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With the much dreaded Hollywood adaptation of “Akira” having apparently been resigned yet again to development hell, now seems a perfect time to revisit the original 1988 anime, shortly being re-released by Manga Entertainment on remastered region 2 DVD and blu ray. For newcomers to the genre, the film was directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, based on his own manga, was largely responsible for popularising the form in the West, and still onto its place as one of the greatest animes of all time. Set in Neo-Tokyo in 2019 after the devastation of World War III, the film follows a teen biker gang led by Kaneda and his downtrodden sidekick Tetsuo, who stumble upon a terrifying government experiment involving telekinetic powers.
“Akira” really hasn’t aged much at all since its original release, and the remastering does a superb job of polishing up the visuals and soundtrack, with the blu ray upgrade being very worthwhile. Katsuhiro Otomo’s vision is still unmatched, with the film mixing fast moving action, believable science fiction, epic conspiracies and complex psychodrama in way which others have continued to imitate in the years since. The film’s influence is certainly still clear today, and it’s easy to see why Hollywood has been so keen to try and tap into its thrilling power and incredible imagination. Simply put, for anyone who hasn’t seen it, the film is utterly essential, and for fans, the high definition boost makes this new release a genuine must have, taking its already awesome aesthetic up a few further few notches.
Eden of the East Movie 1: The King of Eden/Air Communication (2009)
Almost exciting as “Akira” in HD is the region 2 DVD and blu ray release of the first “Eden of the East” movie, “The King of Eden”, from series creator Kenji Kamiyama. Without giving away any spoilers for the uninitiated, the film picks up immediately after the end of the original 11 part series – Kamiyama had apparently intended to create a second series, before deciding instead to produce two feature length films. Handily, the release also comes with “Air Communication”, a full length edited together compilation of the events of the series, which also provides a neat catch up for seasoned viewers wishing to refresh their memories of its many complexities before pushing forward.
Although this in itself is a pretty good idea, there’s really no excuse for not having watched “Eden of the East” in its fullness. The series is certainly one of the very best of the last few years, managing a finely tuned balance of conspiracy theories, science fiction, action, comedy and romance in the way which only anime seems capable. Every bit as gripping and intellectually challenging as Kamiyama’s awesomely epic “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex”, which in many ways outdoes the films, “Eden of the East” is the kind of series which should be enjoyed even by those who normally wouldn’t consider sullying themselves with a cartoon. “The King of Eden” keeps things moving very much in the same manner and thankfully with the same level of quality, further developing the plot and moving it towards what might turn out to be an actual conclusion. This obviously marks the film essential viewing for fans, and indeed as a kick up the ass for anyone who hasn’t seen the series yet, underlining again that “Eden of the East” is one of the most engaging and cerebral animes of recent years.
Series Releases: Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood 4 (2009)
June sees a number of interesting releases of ongoing anime series from Manga Entertainment, including the latest episodes of “Vampire Knight Guilty”, “Bleach” and the ninja themed “Nabari No Ou”. Chief amongst these is the fourth “Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood” collection. This latest instalment of the revamped “Fullmetal Alchemist” (produced to tie in with the hugely popular manga by Hiromu Arakawa, with the original anime series having been only a partial adaptation) follows the Elric brothers Edward and Alphonse on their continuing quest for the fabled Philosopher’s Stone. Combining magic, monsters and military conspiracies, the sprawling series is hugely fun and enthralling, with its strange shifts between light-hearted wackiness and surprisingly grim darkness giving it an unpredictable feel. “Brotherhood” has consistently been hailed by fans as one of the top shows since it first aired in 2009, and though it’s one which certainly covers a lot of ground, often coupled with dizzying leaps into challengingly sagacious territory, it’s never anything less than accessible and fun.
Also worth mentioning is the bizarre “Birdy the Mighty: Decode 1”, a series with a premise that’s far out, even by anime standards, with the interstellar cop of the title chasing aliens to earth, where she operates by day under the secret identity of a gorgeous idol, only to end up sharing her body with the mind of a young man who gets injured during a firefight. Throwing together odd comedy, body switching, gender politics, romance, alien action and mass destruction, the series is never in any danger of even remotely making sense, though it’s easy on the eyes and has a sense of exuberant absurdity, enough so to keep the viewer watching. Interestingly, “Birdy” was directed by Kazuki Akane, and though it’s not quite up to the standard of his classic “Vision of Escaflowne”, anime fans could certainly do worse.