From the GC Archives: TV Party Tonight! #002

From the GC Archives: TV Party Tonight! #002

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Tuesday, 08 November 2016
COLUMN

Akira: 25th Anniversary Edition

Where do I even begin with a movie like Akira? I first watched it in college on VHS with the traditional dubbing of the movie and haven’t stopped thinking about it since. I’ve watched the movie over a dozen times, read the manga (that’s 2000+ pages) twice, had a poster in my room all through college staring at me, and saw the movie in theatres for its 2001 re-release (I dragged several people for my birthday to the local indie theatre in San Diego). I’ve been thinking about Akira for so long that I’m one of these people that still pronounces the names “ah-kee-rah” and “ku-nay-da.”

Which is a surprising thing because after all this time, I’m still not sure what’s going on in this movie.

If I had to describe it, however, I would say it’s a futuristic dystopian anime where a teenage bike gang confronts their friend who has gained superpowers and is starting to lose control. Sound good enough? Good, because that’s also as far as I can go.

Akira is a cinematic masterpiece for several reasons, the visuals are highly detailed and fantastic to look at (a new color scheme was created for this movie with colors that didn’t exist before), the voice acting was prerecorded before the cells were animated for the first time in animation, the music is primal yet futuristic, and for 2 hours you just watch this snowball roll down the hill and turn into an avalanche. It’s such a dense movie that you change your interpretation of the events each time you watch, depending on your mood. Most of the time, you are exhausted after a screening of Akira. Really, there’s nothing like it, but the movie makes such an impact that the very idea of watching Akira makes my heart race, like when Kaneda starts up his bike.

Do I need to sell it even more for you? Didn’t think so.

Here we’re reviewing the Funimation 25th Anniversary edition home release, which conveniently enough packs both the DVD and Blu-Ray version of the movie. Visually, since creator Katsuhiro Otomo described Akira the movie as being a visual experience, the animation is top notch. It blew everything out of the water in 1988 and holds up even now. Truly, it’s a fantastic animated movie to have restored and enjoyed in Blu-Ray format. Audio-wise this release is a phenomenon as well, because it has what’s called the hypersonic track of the movie. What is the hypersonic track? Well, I hardly understand all the science, but the composer of Akira happens to also be a science guy who has published papers on what he calls the hypersonic effect which is basically that even though some audio vibrates at frequencies our ears can’t pick up (ultrasound), the audio at that inaudible frequency is still supposed to have some sort of psychological effect on humans. So, for the blu-ray release of Akira, the original analog audio was remixed into the highest possible audio quality available on blu-ray (higher than high-budget Hollywood movies). Some consider the 5.1 surround sound on Akira to be the best audio of any blu-ray movie yet.

As for the bonus features, Funimation doesn’t really pack the definitive completist edition of the movie, but we do get lots of bonus features like a feature on how the music was recorded, an interview with Katsuhiro Otomo, storyboards, a plethora of trailers, and all three audio tracks of the movie (the original 1988 dub, the 2001 dub, and the original Japanese track). So, without completely swimming in bonus features, it has enough features to keep me content.

The Akira 25th Anniversary edition is a must-have for fans of animation, of home video, of audio, and of cinema in general. Enough now, just go own it!

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