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More on the new AKIRA release

Hey folks, Harry here. The word I'm hearing on a possible expanded rerelease of AKIRA is that it will only play DIGITAL theaters.... of which there are not many in the country. And... that if this larger release happens it will either be very quickly or not at all due to the desire to get the DVD to market. Personally, I think a country wide AUGUST release of AKIRA would kick much ass, especially if Pioneer got the trailer out in theaters and attached to everything they could latch it onto. Here's The Crow....

Hello out there in Ain't It Cool Land,

Call me The Crow....long time TBer, first time reviewer.

Normally, i would never have a chance in hell of getting into any kick ass re-releases or film premieres for some odd reason (::coughcoughTexasLosAngelesbiascoughcough::), so when the opportunity to see the newly restored Akira arose, i was there in an instant...

Well, not so much an instant....

If Pioneer Entertainment was worried that the movie wouldn't attract an audience, they were SORELY mistaken.... EVERY showing of the film, with the exception of the 12:45 showing on Friday, and the 1:30 on Saturday(the one i was forced to be at instead of the 7:30 on Friday) was sold out, which is a good sign if they still intend to release the film in more cities. And judging by crowd reaction, they definitely dont need to worry about too much in the criticism department....the crowd applauded, heavily, at the end....and rightly so. From the serious Akira fan, to those few people who had never seen ANY anime aside from that which is on heavy rotation on the Cartoon Network, everyone was as still and enthralled as ever the more the movie went on, especially during the final climactic sequence, which still managed to blow everyone's mind, 13 years later. There wasn't a sound in the entire theater aside from that coming from the film itself. Not a soul moved. It was a VERY cool experience.

But that doesn't mean there aren't things to criticize. Chances are, if you're reading this review, you know the storyline and plot already, so i'll just get right down to the meat and potatoes....what they messed with.

The first thing that will strike any Akira fan's fancy will be the digital remastering of the print. The majority of people in this country who have seen the film, most likely, saw it either on video, or on the Sci-Fi Channel....never in a theater. So regardless of how many times you've seen it, you still have to take a moment and grin about how great the opening sphere looks on the huge screens at the AMC Empire. But even after that, the image has been cleaned up considerably, and now looks as clean and clear, and as fluid as ever, and stands as a true testament of how ahead of its time the animation in this nearly 15 year old piece of anime really is.

The sound was just as bad ass as they come. From explosions, to the fanatical shouting of Tetsuo's/Akira's followers, to the gunfire, to the shallow bickering of the politicians, to the now VERY present soundtrack, which has never sounded better even on CD("DUM! DUM!!"), the sound is just excellent. However, certain places seemed..i dunno...incomplete? When Takashi screams after watching his kidnapper get shot up, in the original, there was a very cool echo with it. Here, the echo is gone, and it sounds more like an "Ahh! A monster!" scream, rather than an "OH MY (bleep)-IN GOD!!!!!" scream. The same goes for Tetsuo's mutation. When he first changes, his voice remains the same for much of the scene, until about a minute before Akira's capsules break, then the sound is pretty well done, but it should've come in earlier.

Then there's the matter of the dub, which is bound to start many an anime convention riot among purists. From the start, i expected a shock as voices and dialogue changed. Even still, that did nothing to prepare me for the bar room scene. Alas, two of the more well known lines were changed...not badly, mind you, but differently. I think every fan in the audience was just waiting with baited breath for the coveted "You got a bad attitude, pops" line, but it never came. Instead came something about the bartender needing to serve real drinks, not this dog piss. Whoa...if it wasnt only a few minutes into the movie, i would've screamed blasphemy. Then hearing the CONSIDERABLY younger voice of Kaneda come out, instead of Leonardo's(Ninja Turtles fans know what I'm talking about), hearing the Colonel's voice reduced to a stiff Captain America wannabe voice, and more shocking, hearing Masaru's "smoker's rasp" become that of a child...well, for a split second, i lost the faith in the new dub. But you know what? You get over it. In fact, the voice and dialogue changes actually HELP the film, not hurt it. We've all gotten so used to the old dub that we forget that Masaru, Takashi, and Kiyoko are ALL supposed to be children.....about an hour in, it becomes very clear that the change works much better. And dialogue-wise, Pioneer has done an excellent job of making the story easier to understand, and much closer to the way Katsuhiro Otomo intended. Instead of mystifying confusion like "Kiyoko says, 'Bring Akira back to us' ", there's a very clear explanation, that Tetsuo is abusing his power, and if he wakes Akira and his power this way, Akira's going to be VERY pissed. Lines of dialogue between Kaneda and Tetsuo are done wonderfully, as Tetsuo's contempt for Kaneda's heroics and his desire to be the hero himself without help becomes clear. The bickering between politicians is more important and integral to the development of the Colonel's hatred for them. Some of the old jokes have given way to newer ones, some work ("Tetsuo, what the hell's wrong with you?! You look like a crackhead!!"), some don't ("I'm only 25! I'm not even married!" is in NO way better than "...or you'll find yourself polishin' my boots with your tongue!"). It also becomes very clear how Kaneda got his bike(Sorry...i can't spoil EVERYTHING, now can I?). The only things that seems to be a little bit lacking are screams and yells. They dont seem to be delivered with the same emotion that they are in the original dub. Small price to pay, though. Let it never be said again that Americans can't do a good dub when they put their minds to it.

Overall, small little flaws notwithstanding, this is as good an Akira as you're ever gonna see on an American screen, and Pioneer Entertainment definitely made it worth the horrendous $9.50 to see. Of course, as any anime fan will tell you, the only true way to watch anime is subtitled, but then again, when are you ever gonna see it on a movie screen done this well? Kudos to all involved. Just really too bad it's only playing in NYC, and not somewhere like San Antonio or LA ::stifled vindictive chuckle:: Oh well. If the glowing response i saw was any indication, that should be changing in the near future anyway. Until then, if you're an anime fan, or just a fan of animation in general anywhere near NYC, you owe it to yourself to find a way to get yourself to Times Square and get advance tickets to see this thing before it leaves on the 5th.

"Revolution is my name."

Readers Talkback
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  • April 1, 2001, 2:17 p.m. CST

    It's been a couple of years since I last saw Akira

    by Mr. Sartre

    Or "Ghost in the Shell," for that matter. Looks like I'm going to ahve to find my old Orion Home Video copy and freshen up before the re-release.

  • April 1, 2001, 5:50 p.m. CST

    How the fuck can you scream "blasphemy" about changing a DUB?

    by Critical Bill

  • April 1, 2001, 7:26 p.m. CST

    The dub could ONLY be improved

    by SethFX

    I have watched the previous dubbed version once...only...and never again. There is so much in the dialogue that gets dumped in favor of appealing to an American audience that is percieved as DUMB. Watch the subtitled version. If this reviewer had seen the subtitled version he would have realized that the "I'm only 25..." line is the ACTUALL translation of the original. Not a new joke invented for a U.S. audience. The voices in that dubbed thing . . . ugh! None of the voices sat well with me and some ACTING seemed to be missing. I know it's hard to lip sinc with existing animation in a different language, but JESUS! Don't they get a second take? Or a rehersal? I look forward to this new attempt to get it right. There original Japanese had better have been remastered on the DVD too, though, damn it!

  • April 1, 2001, 7:45 p.m. CST

    Poor, misguided children...

    by Tallgeese2Pilot

    OK, first off, Darth Siskel cannot be a "true anime fan". Anyone that prefers horrible American voice actors to the original Japanese has either been weaned on Pokeman or has not heard Megumi Hayashibara doing Faye Valentine or Lina Inversesome or Lime from Sabre Marionette J. Secondly, "true anime fans" apperently can't read if they prefer terrible dubbing over subtitles. Anyone who disagrees, I dare you to take the challange. Get ahold of a Escaflowne or a Trigun DVD and listen to an episode in English and in Japanse with the subtitles. Then you'll understand why we TRUE ANIME FANS don't even fuck around with the dubbed version of anything. PS> Darth Siskel, please don't take anything I said personally. Just watch some real anime, ok?

  • April 1, 2001, 7:48 p.m. CST

    Previous post...

    by Tallgeese2Pilot

    It's Lina Inverse. Sorry about that.

  • April 1, 2001, 8:27 p.m. CST

    A quick note about animation for Darth Siskel

    by Pagz

    Just a few small corrections. As an animator, I can tell you, we are no where near the point when we'll be able to go back and fix the lipsync in an animated film for another language. That would require us to change the timing of the animation itself and more than likely create brand new frames. Not going to happen. Secondly, it's important to keep in mind that the vast majority of Anime is not lipsynced at all. The animation is done before the voices have been recorded. So, English dubbs are trying to match the lip sync of animation that wasn't lip synced in the first place. If Akira had been computer animated the technology would exist for another version to be made with another lip sunc, but not in traditional animation.

  • April 1, 2001, 9:29 p.m. CST

    TRUE anime fans...

    by Studio Lackey

    ...enjoy animation. They're too busy being wowed by the beautiful art form that is Japanese animation to worry about whether the dialogue is dubbed or subtitled. The true test where dialogue is concerned is: does it effectively convey the meaning and essence of the source material? Most of the time subtitled versions do it better. Sometimes the dubbed version is more effective. Sorry, but it's true. Anyone who dogmatically adheres to one format or the other is guilty of empty posturing. The fact is that if you require either dubbed or subbed anime, you're not a fluent Japanese speaker and you're getting a translation. Period. The only "true" anime fan by the standard you guys are arguing over is someone who is fluent in Japanese language and culture. Therefore, the debate is inherently silly. Another thing that makes this debate pointless: ALL ANIMATION IS DUBBED! Or did you think you were looking at brightly painted live-action actors on screen? This "subbed is best" lunacy probably stems from the fact that in live-action film, subtitled versions are in fact better than dubbed versions 99.99% of the time, because the voices and the nuances of the actors' faces are so closely tied that to dub the actors is unbearably annoying and distancing. In live action, you do lose a great deal by deleting the actor's true voices. But in anime these factors don't apply, at least not to any meaningful extent. Whether an American or Japanese voice is emitted by the characters' flapping mouths is nowhere near as important as what is being communicated. As non-native speakers we are necessarily distanced from the source material, and given this I can understand the preference for subtitles as a way to "get closer" to the original, but this is misleading. If you really want to be authentic, why not forget subtitling and dubbing altogether and just watch the original? Because the majority of you wouldn't understand what was going on, right? But wait, aren't I more of a "true" anime fan if I'm experiencing the source material on a pure level? Nope, I'm just a confused anime fan and once again I've made a jackass out of myself. See, there is no purity, no "truth" where translation is concerned. It's just a matter of what conveys the story most effectively. Only a fool would choose a mediocre subtitled translation to an outstanding dub, but that is exactly what some of you are advocating when you proclaim your absolute allegiance to one format or the other. Just think about it is all I'm saying. The point is that as anime fans we all love anime, so let's enjoy the anime instead of getting sidetracked with a lot of chest-pounding on an issue that is not even all that relevant in the first place. P.S. We are talking about Pokemon, right? I love Pokemon! Also Sailor Moon.

  • April 1, 2001, 9:59 p.m. CST

    In defense of the Dub.

    by SubversiveRusski

    Being someone who actually dubs animes for a living, it's a fine line. Usually you have NO TIME to do it in. More importantly, no matter what you do, in the end, you will be criticized. In the end, I prefer the subbed version, through and through. I don't hate dubs oh course, gives me the $. The best I've ever heard said about it was this: People change Shakespeare- who gives? You change a single line, intention of any animate work, it's a thousand hours of bitching on the chat board. However, it is simply an INTERPRETATION. There are so many ways to act a scene, and only one is chosen. But there is always a chance to dub it again. Hell, in the end- the original animes are usually dubbed after the fact, Akira being a rare exception. If you've seen it it Japanese, the lip sync is both beautiful and subtle. Oh course I can't wait to see it big screen but I have to defend the new dub (which I had nothing to do with). All of the critical points in the article about the newer dub are actually corrections, making it more faithful to the orginal text: the dog piss, the lack of echo in Takashi-Tetsuo's voice , Colonel's simpler voice, Masaru talking like a child. All in the original.

  • April 1, 2001, 10:44 p.m. CST

    dubbing dun be fer' the ill'lit'rit!

    by splat broening

    Ya'll seem to be forgetting. Even though most anime has the dialog looped after production, the dialog for Akira was pre-recorded, and the lip movement in the the animation is synced beeooterfully to the dialog. Also, while Akira has some of the best animated action scenes ever put to film, even with the origional dialogue and clear translation, the bastard is just pretty poorly paced for a two hour film. Somehow, eventhough I love this film, it still pales overall when compared to Miyazaki's best stuff. I know that in anime circles this is heresy of the worst kind, but this film's reputation has more to do with the amount of exposure it's had over the years, than with how good it actually is. What I'm really dyin' for, is that Disney will get off of it's fat ass, and release Laputa, Nausicaa, and Kiki(on dvd). All excellent films that deserve the kind of exposure required for real mass acceptance of anime as the art form that it is.

  • April 2, 2001, 4:37 a.m. CST

    Yeah, all animation IS dubbed...

    by Albert Acisuan

    But for which version was the actual director of the movie sitting on the other side of that soundproof glass plate telling the actors what to do? And which version was done on a shoestring by somebody who, with no contact with the artists who actually made the visuals, vaguely tries to figure out what they wanted - or worse - what an American audience wants? Did you know Miyazaki had his actors do over 100 takes for some lines in Mononoke? Excellent as the English dub was, I seriously doubt they were that exacting. Which country - America or Japan - has schools where they teach specifically VOICE acting, postdubbing, how to pay attention to the timing of the visuals without sounding distracted or losing the emotion in your voice, how to acheive the vocal tones (very different from live acting) required in voice acting? Yes, there ARE artists in America who are the equal of their peers in Japan. For that reason, I'm constantly giving dubs the benefit of the doubt - switching back and forth on DVD, going to theatrical showings desperately trying to keep an open mind, heck, I even own a good dozen dubbed VHS tapes - but I have yet to see an English dub that I liked as much as - or thought was better than - the Japanese.

  • April 2, 2001, 5:44 a.m. CST

    From The Crow: In response to the comments about the dub...

    by XTheCrovvX

    In NO way did i mean that the original 1988 dub was so good that any change(or conversion to the original japanese dialogue) is unwelcome...but that after being exposed to the '88 dub for so long(keep in mind, not everybody has seen the subtitled version, guys...i myself have spent 4 years looking for the damn thing), hearing the new lines in place SEEMED like a sacrilege..and near the beginning of the film, the performaances were so wooden, i got pretty worried....but, if you actually read on, i mentioned that about 98% of the changes are MUCH better than the original English dub, but I'm also still of the opinion that certain bits and pieces from the '88 one were pretty good...especilly in terms of humor...the two bits of dialogue i mentioned(The "attitude" line, the "polishing boots" line), in my opinion, work better as humorous lines in the context of the scenes they came from, same with the little bit with Kaneda's stuttered reasoning inside the anarchists HQ("Oh, me? Kay's cousin? Haha! Well, i guess we're kinda boyfriend and girlfriend, cause see our mothers are sisters and..")....is this important as far as the majority of the story is concerned? No...because as far as that's concerned, whether it's taken straight from the Japanese script or not, the new dub handles the more important material much better than the other English dub. But the other TBer above had the point right. While most of the time, the subtitled version of anime is much more true to the original, as long as a dub gets the main point and nuances of the story across, it doesnt matter...the 88 dub was ok in accomplishing what it set out to do, but everybody should know by now what's wrong with it...and yes, i would still rather prefer to watch than read, but as long as the option is there, it's all good. The other re-release reviewer had a good idea...putting all three versions of the language track on the DVD is the overall best idea, if for no other reason than to keep everyone from being pissed off....also, while im here, i should mention something i accidentally left out of my review...while, yes, i haven't seen the Subbed version, i do know basic Japanese...and i can tell you with some certainty that the pronounciation of the names has at last been corrected...even "Roy" became "Ryu" again....there...happy now? Good. Revolution is my name.

  • April 2, 2001, 7:14 a.m. CST

    the joys of DVD

    by garumphul

    I would far rather watch a non-English film subtitled than dubbed (couldn't imagine any voice other than Depardieu as Cyrano, for instance). My main criteria is getting the performance and the script. Now I gotta say that, whatever the more rabid fans might argue, I don't think you lose as much in dubbing an animated film. The problem with subtitling, as far as I'm concerned, is truncating a script to fit the screen and the pace of an average reader. It would seem from this review, however, that dubs suffer from a similar fate. In theory, of course, this whold argument should be solved by the DVD release. My Region2 disk of Perfect Blue has every combination of subtitling and dubbing a body could ask for. I had rather hoped Akira would be the same, but I seem to remember reading in here that is was going to be a dubbed-only release in America. Let's hope that the British distributers take a more open-minded approach.

  • April 2, 2001, 8:23 a.m. CST

    Blame Kaneda!

    by Sardonicus

    I must admit right off the bat that I had never seen the earlier version of Akira (since the only version I could find was on VHS and I'd rather gnaw on a broken Mason jar than watch VHS anymore), but I did want to see it and had this new version not come out I would have broken down one day and viewed the VHS. Well, sh*t on that idea now, baby. This sucker rocks! I caught it at the 7:30 show on Friday night with friends and the place was not only packed, it was like an adoring cult gathering. I hope Pioneer does a transfer to at least a few prints to get this out there, or at least a roadshow release across the country, because this was a real crowd-pleasing treat.

  • April 2, 2001, 1:04 p.m. CST

    What was the best dub ever?

    by joekun

    I don't like dubs, but my favorite of all time has to be the Japanese dub of the American-made "Fist of the North Star" film using the original anime voice actors. THAT was a good dub. This weekend I saw The Powerpuff Girls dubbed in Japanese, and they got the voices PERFECT! I just wish that we could do that over here. I thought that "Princess Mononoke" was the best overall English dub of an anime ever, but it had a lot of room for improvement. I hope this release of Akira will build on that progress! Just one suggestion Pioneer, PLEASE GO BACK AND REMIX THE JAPANESE TRACK IN 5.1 IF AT ALL POSSIBLE!!

  • April 2, 2001, 3:43 p.m. CST

    Digital Theaters? Crap!

    by Drath

    Put it on DVD then. I know Harry gets to go to all the cool theaters to see every single release under the sun because he shows skin to the theater owners--or promices not to. But I who am without the means do not care to wait until fucking August just for the film to be released in Digital Theaters, prolonging the film's release on DVD for who knows how long. They pulled that shit with me on Wonder Boys and while Harry cheered I screamed. If they can put Gladiator back in Theaters after everyone with DVD players who is going to care has already bought it then certainly they can release Akira on DVD and THEN put in in the two existing Digital Theaters that exist (both in LA, natch).*****About this dub issue, well there are the snide elitists who sneer at anyone who doesn't agree with the them that subtitles are the only way to go. And then there is everyone who's mentally matured. Frankly, I hate the Akira dub, but I've never seen the Akira subtitled version much to my chagrin. It's got to be better because the english dub sucked horse tits. The Colonel's voice sounds like it hurts. He shouts throughout the whole dang movie. And Kaneda and Tetsuo's voices and dialogue are just bad--I don't care if that's Leonardo the Ninja Turtle's voice. "This is more than Chemistry 101, man." What shit. So if there is a new, better dub, I'd like to know if there are any familiar names in there. Obviously no A-list people or they'd have already been named, but any familiar voice actors? Tress McNiel? Tony Jay? Matt Hill? I've said too much, haven't I?

  • April 3, 2001, 8:49 p.m. CST

    comment from film's translator

    by DaveF

    This has been mentioned in a couple of the other replies, but I've really gotta throw in my two cents here as the guy who did the new translation. I'd just like to point out that all the "changes" made to the film that the reviewer complained about were the result of this version being as accurate as possible to the original dialogue. I haven't heard the finished dub script yet, but I'm guessing that the ADR writer didn't try to make up cute jokes at the expense of staying true to the original material. Okay, I'll shut up now.

  • April 3, 2001, 11:30 p.m. CST

    AKIRA soon to be at your local theaters

    by HEUGE

    Hello, I was fortunate enough to be at the premiere in NYC (Thanks Ellen) as well as lucky enough to have seen a projection of a new Streamline-dub print while I was at USC. (Thanks to the USC anime club) Let me tell you... I had a grin ear-to-ear for the first half-hour. More telling, I had tears flowing freely from my eyes after the first clown gang battle. (I love that scene) It is truly an incredible experience to watch Akira on the large screen... there are so many details that you can not see on a television screen like... well wait... go see it for yourself. Not to say there were no flaws: there were some significant differences with picture quality that ticked me off, but I suppose that is because I was spoiled once before. I am hoping that these were somewhat due to the digital projection (contrast/coloring was wayyyy off in a few scenes). There were scenes that could have/should have been more cleaned or a better print been searched for(sewer scenes were a bit gritty). Other than my nit-picking, I enjoyed this version immensely until *spoiler* my friend indicated that KIYOKO sounded just like Lisa Simpson/Yeardley Smith)... someone please correct me if wrong. I have to say that I am hopeful that this movie ends-up at regular non-digital theaters, and I had one conversation that night that might mean this will happen. While Harry had the benefit of introducing Akira, the head of Pioneer (unfortunately I can not immediately recall his name or porsition) Animation was the first presenter. (someone who received a press kit, please correct my forgetfullness) I was fortunate to speak with him at the post-premiere party and I asked him a very specific question: HEUGE: "I enjoyed Akira very much, *bow* *scrape* *bow* but I was wondering whether you were going to release this in regular theaters?" Cool Pioneer dude who invested $1mil in the restoration: "Yes, if this movie does well in limited release, then we plan to increase distribution city by city." HEUGE: "Since not all theaters have digital projectors, does this mean that you already have Akira on film?" Most Excellent Pioneer dude who I should have gotten his business card so I could properly quote his holiness: "Yes." Of course there was free alcohol at the party, and I do not speak Japanese, so I am not 100% sure whether he was understood my questions completely. Sooooo... if you get any chance at all... go and see Akira... buy 1, 2, 3... as many tickets as you need. Bring your family and friends. As long as it keeps selling out, then there is a chance. I want to be able to see this movie become the next Crouching Tiger... although I must admit that at 2 hours it is a bit tedious. One of my friends watching it was not particularly alert and aware by the end. The pacing slows when they start discussing the nature of energy in the universe... and that will put many people in the audience to sleep. And hey... "Harry did you get the pictures I emailed?" -HEUGE-

  • April 11, 2001, 12:32 p.m. CST

    Akira

    by KarrdeKNR

    All I can say is that they'f be fools not to release it everywhere. I don't have a DVD player, so unless they release it here, I'll never see it. -Karrde-