Akira (UMD). Canonical Anime, Further Proof That the Japanese Are Weird

Orson

In the realm of anime, I’m still a bit of a virgin. Sure, I’ve got Ninja Scroll, as well as some slightly obscure stuff, but a lot of the big stuff has eluded my grasp. When the UMD version of Akira, distributed my Geneon, made its way into the office, I figured I owed it to myself to take a look at seminal anime.

“It’s not bad, but the last third gets really weird,” my partner in crime warned me. “It’s like Donnie Darko. No one gets it but nerds pretend to so they sound deep.”

Like every other anime, I thought. The biggest problem with the genre is it loses itself in its own style, completely forsaking its substance. That’s why Appleseed was so great, it managed to keep itself honest. Unfortunately, the more I see, the more I realize Appleseed is the exception, not the rule.

Just look at Akira: It’s canon, and completely reinvents itself roughly two thirds of the way through the movie. What starts out as a fun action movie about a group of kids in a motorcycle gang turns into a government conspiracy flick, which then turns into a power mad psychic kid wreaking havoc upon the people who wronged him in the past. Then he beats up a satellite. I was content with the motorcycle movie, guys. All it was missing was Steve McQueen. Then it fell into the oh-so-silly “I have ultimate power ahh this hurts now I’ll go kill something over here” mode that anime can’t seem to get away from. Rather than get deeper into a convoluted plot (one you’ve probably already seen, anyway), I’ll just leave it at this: I loved the first hour, the second was formulaic, Dragonballesque crap.

That’s not to say the presentation was bad. Sweet Jesus, the movie was beautiful. Anime’s style on the PSP’s screen is too beautiful for words. Geneon’s done some great work with their ports; the sound is great, the title screen is inviting and fast-paced, and the visuals are pristine. The voice acting surprised me, as well. It’s not Disney or Pixar, but it’s impressive. The dialogue between the guys in the motorcycle gang is very believable; just kids ribbing one another while riding high powered bikes.

I’ll leave Akira in the library, if only because it’s something I can foist upon buddies who haven’t yet been indoctrinated into anime’s weird. Akira isn’t great, but it’ll do in a pinch, which is exactly for what UMDs are designed. It’s a gateway drug; keep it portable.

Techical/Extras: 7
Looked great, but UMDs don’t do extras at all.

Entertainment: 6.66
I enjoyed two thirds of the movie.

Overall: 7

It’s seminal, but I’ve seen far better.

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