Tetsuo!!! Kaneda!!! (The Abridged Akira)

Katushiro Otomo’s anime adaptation of his manga of the same name, Akira, is now 20 years old (and then some). While the film sadly lacks much of the subtlety and richness of the manga, it nonetheless remains one of the greatest animated stories of all time. One notable aspect of the adaptation is that it was released with an english dubbing in the USA only six months after it was released in Japan. (This is my recollection and wikipedia agrees with me, while IMDb does not.) Not only was that unprecedented, but even now, when all of Hayao Miyazaki’s films are being brought to the US with a high budget translation by Disney, these releases trail by up to a year.

One of the downsides of the film was the original english dubbing was a little… shall we say… cheesy1. As cheesy as the animation was superlative. This much was evident when I saw it for the first time the very week it was released. After the 2nd viewing I noticed something interesting: much of the dialog was composed of the main characters, Kaneda and Tetsuo screaming each others’ names. By 1995 I’d envisioned an abridged version of the movie, nothing more than the clips of those moments stitched together. Back then, the tools to implement my vision were not really available to me, so it was just a thought experiment, but one I’d share with other anime-loving friends now and again.

Imagine my blistering irritation when I saw this commercial on Adult Swim for the animated Inuyasha… that was my idea! Or at least very close. But that was a few years ago, and by then there was QuickTime, and iMovie, and Handbrake, and really I had all the tools I needed!

So now it’s done, and amazingly, I can see something that I didn’t know would be the case when I imagined it: that The Abridged Akira completely encapsulates the emotional struggle between the two characters.

I couldn’t get my hands on the original dubbing, and the 2001 Pioneer release actually has decent voice acting2, so some of what I’d envisioned is missing. Nonetheless, I present to you… The Abridged Akira.

Big, big, big ups to my friend M who supplied the DVD and helped a lot with the initial clip marking and cutting.

  1. There is hot debate on this topic, many feel the original dub is the best
  2. again, this is debated.

Paprika

A few weekends ago when I was in Montreal I saw a movie called “Paprika”. It’s definitely one of the finest flicks I’ve seen. Weeks after seeing it, some of the imagery still haunts me. It feels a little like The Wall meets A Scanner Darkly

The plot essentially concerns a device that allows people to enter other people’s dreams. It was invented as tool to help therapists, but one of them is stolen and is used for nefarious purposes, haunting people, driving them mad, and destroying their minds. The scientists working on the team that pioneered the device must find it and get it back before too much damage is done. Our protagonist is the therapist Dr. Chiba Atsuko, and her dreamside alter ego, Paprika — an expert “dream detective”.

It’s not an “easy watch.” The movie is awash in vivid dreamscape imagery, some of it playful, some of it solemn, some of it downright spooky. The viewer is sometimes challenged to discern the difference between dream and reality, while the narrative expertly substitutes one for the other. Throughout this tangle, one may at times be tempted to give up on grasping the threads of the plot, overwhelmed by an increasingly tempestuous swirl of fantasy; fortunately, giving in and allowing yourself to be swept away by the tide of imagery is not boring, it’s enthralling. Nor is it just en exercise in impressionism. Part of the brilliance of Paprika is that these challenges to the viewer are a proxy for understanding the experiences of the characters in the story; by the time the major plot elements have unfolded, they have experienced similar challenges.

Paprika has a few major visual themes, many of them based on the psychological issues of the characters. These are enhanced with a superb soundtrack that magnifies their emotional impact. The fantastic parade motif is both festive and somehow ominous, as if lurking amongst all the marching kitchen appliances, dolls, trumpet-playing frogs, geese, and ticker-tape is an unpleasant secret. Paprika’s theme is fluid, ethereal, and triumphant, an electronica melody playing over a powerful fundament of choir and odaiko (the giant Japanese drum). Other tracks are tension-enhancers, super-creepy and insidious.

A few days after I saw the movie I bought the Paprika Soundtrack. Susumu Hirasawa - Paprika (From the Motion Picture)

Sadly, Paprika was never in wide release, and at this point is playing almost nowhere. I am at this point looking forward to its release on DVD.

Watch the to get a taste for this amazing movie. Also visit the official movie site.