Akira Blu-Ray Review

DirectorKatsuhiro Otomo

Animation ProductionTokyo Movie Shinsha

Akira was originally screened in Japan on July 16th 1988, around 22 and a half years ago, and is coincidently exactly 1 month older than me. I can’t remember the first time I saw it but it was sometime in the early 2000’s. It didn’t entirely wow me at first because it was built up in my mind to be something else and it was also very early in my anime and film watching days. But revisiting this classic once again on Blu-Ray and this time in the best possible conditions outside of a theatre, I completely agree with why this is praised as the best Japanese animated film ever created.

Set in Neo Tokyo 2019 years after a nuclear like explosion destroys a large section of Tokyo, the military continues to experiment with this devastating uncontrollable power that started the whole situation. Since then Tokyo has turned into a run down cyberpunk looking city full of gangs, protestors and a strong military presence.

The main characters, Kaneda and Tetsuo, are the typical delinquent teenagers who are in a biker gang. Kaneda is the strong charismatic leader of the group while Tetsuo is the shy childhood friend. During a intense chase scene with a rival gang Tetsuo encounters a genetically modified human which awakens the power within Tetsuo. He is then quickly whisked away by the military and is experimented on to try and control this power within.

The name of the movie refers to one of the original human experiment, Akira who was the cause of the original disaster. Akira in the mind of some of the Tokyo population has became a messiah figure and is seen as an all powerful being. It’s hard to explain but he wielded an ultimate sort of energy which was unlocked in his generic material. The scientist couldn’t control him which resulted in the disaster. Despite this the military continued experimenting to awaken this power within others.

Lony ago there were people who tried to gain control of that power. That is, all of the government’s requests. But they failed in their attempt, and it triggered the fall of Tokyo. And that power is something that is totally out of our….

What I like most of about the film is the quality of the animation and visual detail. The iconic red bike of Kaneda and his orange jacket are so memorable along with the use of red throughout the movie. It is a movie with a grand scale and a sort of maturity that isn’t really present in anime anymore.

As for the Blu-Ray features there is usual set of language option with a sparse number of extra features (trailers, storyboards). But the key is the picture quality which looks sharp and a noticeable difference over VHS, but I’m not sure about how much better it looks from DVD. Definitely one to keep on your shelf and revisit over and over again.

Year – 1988 Length – 124 Minutes

A new page has been added!

If you have ever wondered which anime I have already watched, I’ve added a new page on the website which lists every single anime series and movie watched by me. There are a few things I probably shouldn’t reveal that I’ve watched but it’s all there, for transparency sake and your entertainment.

So far I have watched 125 shows and movies that can be considered as anime. Its listed in an A to Z format since I don’t know the exact order I’ve watched them in but I believe Cowboy Bebop and Evangelion where among the first. My favourite older movie is either The Castle in the Sky or The Castle of Cagliostro, and favourite newer movie is The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. Favourite TV series are Cowboy Bebop and Ghost in the Shell SAC. The absolute worst show I have watched is Shuffle.

The History of Manga and Anime

This is part of a series that aims to educate anime fans about the history of the medium.

Japan: The literal translation of Manga is “whimsical pictures” and referred to a range of picture books, sketchbooks, comics and drawings from the 18th century onwards. Manga as we know it today originated from post WWII Japan (1945 onwards) when American culture permeated throughout Japan due to the U.S. occupation of Japan. Modern manga is influenced by both traditional Japanese culture and art as well as American cultural influences. Manga artist Osamu Tezuka (1928-1989), widely known as the father of manga and anime, created the manga series Astro Boy (Tesuwan Atomu, lit. “Mighty Atom”) which was first published in 1952 and the anime first broadcast in 1963. The other great influence on manga was Machiko Hasegawa who was responsible for Sazae-san which was a comic strip that ran from 1946 to 1974 in the Asahi Shimbun. The anime series of Sazae-san began in 1969 and continues today making it the longest running television series ever.

The origin of the Japanese word Anime came from the abbreviation of the English word animation. This term became widely used from the 1970s onwards but the Japanese had experimented with animation since 1917. It was only until the 1960s and 1970s that anime became popular and became distinct from the western influence of animation. Astro Boy was the first 25 minute per episode anime series, while Three Tales was the first ever Japanese anime broadcast in 1960. Some other early anime series were Tetsujin 28 (1963), Mazinger Z (1972), Space Battleship Yamato (1974) and Mobile Suit Gundam (1979). Hayao Miyazaki, the most widely known anime film maker, started his directorial career with the anime series Lupin III (1971-1972) and it’s film The Castle of Cagliostro in 1979.

Rest of the world: Manga refers to comics originating from Japan and Anime refers to Japanese animation. In the U.S. one of the first commercially translated manga was Keiji Nakamura’s Barefoot Gen in 1980 (fan translations pre-date this by a couple of years). Other early translated works included Lone Wolf and Cub, Akira, Golgo 13, Ranma 1/2, and Nausicaa.

Anime entered the worldwide markets in the 1960s and it’s popularity was a major reason that contributed to the introduction of manga to the world. Astro Boy was also the first anime series broadcast outside of Japan in 1963 where NBC adapted 104 of the 193 episodes into English for syndication. Later on popularity of anime exploded with titles such as Robotech/Macross, Dragon Ball and more recently Sailor Moon, Pokémon, Evangelion and Cowboy Bebop.

The next part in this series will be on the genesis of the manga/anime art style and go into more detail about the pioneers in the industry.

Classic Anime Review – Gunbuster

Animation ProductionGAINAX

Director Hideaki Anno

Released in 1988 Gunbuster is a science fiction classic directed by Hiedeaki Anno. Gunbuster was the directorial début for Anno who later became famous for one the defining Japanese animation of the 90’s, Evangelion. The hard sci-fi elements of the plot and beautiful high budget animation has made this OAV a fondly remembered classic in anime history.

The basic plot, which involved aliens coming to attack Earth, while being one that has been depicted many times before was simple yet elegant in its execution. Many questions that we usually just let go in SF anime are dealt with and form a fascinating backbone to the plot. In particular the handling of time dilation are space warfare.

The main character Noriko Takaya is the daughter of a famous admiral that has fought during the war. She follows his footsteps but her talents are not immediately recognisable. Despite this she  become one of the pilots for the military’s key weapons Gunbuster. The full name Aim for the Top! Gunbuster, points out the direct inspiration from the anime/manga Aim for the Ace! which Gunbuster shares similar themes and scenes with, in particular the relationships and school aspects.

Gunbuster ends in a very interesting way and its last episode is almost entirely in black and white still images. It is similar in concept to Anno’s later work in Evangelion but in Gunbuster the ending actually makes complete sense.

Rating – A (Highly recommended)

Genres – Action, Comedy, Drama, Science Fiction Length – 6 Episode OAV series Year – 1988

Future Police Urashiman Review


Animation ProductionTatsunoko

Director Seiji Okuda

This show has become a favorite of mine from the 1980s alongside Robotech/Macross. It is a more episodic show (apart from the final few episodes) where each episode involves the confrontation between the the criminal organization Necrime and the Mobile Police Unit. The underlying plot of the show involves Ryuu Urashiman who has time slipped into the future (2040s) from the 1980s to become part of the police unit.

There are some standout episodes which deal with what Tokyo would be like in the future from the perspective of the 80s. The prerequisite 80s SF of laser guns, flying cars and zero g discos are all present. I have a soft spot for SF shows and this is one that is light hearted and perfect for watching an episode now and then. However I couldn’t bear to watch more than a few episodes at a time which could mean it can be a bit repetitive and formulaic. I’ve been watching the show for a couple of years and with the final episode being subbed this year I was determined to finish the show.

Animation production company Tatsunoko brought us this lesser known but classic show which was for some reason was not released in the US. For our benefit it has been fan-subbed by Anime Classics.

Rating – B+

Genre – Science Fiction, Action Length – 50 Episode series Year – 1983

Currently not licensed in the US, Adapted from manga. Was Released in Italy, Germany and France.