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Akira (Special Edition) (1988)

Cast: Mitsuo Iwara, Mitsuo Iwara, Cameron Clarke, more...
Director: Katsuhiro Otomo, Katsuhiro Otomo
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: Geneon
Genre: Anime, Foreign, Anime Feature Films, Animation, Cel
Languages: English, Japanese
Subtitles: English
    see additional details...

One of the most influential examples of anime, Akira is based on the manga (comic book) by Katsuhiro Otomo. The story is set in the post-apocalyptic community of Neo-Tokyo. Tetsuo is a fiercely individualistic member of a scroungy motorcycle gang. The despotic authorities, the robot-like police, and even the cycle gang pursue Tetsuo when he's bombarded with a new, insidious energy source that has rendered him telekinetic. Budgeted at eight million dollars, Akira has become a cult favorite in the States thanks to generous midnight-movie exposure and its availibilty on video and cable TV. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Ratings

Akira (Bonus Disc) (1988)
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7.18 (92 votes)
Akira (Special Edition) (1988)
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7.26 (1535 votes)

GreenCine Member Reviews

Truely groundbreaking, but slow. by gnostication September 21, 2009 - 10:34 AM PDT
0 out of 1 members found this review helpful
This is the movie that brought anime into the greater US consciousness. The animation is still, to this day, amazing.

There are certain effects, in particular, that really make it an incredibly beautiful movie.

I was immersed the first 3/4 of the film, and then it started to feel like it dragged. Also, part of the film was seen with a 9-year old. It has some very mature subjects (i.e., rape, murder, drugs, etc.).

anime masterpiece by thediesis January 20, 2006 - 1:39 PM PST
0 out of 2 members found this review helpful
after seeing this movie i became obsessed with anime-- too bad most anime isn't even close to this good. this is what you wanted from films like heavy metal-- adult themes in an animated film. the potentual has always been there for movies that have more imagination than could be done with normal special effects, and akira, for it's time is it. too bad there aren't more animated movies/anime like this.

Impeccable DVD release of a controversial Anime classic. by JTurner1 July 17, 2005 - 8:59 PM PDT
5 out of 6 members found this review helpful
This ambitious, multi-million dollar animated adaptation of Katsuhiro Otomo's best-selling graphic novel series is spectacular, both on a technical and visceral level. A lot of effort was obviously put into making the animation as fluid and lively as possible, with stunning results that rivals Disney's finest. Most Japanese animated films tend to have a somewhat stilted frame rate (for economical reasons), but one look at Akira and you would definitely think otherwise.

It is important to note, however, that this is NOT a Disney/family-friendly kind of film. Neither is it for the squeamish of viewers (or the shallowest of minds, for that matter). This is a gritty, futuristic, post-apocalyptic tale involving juvenile delinquents, corrupt government politicians, and a cautionary message about the misuse of supernatural powers. Trying to describe the plotline may be a bit of a challenge, because at times it comes across as convoluted and difficult to follow. (This can mainly be attributed to the fact that Otomo was trying to compress his 2,000+ page graphic novel into one two-hour film.) It will take more than one viewing to make any sense out of this labyrinthine story, yet there are cautionary messages that one can ultimately take away from the experience.

Akira is obviously not targeted at young children, but at a more mature audience. Good thing, too, because the film contains an extreme amount of intense violence (and very graphic at that) as well as one brief but very disturbing scene where a female character is almost raped. The really gruesome stuff occurs in the last thirty minutes in which a young teenager (who happens to be the angst-ridden anti-hero of the story) has his arm amputated by a space satellite (with bloody results), gets a metallic replacement, and transforms into a gross, indistinguishable mass of flesh and gore. The latter sequence is one of the multiple "bizarre" set pieces present in the movie (others which include a nightmare in which cuddly, innocent-looking toys grow to enormous size and threaten a medical patient). The obviously frightening aspects of such moments will obviously alienate family-friendly audiences, yet at the same time explode with imaginative, grotesque visuals rarely matched in other films (unless you count Hayao Miyazaki's works).

Also worthy of mention is the background music by the Genioh Yamashiro Gumi, an eccentric concoction of percussion, electronics, chimes, and chanting. Like the movie, it thunders through the speakers with an aggressive, fast-forward pace and bizarre, surreal tones, ranging from energetic to mellow. It sounds like an unconventional accompaniment to such a movie, but it works.

The film is considered the pinnacle of Japanese animation, yet, as with many of the greatest films of our time, it has had its share of detractors. In particular, it took me more than one viewing to finally accept Akira. I first saw the movie when I was thirteen, totally unprepared for such a violent, confusing yet beautiful animated movie. To be honest, I disliked it. When I saw the movie again five years later, it wasn't the bloodletting or the plot that offended me, but the dubbing (not produced, but released by Streamline Pictures), which grated on my ears and ranks as the worst English Anime dub I ever heard. (To those of you who are fans of that dub who may be reading this, I'm sorry, but I absolutely cant stand listening to it again.) But after obtaining this more polished, professional sounding version by Geneon/Pioneer (more on that later), I at last came to accept Akira as a remarkable achievement in animation with strong, universal messages resonating within its turbulent, gory nature and multi-layered storyline. Even so, I wouldn't recommend this movie for the casual fan, but for animation buffs and as an exercise in artistry, action, and morality for adults, few films match Akira as a worthy contender in that category.

As for this Special Edition DVD release, I have to tip my hat off to Geneon/Pioneer for putting a lot into remastering (and retranslating) this controversial classic. The video quality is amazing, but not quite perfect; there are still some specks I could spot on the print, but these are very insignificant considering how gorgeous the print looks.

The biggest improvement, however, has to be the English re-dub. Produced by the folks responsible for top-quality productions for shows such as Cowboy Bebopand Outlaw Star, this new version is superior to the original in every way. The new English cast is talented and give it their all, and their efforts are amply supported by a script which is not only more coherent but faithful in spirit and meaning to the subtitles. (Using a direct literal translation in a dub can sometimes result disastrously, but this happens to be an exception.) The only weakness is that the spoken lines do not always mesh with the moving mouth since AKIRA's original Japanese dialogue was, unlike most Anime, recorded BEFORE animation began (hence why the animation is obviously synched more to the Japanese language track). While this new version may not be perfect, it certainly comes close, and everyone involved obviously cared about this legendary film to do it justice. The Japanese language track is included on the DVD set as well, but it's in 2.0 and not 5.1. (Note: A recent re-release has the Japanese track remastered to DTS 5.1.)

It's the special features, however, that make this edition of Akira deserve its subtitle.... Well, most of that's on the bonus disc; anyway, the real "goodie" here is a "capsule feature", where a capsule appears once in a while on the screen, and you can highlight it to learn even more interesting facts on the film.

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