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Akira: 25th Anniversary Edition (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 31, 2013 by  



akira-25

For anyone who is an anime fan and a fan of “Akira”, FUNimation’s 2013 Blu-ray release of “Akira: 25th Anniversary Edition” is an improvement over the 2009 Bandai Blu-ray release and is definitely recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2013 FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: AKIRA: 25th Anniversary Edition

YEAR OF FILM: 1988

DURATION: 124 minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High-Definition, 1:85:1 Aspect Ratio,

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: R (RATED R for Graphic Violence and Brief Nudity)

RELEASE DATE: November 12, 2013

Director and Original Manga: Katsuhiro Otomo

Script: Izo Hashimoto, Katsuhiro Otomo

Animation Director: Hiroaki Sato, Yoshio Takeuchi

Supervising Director: Katsuhiro Otomo

Director of Photography: Katsuji Misawa

Executive Producer: Sawako Noma, Shigeru Watanabe

Producer: Ryohei Suzuki, Shunzo Kato

Featuring the Voices of:

Mitsuo Iwata/Jimmy Flinders (Streamline)/Johnny Yong Bosch (Animaze) as Shotaro Kaneda

Nozomu Sasaki/Jan Rabson (Streamline)/Joshua Seth (Animaza) as Tetsuo Shima

Mami Koyama/Lara Cody (Streamline)/Wendee Lee (Animaze) as Kei

Kazuhiro Kando/Cody McKenzie as Masaru (No. 27)

Masaaki Ohkura/Tony Pope (Streamline)/Michael Lindsay (Animaze) as Yamagata

Mizuho Suzuki/Simon Issacson as Doctor Onishi

Sachie Ito/Sandy Fox as Kiyoko (No. 25)

Takeshi Kusao as Kai

Taro Ishida/Tony Page (Streamline)/James Lyon (Animaze) as Colonel Shikishima

Tatsuhiko Nakamura/Cody MacKenzie as Takashi (No. 26)

Tessho Genda/Steve Kramer (Streamline)/Robert Wicks (Animaze) as Ryusaku

Yuriko Fuchizaki/Barbara Goodson (Streamline)/Georgette Rose (Animaze) as Kaori

Clandestine army activities threaten the war-torn city of Neo-Tokyo when a mysterious being with powerful psychic abilities escapes his prison and inadvertently draws a violent motorcycle gang into a heinous web of experimentation. As a result, a biker with a twisted mind embarks on a path of war, seeking revenge against a society that once called him weak.

This 25th Anniversary Edition features both the original 1988 Streamline English dub and the 2001 Pioneer/Animaze English dub!

“AKIRA”, the 1988 anime film that became the masterpiece of mangaka and director Katsuhiro Otomo.

My first viewing of “AKIRA” was back in 1993. I have to be truthful, it was one of those films that I had to watch several times because I felt I was missing something integral. Each time I watched the film, there was always something new that I picked up and for anyone who has seen this animated film, just how much was put into the animation, the detail for an animated film.

In 1988, Disney had “Oliver & Friends” and being touted as the first animation to utilize hand drawn art and computerized graphics and as the film incorporated some darkness that may scare the kiddies, in Japan, “AKIRA” was a film that would set records in the Summer and eventually get a limited release in theaters.

The film would surprise and shock people because this was not a children’s animation, this was geared for adults.

And here we are in 2013, celebrating the 25th anniversary of “Akira” and a new Blu-ray release is set for release in Nov. 2013 courtesy of FUNimation.  Featuring better visuals, better audio (for the English dub), the inclusion of the 1988 Streamline English dub and more special features!

“AKIRA” takes place in 2019, Neo-Tokyo has emerged after World War III and after the annihilation of Tokyo in 1988. Tokyo has become a corrupted cesspool with rioting/anti-government demonstrations against police, biker gangs galore and people doing naught business in daylight on the streets.

In Neo-Tokyo, a major demonstration is taking place between the revolutionaries as the cops watch them with close eyes. Meanwhile, two biker gangs are battling each other. One gang led by Shotaro Kaneda and the other gang known as the Clown gang.

Kaneda’s gang consists of:

Shotaro Kaneda – The cool leader who rides a custom modified motorcycle. Very brash but cares for the people in his gang. Close with Tetsuo because the two grew up together. Falls for a girl named Kei.

Tetsuo Shima – The secondary character who has a major inferiority complex towards Kaneda. Always tries to prove himself as being as strong, if not stronger than Kaneda. He has always been protected by Kaneda when they were smaller. Dates a girl named Kaori.

Yamagata – A prominent member of the gang and the tallest member. Always tends to get into Tetsuo’s face.

Kai – A member of Kaneda’s gang and a close friend with Yamagata.

While the gangs are facing off with each other, at the site of the protest demonstration, we see a guy carefully walking with a young boy who tends to be wrinkly and dark and tries to protect him with gun. The protector of the boy starts shooting at the police and ends up getting killed. The boy reacts with a scream and knocks out the windows of everything around its radius and the situation gets chaotic as the demonstrators fight the police and boy manages to run away. Meanwhile, one of the revolutionary’s at the protest named Kei sees the boy and witnesses his power.

As for Kaneda’s gang and the Clown gang, they continue their battle and Tetsuo who wants to prove himself to Kaneda goes after one of the major Clown gang members. While riding his bike at quick speeds in the freeway, he sees the boy (who was a the demonstration) and tries to avoid him. Tetsuo crashes and gets banged up. Meanwhile, Kaneda and his team arrive in time to check Tetsuo but then all of a sudden, helicopters and soldiers surround the scene and get the boy and Tetsuo and take off.

While the boy is reunited with people of his kind, Tetsuo is undergoing testing and we learn that the boy and two others are known as Espers. Masaru (#27), Takashi (#26) and Kyoko (#25) who are paranormal and are used by the government as ways to influence the events in the country.

We are introduced to Colonel Shikishima, the head of an ongoing project that is monitoring the three Espers and Tetsuo. We also learn that Tokyo was destroyed by a powerful ESPer named Akira in 1988. A boy who has developed god-like abilities and was used as a test subject by the government. His body has been tested by the Colonel and his scientists and they have discovered something special about Tetsuo. It appears that Tetsuo may have the same, similar powers like Akira.

But unlike Akira, Tetsuo who has has an inferiority complex and a thirst for strength and power starts to become corrupted with the power and escapes the hospital where he has been watched and treated and now he is in the outside world and has literally gone psycho. Who can stop Tetsuo?

Of course, there is so much more to the story than what I just summarized. If anything, the film deals with friendship, corruption in the government and there are so much layers into the main storyline of “AKIRA” that it’s too difficult to explain and has to be watched (possibly several times) to be fully understood.

VIDEO:

“Akira: 25th Anniversary Edition” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio).  Because it’s pretty much the same remastering that was done for the Blu-ray release, not much was done in the actual remastering for the FUNimation release.

My comments for the Bandai 2009 Blu-ray release has not changed in 2013:

The colors for the film remain vibrant, I swear I was noticing background art from the film for the first time and that’s considering that I watched this film probably two dozen times already.

Picture quality retains its grain and also there are white specks, so one should know that the picture quality is not pristine.   As for the differences, I felt that the Bandai version had a bit of DNR used because the FUNimation tend to have a bit more grain.

Please not the following images are not direct screen captures, are cropped differently and are not the same frame:

Bandai

FUNimation

 

Granted, it comes down to preference and I’m always about more grain.  But there is a slight difference with picture quality.

AUDIO:

The audio is the same as the Bandai 2009 Blu-ray release with one exception, in addition to the Pioneer 2001 English dub, the original 1988 Streamline dub is now included.  So, for those who complained about the original English dub not being included, FUNimation’s “Akira: 25th Anniversary Edition” brings it back.

This is what I wrote back in 2009 in regards to the “Akira” lossless soundtrack:

Being audiophiles themselves, the full capacity of the Blu-ray disc was used for the audio. “AKIRA” is the first film on Blu-ray that is released in 192 kHz/24-bit in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 sound. The highest level of sound quality attainable right now on contemporary media.

CD’s are sampled in 44.1 kHz and reproduces at 20 kHz. This Blu-ray is sampled in 192 kHz and reproduces at 96 kHz. CD’s are 16-bit, this Blu-ray Disc, the audio is 24-bit. The original soundtrack of “AKIRA” was originally recorded as a master tape that contained frequencies up to 100 kHz and so, with Blu-ray technology, this soundtrack on the Blu-ray is how the composer intended for people to listen to it.

With that being said, the audio of “AKIRA” is just phenomenal.  From the music and the taiko drums, the the various sound effects of the motorcycles to the crowds that are protesting.  The film just comes alive with this soundtrack on Blu-ray and really, was floored by the outstanding quality.

With that being said, the 2013 FUNimation “Akira: 25th Anniversary Edition” features the 2001 the Japanese soundtrack in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (192 kHz), the English dub 2001 soundtrack in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (96 kHz) which is an improvement over the Bandai Blu-ray release which was 48 kHz  and the 1988 Streamline English dub in Dolby Digital 2.0 in 96 kHz.

With that being said, the audio of “AKIRA” is just phenomenal. From the music and the taiko drums, the the various sound effects of the motorcycles to the crowds that are protesting. The film just comes alive with this soundtrack on Blu-ray and really, was floored by the outstanding quality. There is a noticeable difference for audiophiles when it comes to the Japanese lossless soundtrack and the English soundtrack in terms of clarity but the English version also adds a bit more sound effects as well.

For example, the helicopter scene in 16:30.  You can hear the clarity of the Japanese lossless soundtrack but on the English soundtrack, you hear a bit more in terms of other sounds and the way the audio moves from one surround channel to the other.

And for those who have badly wanted the old school Streamline dub on Blu-ray, fortunately the “Akira: 25th Anniversary Edition” now includes it!

For those wanting the original Japanese LPCM soundtrack that was on the Bandai Blu-ray release, this is not included in the FUNimation 2013 Blu-ray release.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Akira: 25th Anniversary Edition” comes with the following special features:

  • Akira Sound Clip (1988) – (19:21) The following is the 1988 Akira Soundclip by Geinoh Yamashiro Gumi featuring optional English narration.  Featuring “Music for Akira”, “Kaneda’s Theme”, “Exodus”, “Ethnic Meets Hi-Tech”, “Awakening”, “Mutation” and “Requiem”.
  • Director Interview – (29:10) The original director’s interview featurette with Katsuhiro Otomo.
  • Storyboard Collection – (30:57) Featuring a storyboard collection accompanied by the music from the “Akira” soundtrack.
  • The Writing on the Wall – A translation on the graffiti featured throughout the film.
  • Restoring Akira – (11:00) Featuring a featurette on “restoring Akira” in regards to picture, English voice over and English 5.1 audio mix taken from the original 2001 DVD release.
  • Original Trailers – (3:11) The original Japanese theatrical trailers for “Akira”.
  • Original Commercials – (1:22) The original Japanese commercials for “Akira”.
  • U.S. Trailer – (:55) The 2013 trailer for “Akira: 25th Anniversary”.
  • Glossary – Glossary of terms (in text) featured in “Akira”.

EXTRAS:

“Akira: 25th Anniversary Edition” comes with the Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.

“AKIRA” will always be regarded as one of the top animated films of all time. It set a precedence in animation quality in the late 80’s and the 90’s due to its detailed scenery, the vocal dub matching the lips (“AKIRA” was the first anime production featuring voice acting done before the animation was completed) and utilized over 160,000+ animated cels in order to achieve the fluid motion throughout the film. Again, this was animation geared for adults and has become a classic, must-own animated film.

I have to admit that having watched the film so many times, by the time the DVD came out, I think I was burned out on “AKIRA”. So, watching it again on Blu-ray and hearing the audio really bringing the film to life.

It’s hard to explain but having watched this film nearly two dozens times, this was the first time that I actually watched and thoroughly enjoyed the film. I was excited because of how much life the TrueHD audio brought into the animation. Just sitting down and hearing the taiko drums, the motorcycles revving, the people talking and to hear the overall soundtrack, it made a big difference for me watching it now than any of those times watching it before.

I was amazed by the vibrancy of the colors of the film, but I admit that I was waiting for the dust and the scratches and to my surprise, there were none. They cleaned this film up pretty good. So, aside from the much talked about audio, the video is no slouch either.

Last, I know that the direction of the Blu-ray in terms of going for superior audio quality is exciting for the audiophile but for those who want the special features that were featured on the DVD, the good news is that the FUNimation 2013 Blu-ray release does include the special features (not the entire production report) but fans of the original 1988 Streamline release, should be happy of its inclusion on this Blu-ray release.

What has made me even more excited is that the process invested in order to create this 192 kHZ process on Japanese lossless soundtrack on “AKIRA” can hopefully now be used on other Blu-ray releases. “Mobile Suite Gundam” movies on Blu-ray anyone? How about those films in 192 kHZ, 24-bit ala Dolby TrueHD. That would be awesome!

While those who own the 2009 Bandai Blu-ray release may not see a need to upgrade to this “Akira: 25th Anniversary Edition”, those wanting a version with the original 1988 Streamline English dub and Japanese special features will want to purchase this FUNimation version.  Also, there is a slight difference when it comes to the picture quality as the Bandai version appeared to use a bit of DNR and the FUNimation version tends to have more grain.  The other difference is audio as the 2001 English dub receives a 96 kHz version as opposed to the Bandai 48 kHz version.

Overall, FUNimation’s Blu-ray release of “Akira: 25th Anniversary Edition” is an upgrade over its 2009 Blu-ray release.  For videophiles who dislike DNR, the FUNimation release has the train, for those wanting the 1988 Streamline Dub, the FUNimation Blu-ray release has that and a 96 kHz version of the 2001 English Dolby TrueHD soundtrack.  The Bandai release has a booklet, slipcase and an LPCM soundtrack of “Akira” and some may prefer the version with DNR.  And this release also includes both Blu-ray and DVD versions of the film as well.

So, I do feel that FUNimation Blu-ray of “Akira” is an improvement over the 2009 Bandai Blu-ray release in content, PQ and AQ.  Unfortunately, the 48-minute “Akira Production Report” was not included on this Blu-ray release, which is a little disappointing as I was hoping it would be included on the 25th anniversary release.  So, for those who own the Pioneer 2001 DVD release, you’ll still want to keep that one in your collection.

But for anyone who is an anime fan and a fan of “Akira”, FUNimation’s 2013 Blu-ray release of “Akira: 25th Anniversary Edition” is an improvement over the 2009 Bandai Blu-ray release and is definitely recommended!






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