Katsuhiro Otomo’s 1988 cyberpunk classic, Akira, which he adapted from his manga of the same name, is perhaps the single most recognizable feature-length anime. For many in North America, Akira served as their introduction to anime and it is without a doubt the anime feature most viewed by American audiences. And rightly so, because Akira is one of the impressively animated works in the history of film, hand-painted (which Akira is) or otherwise.
Set in the year 2019, the film paints a bleak, dystopian portrait of a Tokyo wrought by the violence of street gangs and authorities alike. Amidst the chaos of street battles between teens on motorcycles and political turmoil driven by the capitalist desires of those at the top, the Japanese military attempts to keep a handful of potentially dangerous, psychic espers under wraps. But when gang member Tetsuo develops psychic powers and seeks to release the esper, Akira, from his icy prison, his childhood pal Kaneda may be the only person who can stop him.
On November 12, 2013, FUNimation Entertainment is set to release the definitive home video version of Akira on Blu-ray and DVD in a 25th Anniversary Edition. Many of our readers will likely recall that Honneamise released Akira on Blu-ray back in 2009. The difference in transfers between the Honneamise and FUNimation releases of Akira are minimal at best, the biggest difference being that the film’s 1.85:1 aspect ratio is here presented sans Honneamise’s curious windowboxing. The film was restored back in 2001 prior to its theatrical re-release and Special Edition DVD release, and the transfer here it seems is that high definition version which was projected theatrically. After all, the restoration featurette on this release, which was originally featured on the 2001 Special Edition DVD, specifically addresses that restoration.
As for the audio on the 25th Anniversary Edition, you’ll find no new dub here featuring FUNimation’s staff of voice actors, but you will find three different audio tracks! The release includes the 5.1 Japanese language track remastered in 2009, the original 2.0 English dub from 1988, and a 5.1 mix of the 2001 re-dub starring Johnny Yong Bosch, who has gone on to an impressive career in voice acting after getting his start on Power Rangers. Although I personally recommend the original Japanese over the other tracks, it’s nice to have options, especially if you’re looking to introduce Akira or anime in general to someone with no patience for subtitles.
In addition to the three-part featurette about the 2001 restoration, special features on the FUNimation release include and Akira sound clip from 1988 about the film’s score, an interview with Otomo, a storyboard collection, a photo gallery centered around translations of graffiti that appears throughout the film, trailers, commercials, and a glossary. If you owned the Special Edition DVD, you’ll definitely recognize these features.