In 1982, Katsuhiro Otomo began work on what is now possibly the most influential manga in the history of the industry. Akira not only played a large part in the spread of manga/anime from Japan to the rest of the world, it also revolutionized the art of manga in Japan.

Otomo San's lifelong love of cinema is gracefully and vividly present on the pages of his work. His gorgeous, illustrations shine out at you in detail so painstaking it boggles the mind. His visions of the Neo-Tokyo megapolis reach out and engulf you with precise, thousand-stroke architechture.

Akira began as a serial in Young Magazine and grew into an full-sized epic with a large group of interesting, continually interacting characters and a direct, engrossing storyline. The drawings are sometimes touching, sometimes ultra-violent, but always highly detailed.

In 1988 the anime version of Akira, directed by Otomo, was released, and has since joined the ranks of the best full-length anime fllms ever released. The movie, however, is highly abbreviated, with a very different storyline from the original manga, although it contains many of the same characters and elements, which is perhaps better than releasing a simple video summary, as many book-turned-into-movie films end up being.

In addition to the movie, a colorized version of the manga was released in the US by Marvel Comics in 36 volumes. Dark Horse Comics has also since released a 6 volume, black and white version, (roughly 400 pages each) which comes to a staggering 2160 pages of goodness.

Main Characters:

These are the characters that continue throughout the series and play the largest parts.

Tetsuo Shima
The Colonel
Lady Miyako
It seems that this fantastic film is to be re-released in US Theatres this Spring by Pioneer Entertainment.

A DVD will then follow in the Summer which is to be completely restored and re-mixed into Dolby Digital 5.1. Apparently a new English dub will also be supplied from a better translation of the Japanese script.
I haven't been able to tell if the original Japanese soundtrack will be available along with English subtitles, but judging from the outcry over the Mononoke Hime DVD, it's bound to be in there somewhere.
The only extra I know of so far is a comparison between the original and the restored visuals.

I can only hope that they will include plenty of other extras like the Making Of documentary, so that I can finally replace my Collector's Edition VHS.

The current release date for the DVD special edition is July 24th. The first 100,000 of these are packaged in a Limited Edition tin case
*eyes glaze over*.

The features confirmed are:

Disc 1:

  • New Film Transfer from the original negative, featuring restored & re-mastered sound
  • New English Translation of Original Screenplay Used For Dubbing
  • Theatrical Trailer(s) & TV Spot(s)

Disc 2:

  • "Production Report" (The Making of Akira)
  • "Sound Clip" (a documentary on the creation of the soundtrack)
  • Director's Interview (conducted in 1988)
  • Production Materials
  • "Restoring Akira", featurette
  • Akira Glossary

Technical Features:

There are two movie-only editions each with different sound formats also. I have this pre-ordered, so the moment I get my hands on it and have finished dissecting both discs (although many of the special features are already on the collector's Edition Video Set) I will provide a more detailed review of the DVD.

I got my copy of Akira in a much beefier tin than I imagined it would be, very nice. The actual DVD is a mixed bag. The menus are very stylish, possible my favourite of any of the DVD's I own. The film transfer is fine, I can't really say more than that, it doesn't strike me as exceptional. The sound is the same, although I am disappointed with the 5.1 surround. It barely seemed to be used, no bass rumbles, hardly any movement from the other speakers. I didn't listen to the new dub so I can't comment on that. The subtitle translation differed ever so slightly in places from the original, but was much clearer for it.
One feature that deserves a mention is the capsule option. Very often throughout the film, a capsule will appear at the bottom of the screen. Pressing play will pause the action, and give you a translation of any grafitti in the current scene. It's an interesting addition.
The other special features aren't really that special, there are the old interviews and 'making of' documentaries which now look very dated. The new feature on how they restored the movie is useless. They tell you what they did to restore it, but not how. All you get are a few short segments with various people telling you what they did, with no real insight whatsoever into the processes involved.

Overall my reaction to this DVD is very mixed. I am glad I now have a superior quality version to my VHS edition, but it doesn't live up to the hype. It seems to be all style and no substance, if only Criterion had overseen this project.

Also in response to Wukong888: Indeed, Akira certainly isn't the deepest film out there, but many, many people have a special place for it in their hearts. It was one of the first anime films I ever saw, and the one that captured my imagination. Like Princess Mononoke now, Akira was a stunning introduction for people who normally might not have ever discovered anime.

A word of advice to prospective purchasers of the Akira Special Edition DVD: Make sure it's Region 1. This is a mistake that I, and countless others as far as the Akira 2002 message boards will attest to, have made. Allow me to explain.

The Region 1 DVD of Akira Special Edition will feature all the groovy extras that Edame described in his writeup. All the good stuff, like that half-hour Making Of special that was dubbed so horribly on the double VHS set, only now subbed. The Behind the Scenes of the restoration and re-dubbing of this decade-and-a-half old classic is something I would love to see.

The Region 2 DVD, however, has none of that. Here is a complete (!) feature list of the extras on Disc 2 of Akira Special Edition, British version:

  • The "Making Of" featurette from 1988, completely untouched from the original VHS source tape - still dubbed
  • A useless "Make Your Own Akira Trailer" feature, which consists of picking out four video clips from a selection of eight and having them played back
  • An Akira trivia game, where the same five questions are repeated - in the same order - every time you play

Manga Entertainment UK have yet to come up with any rational explanation for this.

Akira is one of the most common given names in Japan, and can be used for both men and women. Famous Akira's include filmaker Akira Kurosawa, composers Akira Miyoshi and Akira Ifukube, author Akira Yoshimura, pornstar Akira Fubuki, materials scientist Akira Sawaoka, cartoonist Akira Toriyama, and origami master Akira Yoshizawa.

Ridiculously, there are at least 188 known ways to write "Akira" using Japanese Kanji characters, each with a different meaning! Take your pick...

  1. 日明
  2. 明朗
  3. 阿岐良
  4. 清朗
  5. 彰一
  6. 亜喜良
  7. 野章
  8. 昭朗
  9. 英良
  10. 亜紀良
  11. 晃瑞
  12. 皓也
  13. 清明
  14. 曙彩
  15. 顕彰
  16. 明克
  17. 阿喜良
  18. 秋裸
  19. 耀
  20. 晃良
  21. 斉良
  22. 章良
  23. 明良
  24. 昭良
  25. 章等
  26. 徳明
  27. 信良
  28. 安喜良
  29. 晶宏
  30. 彰良
  31. 秋楽
  32. 秋良
  33. 明楽
  34. 審良
  35. 明樂
  36. 明等
  37. 晶良

Of course, one can also always use hiragana (あきら) or katakana (アキラ) as well!

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