Reshaping the sound of Neo-Tokyo for ‘Akira’

by Matt Schley

Contributing Writer

If you were watching anime in English in the 1990s and 2000s, chances are you’ve heard a dub recorded by Les Claypool III. Some of the films and series that passed through Claypool’s studio, Magnitude 8 Post, include “Macross Plus,” “Ghost in the Shell” and “Cowboy Bebop.” In 2001, Pioneer Entertainment came to Claypool with an intriguing project: assemble a new English dub (the dub sampled on Bwana’s “Capsule’s Pride,” in fact) and 5.1 surround soundtrack for its remastered rerelease of “Akira.” Claypool shares some memories of the project:

Redubbing a classic

“With many shows we did over the years, there was a certain amount of ‘It’s simply another job on the calendar.’ But ‘Akira’ was already legendary when it showed up on my doorstep. More than once I would find myself thinking, ‘Damn, I’m working on ‘Akira!'”

Bringing the sound into the 21st century

“The original elements were very noisy and relatively frequency-limited … the impacts and explosions really didn’t thump you in the chest like they should. This was typical for the time period in which ‘Akira’ was originally created. I cut in new sound effects for any type of explosion, crash, impact or firearm, and added a dedicated subwoofer track. My philosophy has always been to layer in new effects, while making sure you never cover the original Japanese work.”

The sound of silence

“There was one scene that I could tell was supposed to be completely silent. I wanted the silence to actually become uncomfortable for the viewer. This was probably what Otomo had originally desired, but just wasn’t possible at the time of the original mix. Later, after the film was released, one reviewer said it was the best use of silence that he had ever ‘heard.'”

Trust

“‘Akira’ stands out as one of my proudest career moments. After I explained in a letter to the Akira Committee exactly what my intentions were for the restoration and remix, they trusted me completely with their baby. That was a level of trust from Japan that was earned by being caring and respectful to their shows over the years, but it still blows me away to this very day!”