"2019. The world is on the brink of absolute destruction. Tokyo shimmers with tech-noir fetishism, gangs of cyber-punk bikers cruise the sprawl of the post-atomic city and rioting crowds surge under the neon-topped buildings looming a thousand storeys into the sky."
"Now, old gods return to do battle with Akira and somthing more than comic book ultra-violence is unleashed."
"Prepare to enter this astonishing nightmare of hyper-reality created by one of the world's leading animation directors, Otomo Katsuhiro."
Director: Katsuhiro Otomo Screenplay: Katsuhiro Otomo & Izo Hashimoto Copyright: Akira Committee VHS version: Language: English Running time: 124 mins Certificate: 15 Label: Island World Catalogue no: IWCV 1001 Price: £12.99 (later increased to £14.99) Release Date: 14th October 1991 VHS collectors edition double pack: Language: Japanese with English subtitles Running time: 124 + 49 mins Certificate: 15 Label: Island World Catalogue no: IWCV 1002 Price: £19.99 (later increased to £21.99) Release Date: 14th October 1991 VHS 'Production Report': Running time: 49 mins Certificate: 15 Label: Manga Video Catalogue no: MANV 1036 Price: £8.99 Release Date: 10th January 1994 DVD version: Languages: English and Japanese, with optional English, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Portuguese or Swedish subtitles Running time: 200 mins Certificate: 15 Label: Manga Video Catalogue no: MANG 2003 Price: £19.99 Release Date: 18th March 2002 A new English dub was recorded for the DVD version (the original English soundtrack is not included). Includes the production report and other extras.
Akira, originally a graphic series (Manga), by Otomo, is now one of the best known pieces of modern Japanese animated film (Anime). The story is set in 2019, in a Tokyo rebuilt after destruction in World War III. The city is in a state of social crisis, with unemployment, terrorism and neo-religions widespread. Young Kaneda and his friends find an outlet by racing hi-tech motorcycles and fighting with a rival biker gang, the Clowns. One of Kaneda's friends, Tetsuo, falls from his bike and is taken to a secret Army laboratory where he develops psychic powers. Tetsuo's growing powers lead to ever more bizarre and destructive events.
The film contains a number of exciting action sequences, notably the motorcycle chases, striking nocturnal scenes, and astonishing science-fantasy sequences. A largish cast of characters, with personalities we can care about, are developed in some depth. The flashbacks to childhood are particularly fine. Despite the presence of some female characters, this remains a male-oriented film, cool, hi-tech and violent.
The script is adapted from a much longer manga series, and, with its loosely tied incidents and cryptic ending, remains the main weakness in the film. Visually, though, AKIRA is an animation showpiece: all the technical devices of conventional cinema as well as animation are employed in the film; pans, zooms, travelling shots, even a 180deg. rapid pan shot, giving an effect like an ani- mated version of live action cinema. Like much anime, this is a film that repays repeated viewing. The 'Production Report' gives an insight into the huge effort that went into making AKIRA. For instance, the Japanese dialogue was recorded first and the animation made to fit it; in the dubbed version all this is thrown away.
The 35mm cinema version shows the animation to best advantage. The two video versions are not identical, as the widescreen version displays more of the original image. Japan buffs will of course prefer the authentic Japanese dialogue. It's also evident that the two video versions do not use the same English script. Unfortunately the subtitles are done in plain white and rather stupidly placed on the picture instead of in the handy black strip underneath. Consequently the subtitling is very hard to read in places. Even fan subtitlers could have done better. Also, some of the first dubbed copies were blurred or otherwise defective.
The dramatic action sequences, lavish animation and fine music soundtrack make Akira an anime classic, and also, since it has characters whom Western young males will readily identify with, it forms a relatively accessible introduction to Japanese animation. [Geoff Cowie]