AkiraBandai Visual (Blu-ray)
In 1988, the landmark Anime film "Akira", by director Katsuhiro Otomo, defined the cutting edge of Anime around the world. By today's standards, "Akira" remains a landmark achievement in cel animation and retains the explosive impact of its highly detailed animation and its intensely violent saga of power and corruption.
Akira is the Star Wars of Anime movies. While in my opinion there are better ones out there this one always is referred to as a benchmark for this genre. While I do think it is a much bigger and better story than a lot of other anime flicks I still think it was just slightly better than average as a story. I must give credit though to the animators for the vivid attention to detail and amazing amount of work that went into the art of this movie and I’m glad to see it released on Blu-ray in great form.
The HD presentation of this classic piece of anime holds up quite well and is a clear step up from the DVD presentations I’ve seen in the past. The print is in varying condition but is in very good shape for the most part. Some scenes can look a bit flat and washed out but it is rare. Detail is quite good and the dimensionality of the cel animation is excellent. Contrast is strong though at times black levels can look slightly elevated. Colors are very detailed and have a nice clean quality but their overall saturation can vary a bit throughout. All things considering though, I hope all classic anime titles of this age look this good on Blu-ray.
This is the first Blu-ray to present a 192/24 resolution lossless multi-channel soundtrack for a film. The original Japanese Dolby TrueHD mix is dubbed as a “hypersonic” mix, which is labeled appropriately since the human hearing range is limited to 20kHz. Sampling this high does give more resolution in the analog to digital conversion and was very popular in the DVD-Audio format though at the time DVD-A was limited to 2-channel reproduction at this sampling rate. How much this high sampling rate improves acoustics is almost impossible to tell but the included book says they did scientific studies that showed increased stimulation in the brain when viewing (I’m not kidding). What I did notice is that the soundtrack is recorded considerably higher than most Blu-ray discs making playback volumes a good 5-7db less than I typically set them. The score has a great sense of resolution and is the dominant factor in the soundtrack. So dominant that it tends to obscure some of the details in the sound design and dialogue. Low end extension is impressive and the quality of the sound production is superb considering what we typically get from anime. Spatial design is a big plus and the soundtrack has a very enveloping quality with great panning effects and split surround activity. Bandai has also included an English dub but I didn’t find it nearly as compelling.
Extras on the disc are pretty limited. You get a collection of trailers and TV spots for the film and a storyboard gallery. Considering how popular this title is and its influence on anime I’m surprised we don’t see a production feature or documentary on the film. Included in the slip case is a small book that gives insight into the film’s production, animation process and influence. There is also information on the film’s soundtrack and being the first “high resolution” presentation.
This is a landmark piece of anime and one of the better feature films in the genre. Bandai has done a great job with the A/V presentation though I don’t know if I was quite as impressed with the audio as Bandai wanted, but it was by far the best presentation I’ve seen of the film to date.