Welcome to the future people – Madman has begun issuing some of their best and brightest on Blu-ray disc. So pound for pound, feature for feature how do these hi-def versions stack up against their DVD superseded forbears? Are they worth your hard-earned bucks? Do you need to not pass Go and head straight to the upgrade? This preamble has posed enough questions. Let’s get to the main event.
Disclaimer: Word of warning to the uninitiated. As compelling and persuasive as my reviews can be, Blu-ray is only your friend if, a: you have Blu-ray player (duh!) and b: you have a big ass plasma or LCD tele with HDMI inputs. Component inputs and standard def are just not going to cut it with these babies, my friends.
For its Blu-ray outing Akira has received a hi-def restoration and a 5.1 sound treatment. The result is truly impressive. The visuals have never looked sharper and cleaner and the backgrounds in particular pop revealing an astounding level of detail. Akira was a defining anime. This hi-def version only further reinforces this and makes me go all fuzzy seeing my anime youth in hi-def glory. Nostalgia receives a spit polish. Gotta love it!
The only new addition is a production booklet which details the ‘hypersonic’ sound treatment but coming in at ten pages and with sub headings like, ‘Hyper-media that activated the Fundamental Brain’. Frankly this is more audio information that you will ever need to know and, if I were to be honest, in my case, requires a ‘Fundamental Brain’ capacity upgrade. The book also contains studies of the animation process with a lot of key frames reproduced. Sadly the small size of the booklet (Blu-ray cases are even smaller than those of DVD’s) diminishes their impact.
Verdict: Borderline, but yes. The restoration is awesome. It is a pity that the booklet is the only new extra and there are no retrospective features for what is a defining anime.
Another stellar HD remastering job, the animation and backgrounds is brought into crystal clear focus. Although not unique to the Blu-ray version, 2.0 features a bunch of revisions. The opening sequence of Kusanagi has been reanimated in 3D CG and all the original 3D has received an updated pass. Most interesting though is a palette swap. Gone is the cathode ray green, replaced with a vector burnt orange. All the desaturated autumn tones give the film a more relevant global warming future feeling as compared to the cool blues and greens of the original.
Verdict: A yes from me. No anime collection should be without a copy of Ghost in the Shell and the color shift from green to orange tones gives the film a parched future vibe that really works. Another disappointing lack of new extras for what is a defining anime and the last great Mamoru Oshii film before he started over indulging his basset hound and impenetrable philosophical ruminating.
Full Metal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa
The sequel to the popular anime/ manga series (which is currently undergoing its own revision in anime form). The film looks good but not substantially different to the DVD. So to make up, the title comes through with some new extras. FMA: COS (acronyms are the only way to go when your title has that many letters) has a new 54 minute interview with the creators as well as 3 audio commentaries with the Japanese director, staff and actors as well as the US ADR director and cast. All are interesting for their different perspectives and insights.
Verdict: Yeeahh – no. Hard to recommend as a standalone film as the series provides essential scene setting. And fans will most likely have picked it up already. My recommendation – check out what is an essential series, then pick this puppy up.
So that’s the skinny. Kudos to Madman for cherry picking great titles for its initial Blu-ray assault. Everybody should own 2 of these discs – and the third is definitely a fan fave with excellent production values.