection.

Akira was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on the 27th June.

About The Author

Daniel graduated in film studies and advertising at the University of Chester. Daniel is driven by a love of movies both indie and blockbuster, he hopes to forge a career writing about film.

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