Akira was originally created as a manga series in 1982 by Katsuhiro Otomo, author and director, decided to take the time from 1986 to 1988 to supervise the film adaptation of his story. Set in 2019, thirty years after World War 3, Akira is set in what is commonly referred to as Neo-Tokyo, a futuristic cyber-city filled with cyberpunks, motorcycle gangs and great influences from Blade Runner. The world of Akira is littered with violence and social-political statements. The student riots and police brutality are an eerie premonition of events like the Tienanmen Square massacre (which took place in 1989). The main story involves Tetsuo and Kaneda, two motorcycle punks who get wrapped up in a secret military project when Tetsuo ends up in an accident and is taken away by the military. Tetsuo, a disturbed young man, develops psychic powers which quickly grow out of control. During this time, Kaneda tries to rescue him from the project, only to realize that his friend has grown too powerful for anyone's own good.

Character association is strong. Within a short amount of time, any of the major players can be distinguished but not only their appearance, but emotional mannerisms. The supposed friendship between Testuo and Kaneda which becomes frayed by Testuo's resentment of being considered weaker, only to let his new-found powers feed with wounded ego. Also, the interaction between Kei, the focused terrorist, and Kaneda is rich, as he tries to be a hero to gather her attention and in turn reluctantly joins her and her allies to save Tetsuo from his captors.

Akira is a visually strong movie. Action sequences flow fast with intensity. There are a few moments of casual peace, but those only serve to keep the movie from speeding from beginning to end. Every element seems to pile up, creating both a believable yet violently unrealistic world. Those who wore out their original VHS casettes will want to pick up the DVD version, which is clean and crisp.

For those who haven't heard, one of the major aspects to the new version is the retranslation of the original script and the addition of new voiceacting. With the new translation, some of the more confusing aspects are partially cleared up and the story doesn't seem as quite as confusing towards the end. Fans of the original might find watching this a hard pill to swallow, considering both the new lines and change in voice acting. I found the actual child-like voices for Takashi, Masaru and Kyoko in this version much less annoying than the original (especially Masaru, who sounded like Marlon Brando trying to do a child's voice than an actual child).

It is nice to see so much work put into re-editioning such a classic, but even with the retranslation, the ending is still somewhat confusing, much like Stanley Kubrik's 2001. Fans of anime, or anyone who would like to know what it's all about should take the time to see this. Dedicated fans of the original print might be disappointed with some of the audio changes, but in all, the new Akira is well worth the investment.

- - Vane

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