Reviewby George Phillips
I owe a *big* thank you to Ken Cross of Fantasticon for helping set up this trip. ANN's report is due entirely to the vast amount of time Ken spent contacting companies on our behalf. Thank you very much for your work, Ken!
On a cold, wet Thursday night in New York City, members of the press and ticket contest winners received the honor of seeing the very first screening of the new Pioneer dub of AKIRA.
An hour before the first screening, Pioneer moved several motorcycles in front of the AMC Empire 25. Although these motorcycles were radically different than Kaneda's bike in AKIRA, they received incredible amounts of attention from onlookers as well as AKIRA attendees.
By 8:00pm, the theater opened its doors to guests, and people shuffled in quickly to get good seats. On the outside, the AMC 25 looked to be no more than two or three stories tall, making it difficult to believe that 25 screens existed in such a small space.
Little did I know appearances can be deceiving.
Four floors up was Theater #13, AKIRA. Of course, the building was so narrow, the theater couldn't possibly hold more than a hundred or so attendees, right?
... Did I mention appearances can be *very* deceiving?
Even with gigantic seats and enormous amounts of space between rows, the theater must have contained over 500 people. Of course, this count is excluding the dozens lining the edges of the room, unable to obtain seats from overbooking. The movie screen was huge, well over twice the size I was expecting, as the dozens of rows streched back into the rear of the room.
Once everyone was seated, a speaker appeared. Hopes raced; did Katsushiro Otomo show up in person for this event? Sadly, no, he didn't show. Instead, a few Pioneer representatives, including the President of Pioneer, stood up to a podium. Each of the guests briefly discussed the efforts taken to restore the film, the history behind its restoration, and the importance of AKIRA's re-release.
Once the speeches concluded, the lamps dimmed and the movie began.
Within minutes motorcycles raced, helicoptors whirred and crowds of riotting students came to life as AKIRA rolled across the screen. The sound in this multi-channel theater was nothing short of astounding. Powerful effects rocked the theater from the outset and didn't let up until the end of the film. In short, there should be more theaters like this one. Being immersed in sound effects and strong, distinct voices is a feeling I won't soon forget.
In addition, the voice acting in AKIRA is some of the best I have heard in a long time. Tetsuo and Kaneda both perform their parts admirably, their voices filled with emotion. Both of these actors brought new life into parts that I felt could never be redefined. I've always had a problem, however, with children's voices in animated features; it's rare when an adult can mimick a child's voice well enough to convincingly portray the child. Unfortunately, the actors for #24, #25, and #26 each sound forced at times, unable to consistantly portray a young child with an intellect of a mature adult. I enjoy their voices, and I enjoy their line delivery, but I was unable to mesh the mature dialogue with the immature voices. This "problem" is actually a boon to the AKIRA dub, as the young children are supposed to sound mature and knowledgeable, yet maintain a childish tone.
Pioneer was rumored to have spent nearly $1 million to digitize and remaster the video, and their efforts have paid off admirably. Rich, subtile backgrounds and vibrant character colorization drastically improve the experience of watching this film. The upcoming DVD certainly will be incredible; Akira2001.com has clips of interviews that may very well be included on the upcoming DVD release.
Of course, the film itself is incredible to watch on a theatrical screen. Most modern anime fans probably have never seen anything more mature than Pokémon or Digimon in a cinema. If you live anywhere near New York City, and appreciate mature anime films, then this movie is a must-see. Pioneer has hinted that a wider release may be in the works, if enough support is shown for this film. I certainly hope I can see it again.
According to Village Voice, Akira will continue to show through April 10th at the AMC Empire 25 on 42nd Street in New York City. Further plans for Akira have not been released by Pioneer.
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