Akira is the one that started it all for me. I was about 8 years old and a friend of mine had a copy of it on VHS. What happened next was very strange and has yet to happen again in my life. I sat and watched a movie I had no idea what was going on yet I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. It wasn’t until I grew up over the years and watched it multiple times that I really got to grasp the concept of Akira.
On July 16, 1988, Tokyo was destroyed by what was believed to be a new type of bomb, triggering World War III. Thirty-one years later, in 2019, Neo-Tokyo has arisen from ashes under Japan’s new political system; but the glittering city is built on foundations of poverty, ignorance and despair. Kaneda and his friends, a bunch of juvenile delinquents, rumble with a rival group of bikers. While the police attempt to disperse a riot with tear gas, the rumble continues. Tetsuo takes the lead and, after disposing of his opponents, nearly runs down what looks to be a 100-year-old baby. Tetsuo’s bike suddenly explodes and he is taken prisoner by the top-secret Akira Project where he is subjected to a series of tests which unleash his latent psycho-kinetic powers. But he is really more powerful than anyone imagined and breaks out, creating a swathe of destruction across the city as he mutates into another life form. That synopsis is quite the mouthful but Akira is arguably the most popular anime title of all time, and rightfully so.
Tetsuo is the most interesting of it–an everyday angry kid gifted with psychic powers of truly frightening scale and as tortured by them as he is hollowly empowered. His torment, god complex, and desperate breakdown give an emotional center to events that are otherwise drastically out of human scale. That scale is, perhaps more than anything, what makes Akira so memorable. As has been well documented, Akira was created through a painstaking process that took creator Otomo Katsuhiro 10 years to complete. All the hard work over in Tokyo paid off, because Akira, in terms of vision and story, is a flawless, well-executed anime film in every sense of the word.
I rewatched this film on blu-ray format and it doesn’t cover a wide spectrum, but they appear to accurately reproduce the original print. However when I say this, I mean just that: Best. Sound. Ever. You have to hear it to believe it. This is one of those tracks that uses every speaker to envelope you in the on-screen action. A helicopter pan across the soundstage is appropriately loud, but never noisy, and the rumble of the film’s many explosions resonates with an oomph you’ll feel in your chest. The sticker price is quite expensive for the Blu-Ray, but it is still worthy of a purchase. In conclusion, I must say that regardless of how much of an anime fan you are you must see this movie, rent it, borrow it, buy it, etc. because an anime like this only comes along once in a decade. Highest Recommendation.
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