There are few anime films like Akira. Not only was it an adaptation of a hugely popular and sprawling manga, but it also pushed the limits of what animation could do. So an all-new 4K remaster is something I can definitely get behind.
Before the manga ended though, Otomo also wrote and directed the anime movie adaptation that broadly covered the first half of the manga’s story. Released in Japan in 1988, Akira was a watershed moment for the anime industry and took the art of animation to all-new and entirely dizzying heights of complexity and craftsmanship.
While Akira’s story is classed as cyberpunk, there aren’t really any cyborgs to speak of. Instead, like Otomo’s previous manga work Domu, the story is based around psychic powers that in this case have been unwittingly unleashed by unethical scientific research.
Showing the then-future of a corrupt Neo-Tokyo in 2019, prior to the delayed 2020 Olympics (which is a bit too prophetic for my liking). Akira starts with rival biker gangs speeding through the city’s neon-filled nights, only to come across government experiments gone awry. Subsequently, one of their own, Tetsuo, is caught in an accident, captured, and then somehow medically modified to unleash latent psychic powers.
Tetsuo’s childhood friend and erstwhile rival, Kaneda, fights to get him back, but there are far bigger things at stake here than just a dysfunctional biker gang looking out for one of their own.
While the movie tries to condense half the manga’s story, a lot is lost in the translation to anime. The result is a story that is probably more mysterious than it probably should be, but it is thankfully backed up by sumptuous visuals.
That’s the point here, Akira is still one of the most incredible animated achievements of the 20th century, and one that still has yet to be surpassed.
That’s what makes this new 4K remaster of Akira so special. Not since we saw this in theaters has the movie looked this clean and pristine.
This is one of those movies that really deserve this kind of remaster, and while the visuals are entirely amazing, the audio is also similarly great. Especially as the groundbreaking score by Geinoh Yamashirogumi pretty much defines this film as much as the incredible visuals do.
There are also a bunch of great extras in this boxset, from interviews with the cast, storyboards, and a lovely book covering the production of the movie. While we have already had some amazing boxsets for Akira on DVD and Blu-ray, this new 4K remaster has a lot of new stuff to offer as well.
It’s also worth pointing out that while this set includes the main 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc, the movie is also available on regular Blu-ray too, so there’s really no excuse to pick this boxset up.
Overall, this is Akira’s definitive home release and shows off what makes this movie so special like never before. Put simply, it is an essential purchase for anyone who enjoys and appreciates complex animation as well as intriguing science-fiction.
This Akira boxset is available from the Funimation online store for $44.99.
Disclosure: Funimation sent me a copy of this boxset for the purposes of this review.
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