Akira Collector's Edition Steelbook Blu-ray Review

by Mark Botwright
Movies & TV Review

Akira Collector's Edition Steelbook Blu-ray Review
SRP: £24.99

Picture

By all accounts Manga have brought to UK shores the same disc in all but packaging as the 2009 US disc – no bad thing considering the high quality of the AV on the US Honneamise release. The only difference being that the UK version is locked to Region B. Below were my thoughts at the time, and given the identical nature of the material, it is equally true of the Manga release;

Akira comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p AVC encoded image in its theatrically correct aspect ratio of 1.85:1.

Having owned several home format incarnations of the film, I am pleased to note that this is by far the best depiction. Firstly, colours have a boldness to them that has for some time been missing from releases of the title. Don't mistake a rich colour-scape for a simplified one, as although animations of the period had (and to some degree will always have) a finite amount of shades presentable, here there are distinct differences between those of the same colour. Previously, the reds tended to merge into one single muddy hue that left Kaneda's bike not too dissimilar from his clothing - not here. Clothing, bike and blood all have a subtlety to them that makes them unique, particularly the latter which has a depth and darkness to it that proves all the more shocking. Light rails have a level of delicacy to them now that makes them all the more entrancing in their transparency. Likewise, neon signs that dominate the frontage of buildings are now grand not only in scale but also vivacity - searing themselves onto the viewer's retina with bright pastel shades of pink and orange.

The remastering process has clearly been kind to Akira as the print looks in remarkable condition. It still shows some imperfections, but these are very much in the minority. For the most part the result is clean and crisp in its depiction of the on screen science fiction action. Gone also are the jagged edges of previous DVDs, as the lines which are drawn with such precision by numerous artists are recreated with stunning clarity and smoothness. Contrast is also strong, with the scenes depicting the darkness of the titular figure's underground resting place being particularly note worthy, showing excellent detail in the gloom. Some moments may seem a little soft, but this is very much a part of the animation, rather than the disc's reproduction of the original material.

The only area which perhaps should have been addressed is that of framing. The original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 has clearly been adhered to, but we are still presented with a small border that outlines the image on all four sides. It is minor, but it does detract slightly when viewing via a fixed projector. Still, it pales in comparison to the cornucopia of delights the visuals have to offer.


Akira Collector

Sound

Audio is thankfully also identical to the US release which was reviewed below;

If there was a degree of nitpicking to my appraisal of the visuals, the same cannot be said for the audio side of things. Straight away you can see that the 50gb disc space has been utilised when reading the options available to the listener. A total of four options are open to those watching the film; Japanese Dolby TrueHD, Japanese Dolby Digital, Japanese Linear PCM and finally English Dolby TrueHD. Personally I've never been a great fan of the English dub, but it certainly has its admirers amongst the faithful, thus it should please those with an aversion to subtitles.

For the sake of review though, I focussed mainly on the Japanese Dolby TrueHD track. Right from the outset, it was clear that I was in for a treat. The music of Geinoh Yamshiro Gumi has never sounded so rich. The opening motorbike chase and two wheeled fight between Kaneda's gang and The Clowns is simply the first among many high points. The breathing that accompanies the introduction of Joker - deep and wheezing - rushes into the room. The gentle tapping of drums in the background comes alive and floods towards the listener from all directions. Once the tempo rises, the ensuing sounds remain perfectly tight and distinct, yet come together in a beautifully cohesive manner. Plucked strings stir and have a crispness to them that begs to be heard. I have long considered this to be a fine soundtrack, but this is the first time I have actually thought it would be a crime not to own it separately as a piece of music.

Explosions and impacts are replete with a multitude of lesser rumbles as the myriad of debris falls upon Neo Tokyo. The rears are used to great emphasis throughout, not only being utilised when the bullets fly and bikes roar, but also in the moments of metaphysical silence and the light high frequency sounds that accompany such scenes. Dialogue is always crystal, yet incorporates into the mix and is succinctly balanced within. Such is the equilibrium, it can be deceptively loud - by this I mean that it is the type of mix that one yearns to keep turning up, but because no one feature of the sound-field pushes beyond the others and breaks this cohesion, it can lull one into a false sense of volume. However, once the bass truly hits and buildings fall, the LFE introduces itself with a punch. It hits hard, with a great tautness to it, that frankly I'm not used to with animated offerings.

I honestly cannot find a fault with the audio of this disc, it is quite simply impeccable.


Akira Collector

Extras

Teaser #1 - 1080p - 0:32
Teaser #2 - 1080p - 0:31
TV Commercial - 1080p - 0:16
Trailer #1 - 1080p - 2:17
Trailer #2 - 1080p - 1:01

These can be assessed together, as there is little difference between them. Essentially just clips from the film and a few shots of the title with a Japanese voiceover. I like old trailers and the like but these don't reflect the period the film was released in, so can't be valued as either a time capsule or an example of foreign marketing.

Storyboards
Here we get to see the actual storyboards penned by Katsuhiro Otomo himself and used during the production of the film. There are 369 in total, split into 36 separate sections. It is a little disappointing that the pages couldn't be divided further, perhaps with one single page shot and a blow by blow thereof for each individual frame. As it is, the wide shot of two pages at a time makes the images far too small for all but those with truly large screens or sitting uncomfortably close. Still, it is a pleasant surprise and I'll never sniff at the chance to see more of the creator's artwork.

All of the above were on the US disc, but the UK Steelbook comes with the 32 page booklet (albeit in a slightly smaller form) that was bundled with the first press of the US release, as well as an additional DVD which, alongside the main feature of the film, contains a separate bonus entitled Production Report (576p – 47:54). This Japanese documentary, with American voiceover, chronicles the history of the production, from original manga to the screen adaptation. It is a worthy addition that was also available on the remastered Pioneer DVD, so in this instance the UK Blu-ray has the upper hand.


Akira Collector

Akira still manages to transcend its animated medium to be seen as an adult, thought-provoking slice of sci-fi action. Katsuhiro Otomo proves that it is possible to truncate a complex narrative, miss large chunks of the original text and still mould the key elements, overarching themes and striking imagery into something not only comprehensible , but a well crafted and satisfying vision of a distopian future as true to the core material’s essence as any cinematic adaptation has been.

The UK Manga release differs from its US counterpart in the barest manner, the upshot of which is that the AV quality is excellent. The steelbook packaging, booklet and extra bonus featurette all combine to make it feel that bit more of a complete offering, but importers from abroad should take note that the disc is region locked.

If you never got around to importing the US Blu-ray, now is the time to make that upgrade and consign that remastered DVD to storage. Altogether now - Tetsuuuuuuoooooooo.........

Scores

Movie

10

Picture Quality

.
9

Sound Quality

10

Extras

.
.
.
.
6

Overall

.
9

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