Extras: Production Report, Sound Production Featurette, Interviews, Image Gallery, Glossary, Teasers and Trailers
Tetsuo and Kaneda are childhood friends and with their motorcycle gang they stumble across a military operation that is set out to locate and retrieve an escaped science experiment. But while getting close to the borderlines, the military captures Tetsuo and uses him as a lab rat. They conduct experiments on him that open his mind, to the point that he can suddenly use his psychic powers to manipulate and destroy others. When Tetsuo realizes the power that lurks within him, he has increasing difficulties, controlling these powers and before long they flare up uncontrollably as Tetsuo lashes out at the world that oppressed him.
The first disc of the set contains a newly restored <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> transfer of the film in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. <$THX,THX>-certified and entirely remastered and cleaned-up, the transfer is meticulous and entirely free of blemishes or speckles. The transfer is also breathtakingly clear and reveals a staggering amount of detail despite the fact that some light grain is evident on occasion. The colors are powerfully rendered, bringing out the best of the atmospheric backgrounds and the gigantic sprawls, although pure reds appear somewhat oversaturated. Blacks are absolutely solid and deep, giving the image remarkable visual depth and shadows are always finely delineated, even in the murky urban scenes where directional light is used to basically shadow-out certain parts of the screen. Generally no edge-enhancement is evident in the transfer, but there are a handful of shots were it has sneaked into the transfer, creating visible ringing artifacts. But for the rest, the animation is just as it was originally designed with pencil strokes that are sometimes brutally contrasted, or finely graded at others. The compression is also flawless and no hint of compression artifacting is visible – no question a result of the extremely high bitrate utilized with this video presentation. Never has "Akira" looked anything like this. The level of detail and the color reproduction are absolutely amazing!
On the second disc, the Special Edition of "Akira" contains a number of interesting supplements, such as the "Akira Production Report." It is a documentary from 1988 taking you behind the scenes of the film’s production, but also explains some of the film’s background and its characters. It takes you inside the "Akira" animation studios and allows viewers to look over the shoulders of the artists as they work on the film. But also voice recording and the music is touched upon in the 48-minute documentary, making it a well-rounded addition to the release.
An interview with director Katsushiro Otomo is also part of the release. Like most other features on the release, it is in Japanese with English subtitles. Otomo talks extensively about the origins of "Akira" both as a comic book and eventually as an animated feature film. The interview is full of valuable information that especially fans of the film and Japanese animation in general will love. It digs deep into the comic culture and brings out a lot of the incentives and ideal Otomo was applying when creating "Akira."
An image gallery with over 4,500 images is also part of the release, and the majority of these images are made up by the original storyboards from the film. But also pre-production art, concept sketches, production art, unused backgrounds, character designs, comic book covers, posters and countless other images can be found in this extensive gallery.
Four trailers and a TV Spot can be found in another section on this disc. All of them are in Japanese and presented in <$PS,widescreen>.
If you want to learn more about the glorious resurrection of "Akira" for this DVD, three featurettes take you behind the scenes of the film’s restoration. In interviews it is revealed how the video transfer has been created from a new interpositive, converted into a high definition master. It is surprisingly technical, but at the same time gives viewers an intimate look at the procedures involved and hence gives viewers a good idea what the steps are to bring a film to DVD and to make sure it looks as good as anyhow possible. Another interview featurette focuses on the newly created English dub while the third one examines how the film’s soundtrack has been remixed to a 5.1 multi-channel presentation. Once again it is a rare glimpse behind the scenes that shows how these projects are approached and hopefully helps to give people an idea of the scope of this remastering processes.
The release is rounded out by an extensive "Akira" glossary, which explains many of the weird terms used in the language to explain the futuristic world of the film.