AKIRA ( ƒAƒLƒ‰ ) Toho Film/Bandai Visual, 1988 Pioneer Animation, 2001-2002 Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo (Memories, Metropolis). Rated R for violence and gore, nudity and profanity. The year is 2019. Thirty-one years have passed since an experiment gone wrong triggered an explosion that destroyed Tokyo, Japan. This phenomenon was known by many as "Akira," named after the test subject of the experiment. Following this catastrophe and World War III, the city became Neo-Tokyo - a cesspool of gang violence, angry demonstrations and a corrupt government. Shotaro Kaneda leads his motorcycle gang of juvenile delinquents against the Clowns for road supremacy. But things go awry when Kaneda's best friend Tetsuo Shima is involved in a deadly accident and taken into custody by the military. The accident unleashes physical and mental powers hidden inside Tetsuo, which he uses indiscriminately to wreak havoc all over the city. With the help of a political activist named Kei, Kaneda must stop Tetsuo before he releases the powers of Akira and destroys Neo-Tokyo. Story: A It's not easy adapting a manga into the big screen, but Otomo managed to keep the film as close to the original story as possible in a two-hour span. Many viewers may not understand the film at first, but they'll slowly realize its meaning. Animation: A+ Akira became the benchmark in Japanese animation with its vibrant mix of 2D and 3D graphics. It's hard to believe that this movie is nearly two decades old, but is still technically superior to most anime titles released in the past five years. Soundtrack: A+ Akira is highly regarded as having one of the greatest soundtracks in film history. Composed by Shoji Yamashiro and performed by Geinoh Yamashiro-Gumi, the film score uses a perfect blend of Malay, Indonesian and Japanese instruments with synthesizers and powerful vocals. Sub vs. Dub The Japanese cast features Mitsuo Iwata (Itsuki in Initial D, Hyosuke in Please Teacher!/Onegai Twins) as Kaneda, Nozomu Sasaki (Yuusuke in Yu-Yu Hakusho, Enishi in Rurouni Kenshin) as Tetsuo, Mami Koyama (Karen in Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team, Chiren in Battle Angel) as Kei, Taro Ishida (Duke Red in Metropolis) as the Colonel, Takeshi Kusao (The Guyver, Trunks in Dragon Ball Z) as Kai, Tessho Genda (Chief Dan Dastun in The Big O, Sanders in Gundam 08th MS Team) as Ryu, Fukue Ito as Kiyoko (#25), Tatsuhiko Nakamura as Takashi (#26), Kazuhiko Kamifuji as Masaru (#27), and Mizuho Suzuki as Dr. Onishi. When Streamline Pictures first released Akira, it was marred by horrible dubbing and a bad English script. Pioneer re-translated the script to make it closer to the original Japanese version. The new dub, produced by ZRO Limit Productions/Animaze, features Johnny Yong Bosch (Vash the Stampede in Trigun, Haruto in Witch Hunter Robin) as Kaneda, Joshua Seth (Cyborg 009, Eiji in Rurouni Kenshin) as Tetsuo, and Wendee Lee (Faye in Cowboy Bebop, Angel in The Big O) as Kei. I'm glad to say that the dub is very good. DVD Extras: A+ If you bought the 2-disc version, you definitely got your money's worth. Disc 2 is loaded with the following features: - AKIRA Production Report (The making of the movie). - AKIRA Sound Clip (The original soundtrack production). - Interview with Katsuhiro Otomo. - Production Materials (Still images, unused storyboards & backgrounds, character design sketches, manga art, movie posters and promotional items). - Original Japanese trailers and TV spots. - Features behind the film restoration and English re-dub. - Glossary. The Bottom Line AKIRA is one movie you must own in your film collection, whether you're into anime or not.