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Akira: Limited Special Edition

By 2019 the Akira project has left old Tokyo an atomic wasteland while Neo Tokyo has become a fascist state ready to explode. Teenagers run amok and terrorists (out to learn the truth of the Akira project) are the state's greatest enemies. Thus, when a terrorist kidnaps a greenish looking kid from a state hospital — only to be shot down by the police — the frightened child crosses paths with Kaneda, the leader of a gang of teenagers, and Tetsuo (considered the weakling of the gang). When the strange child explodes Tetsuo's bike, the two get the attention of the police and both are taken into custody. While Kaneda makes friends with a cute terrorist, Tetsuo is experimented on by the government and given strange powers. Stuck in a hospital with similarly gifted and freakish children, Tetsuo escapes but has no control over his new powers, and now his nasty temper can decimate cities. Only Kaneda seems man enough to stop the foolish Tetsuo, but the Akira project is at the center of this mysterious power and everyone wants to get to the bottom of it. The seminal Anime achievement, Katsuhiro Ôtomo's Akira (1988) is the film that opened Western eyes to the world of manga. The most expensive film ever produced in Japan (costing one billion yen), like many big-budget endeavors Akira is noisy, at times hard to follow, and poorly scripted. However, it features an extraordinary color palette and amazing imagery — in this case, the money is on the screen. Compared to the works of Hayao Miyazaki, one wishes there was more to the screenplay — it's the same "perils of a nuclear culture" message that's been a recurrent theme in Japanese cinema since Godzilla, and Akira meanders as it tries to get as much of the writer/director's original comic book on screen, leaving malformed subplots in its wake. But the film is so exceptionally and cinematically rendered that it works whether we follow the story or not. It's also likely to be the best viewing choice for those who have never seen an Anime film before. Pioneer has released two versions of Akira on DVD, a single-disc version with just the movie, and a "Limited Special Edition," a feature-filled two-disc set. Both come with a gorgeous, newly restored transfer that gives the film's colors their due, presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1), and with a newly done English dub alongside the original Japanese language track (but only the English is in 5.1, while the Japanese track is 2.0, knocking the disc down a star on our rating scale). Both versions feature interactive production notes that can be accessed when the optional capsules appear on screen (translating graffiti and provide maps, etc.), but the two-disc set has the rest of the extras, including a 48-minute "Production Report" documentary from 1988; a 29-minute director interview from the 1993 Laserdisc; the "Akira Sound Clip," a 19-minute featurette on the soundtrack; three restoration featurettes (running around 15 minutes) on the new dub, the remixing, and the remastering; extensive still galleries that cover the art, storyboards, and marketing of the film; a glossary of Akira terms; and theatrical trailers and TV spots. Dual-DVD metallic keep-case.
—DSH



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