Akira (1988)
By: J.R. McNamara on March 1, 2010  | 
Madman (Australia). Region B. 1.85:1, 1080p. English TrueHD 5.1, Japanese TrueHD 5.1 Japanese PCM 2.0, Japanese DD 2.0. English Subtitles. 124 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Katsuhiro Ôtomo
Voices: Mitsuo Iwata, Nozomu Sasaki, Mami Koyama, Tetsusho Genda
Screenplay: Katsuhiro Ôtomo
Country: Japan
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Akira is one of those necessities for any movie collection. It is a boundary crossing film that has received recognition from genre fans, anime enthusiasts, cinema snobs and even regular film goers. You should go buy it, now. Nothing can be said about this film that hasn't been said before, so if you like you can stop reading the review, and just get out there and buy it on Blu-ray now.

If you are still reading I guess you are not convinced, so read on.

This film is based on the 2000 odd page manga by director and writer, Katsuhiro Otomo. Obviously the 2 hour film is a somewhat condensed version of Otomo's original tale.

31 years after an apparent nuclear blast that rocked Tokyo in 2019, the world is a completely different place. A revolution sits on the verge of starting, with terrorism rife in the city. While battling their enemies The Clowns, motorcycle gang The Capsules encounter a strange child that seemingly causes gang member Tetsuo's bike to blow up.

Government agents arrive and collect the child and Tetsuo, whom upon investigation, they discover has the same psychic wavelength as the powerful child Akira, who destroyed Tokyo many years before. The army orders Tetsuo killed, but he escapes, and over a short period his psychic powers become greater, and even a trio of children, one of whom Tetsuo encountered earlier,  who have psychic powers cannot control him.

He eventually becomes as dangerous as the child from 30 years before and must be stopped, and many are employed, including his friend and fellow gang member Kaneda, to take him down.

Really there is no synopsis I can offer that will show the excitement of this film without being a massive spoiler-fest, so rest assured, much more happens than what those previous paragraphs suggest. This film has layers of political shenanigans and relationship issues that cannot be discusses in such a brief forum as a review. Akira is a deep story that needs to be experienced more than once to be fully appreciated.

Akira has so many staples of dystopian future sci-fi, it is almost like a checklist: crazy religions, rebel forces, psychic powers, nuclear war, fascistic police forces, drugs, cool vehicles… I could go on, but at no time does any of it ever feel overcrowded.

The detail of this anime is outstanding. Everything from tread of boot soles to the light trail effects of motorbike tail lights are here but that is not just how this film shows its maturity. The film has a spectacular cinematic quality to it: scenes such as a bandage blowing in the wind may seem like nothing but a segue in a regular movie, but in animation represents many hours of work, and this adds so much to the film.

Akira provides a two fisted hit of both great animation and excellent sci-fi, and considering we are here at Digital Retribution, I would be remiss in not commenting on the gore and action of it all. When the bullets fly or the psychic powers kick it, there is blood aplenty for those who require the red stuff to be entertained.
The 1.85:1 image is fantastic, and is presented in 1080p. It does suffer from evidence of dust particles on the original animation cels, but this it isn't too intrusive.
There are many audio options on this disc as well. English in True HD and Japanese in True HD, Digital or Linear PCM. Subtitles can also be viewed in either English or Japanese. I reviewed the disc with the English track and have to say I was pretty well impressed.
Extra Features
Bonus features come in the form of 2 teaser trailers, 2 trailers, one TV spot and some storyboards. The storyboards I really have to give some credit to: there are 369 pages worth of storyboards from the film, all faithfully reproduced, though I must admit, so detailed they should best be viewed on a large TV.  

There is also a pretty cool little 32 page booklet which features an article about Akira on Blu-ray and its benefits to the soundtrack and picture, an article about the adapation of Akira, an interview with writer and director Katsuhiro Otomo and a look at how Akira was animated.
The Verdict

Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
It's the first and last word in feature length anime. If you don't have this essential piece in your anime collection, well, your collection is incomplete.

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