Review: Akira 25th Anniversary Edition



If you ask most people who grew up in the late 80s/early 90s what anime was, they’d probably say Akira. This film impacted not only the geeks and nerds, but had the sort of cross-over appeal that most shows don’t reach now. It was part of the early kick of adult-oriented, ultra-violent titles like Vampire Hunter D and Demon City Shinjuku that would appear in Blockbuster’s anemic anime shelf and would get rented over and over again, until the tape was falling off the spool.

Several years ago, Bandai released the Blu-Ray of Akira to critical praise and general adoration. Unfortunately, it went out of print fairly quick and became pricey in the after market. I know I’ve spent the last couple of years looking for a copy at a decent price. Thanks to Funimation, we’ve got a new version of the film for its 25th anniversary. Does the film still hold up or are those glasses getting rose-tinted? Well, you’ll just have to hit the jump to find out!


Akira 25th Anniversary Edition [DVD/BD]
Studio: TMS Entertainment
Licensed by Funimation
Release Date: 11/12/13
MSRP: $34.98 [Amazon | Rightstuf]

Set 30 years after the end of World War III, Akira takes place in Neo Tokyo, a hovel of a city that’s a husk of its former glory. The government is corrupt, the police are violent, biker-toughs roam the streets; all the usual signs of the post-apocalypse. While trying to fight off a rival biker gang, Kaneda and Tetsuo get caught up in terrorist activities and a government conspiracy to create powerful espers. The ensuing insanity leads to a whole lot of death, destruction and two former friends repeatedly screaming out each others names. The final orgy of destruction takes place at the stadium for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which should be amusing to anybody that attends the real-life games in seven years. Just, you know, be sure to check under the stadium.

It’s a fairly simple story if you take it at face value. Knowing that there’s a much longer manga might complicate things a bit, but when you consider it’s a “put-upon guy gets super powers and goes nuts” story at heart, it’s easy to follow. All the back story involving Akira is pretty ancillary compared to Tetsuo and Kaneda’s beef. All the talk of psionic humans and crazy cults sits behind two boys scrapping over who can ride (an admittedly awesome looking) bike.

Let’s be frank, nobody is really watching Akira for the story. It’s good enough and the setting is interesting, but it takes a back seat to the spectacle of its presentation. Booming music and glorious animation are why you're watching this classic. It’s amazing that after 25 years and an excellent restoration, Akira still looks fresh. The detail in the city as it’s falling apart, the blood dripping off the bodies of Tetsuo’s victims, the buildings and lights streaming by racing bikes-- this film is a masterpiece of cinema. There are few movies even now than look as good and as full of life as this flick. This is a movie that you use to test out new TVs and sound systems. On technical prowess alone, Akira is worth owning.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s take a look at what’s in this package. Funimation has put in three language tracks: the remastered Japanese version from 2009, the remastered Pioneer/Animaze English version from 2001 and the original 1988 Streamline English version. For the sake of posterity, I put on the 1988 English dub and it provided me tons of entertainment. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t very good. I’d say it’s borderline awful. However, it has glorious amounts of 80’s cheese in it and I love that stuff. Having seen the 2001 English dub before, it’s a lot better than the trashy Streamline dub, but it lacks its crappy charm.

Quite frankly, this is a film that every anime fan should own: it’s a legendary movie that has stood the test of time. It’s one of my favorite animated flicks, with a dystopian future reminiscent of the stories envisioned by geniuses like Phillip K. Dick, William Gibson and Ridley Scott. Fans of science fiction will love this movie, fans of animation will drool at the excellent remastered footage and fans of weird stuff have a mutated psi-baby in an Olympic stadium. If that doesn't sell you on Akira, nothing will.

9.0Exceptional. One of the best things its genre has ever produced. Its example will be copied or taken into account by almost anything that follows it.

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Akira reviewed by Pedro Cortes



A hallmark of excellence. There may be flaws, but they are negligible and won't cause massive damage.
How we score:  The Japanator reviews guide


Pedro Cortes
Pedro CortesAssociate Editor   gamer profile

Pedro Cortes has been known to swoon at the sight of a robot. This is understandable, as robots are pretty awesome. more + disclosures



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