Coinciding with 20th Anniversary of Manga Entertainment, Akira will be getting released in selected cinemas on June 24th before hitting selves for the first time in the UK on BluRay disc on June 27th. Read on as I take an early look at the disc of the film that opened up the western world to another kind of animation.

The year is 2019; it’s been 31 years since an atomic bomb exploded in the centre of Tokyo leaving it to rot and become the city that is now known as Neo Tokyo.  The leader of a motorcycle gang, Kaneda gathers his friends from a bar and finds his friend Testuo admiring his customised bike before the group speed off to confront their rival gang ‘the clowns’ causing havoc along the way.

Tetsuo crashes into a small child with strange powers, the military quickly descend on the accident picking up both the strange child and Tetsuo, they keep the injured biker and subject him to medical testing as they spot a rather unique force within him.  The power in Testuo soon grows and gives him abilities that make him a danger not only to the people around him but the entire world.

Akira came out in 1988; firstly let’s get that out there.  Looking back and seeing this as a film that’s nearly a quarter of a century old is still kind of baffling.   Also, if you’re a fan of anime or magna or even just enjoy animation with an eastern influence you need to thank Akira because this is the film that broke down that wall and introduced us to what Japanese and Asian animation was capable of.

It’s been said many times before but one of the most influential films of the last 20 years is The Matrix, the way that flick changed Hollywood films is still noticeable today and it’s pretty obvious to say no Akira, no The Matrix.  But not only the way it depicts action and violence but the way it shoots it.  Even though Akira is an animated film the camera work is very well conceived, it feels like a live action film.  Katsuhiro Ohtomo’s kinetic style just adds a freedom that I don’t believe we saw in animated films of that era.

But it wasn’t just the action, the plot of the film and overall character arcs are all well-constructed, intelligent and thought provoking.  It’s a film with many different levels of storytelling either it be an allegory about the Japanese post war revival or the power and danger of the human race.  What I feel is also worth mentioning  is though even with its sprawling story, Akira never lets the characters at the centre catastrophe become second billing, I completely buy the friendship and almost brotherly love between Kaneda and Tetsuo.  They are always the heart and soul of the story and it makes Akira a completely rounded satisfying experience.

Also, the last 40 minutes of the film is truly epic, it had been a few years since I’d seen the film but the third act is astounding and still sets a bar that many Hollywood action films struggle to surpass.  The build up to that climax and the ambiguously chaotic final shots leave you racking to your brains to find your interpretation to what actually happens, of which I’ve discussed on more than one occasion with friends and film fans alike.

But now onto the disc, actually more precisely the transfer on the disc, it can be summed up in one word – astonishing.  The colours on screen are so vivid that they feel they are popping out at you and the image is so crisp and sharp that you’ll wonder how it wasn’t made yesterday, basically this is the best the film has looked without question.  But it doesn’t end there, because the audio is just as good.  If you have a surround sound home cinema system Shoji Yamashiro’s music and the films new super dynamic ‘Hypersonic’ sound design will shake your bones.  The BluRay transfer is really something to applaud and I’m sure that this version of the film will become the ultimate experience for all the Akira fans out there.

One downfall though is the sheer lack of special features, looking through the disc there is a couple of trailers, a TV spot and some storyboards which is a huge shame, but with the films 25th Anniversary only two years away I think they have been very sneaky to not give us all the good stuff at once, I would be very shocked if in 2013 we did not see a new special edition version of the film packed full of extras trying to coax even more pennies out of our pockets.

Overall, Akira was game changer back in the day, it’s still a classic piece of cinema and in this new format looks and sounds the best it ever has.  If you’re a fan of the film you will not be disappointed.