Akira (Vol. 1) by Katsuhiro Otomo

details
Title: Akira.
Volume1
Writer(s): Katsuhiro Otomo.
Illustrator(s): Katsuhiro Otomo.
Publisher: Kodansha Comics.
Format: Paperback.
Release Date: October 13th 2009 (first published September 21st 1984).
Pages: 367.
Genre(s): Manga, Science-Fiction.
ISBN13: 9781935429005.
My Overall Rating: ★★★★☆.

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It’s hard to not have heard about Akira. It is the first manga series to have ever been fully translated into English and to have propelled the medium into great fame almost instantaneously. With a cult-classic revolutionary animated adaptation of the manga created by the writer and illustrator of the franchise himself in 1988, it didn’t take long for Katsuhiro Otomo’s visionary grasp on visual story-telling to be praised by everyone to this day. The impact of this franchise on a whole generation and on pop culture around the world is undeniable and rarely does anyone dare discredit its contribution to the growth of both manga and anime today. Although the movie condenses all six volumes into one flawed masterpiece, the manga takes the time—which is sort of ironic to say—to flesh out more of the setting, the events and the characters. And with Akira (Vol. 1), Katsuhiro Otomo achieves a remarkably beautiful, frenetic and suspenseful post-apocalyptic story that will dig its claws deep into you and hold your attention throughout the whole ride.

Akira (Vol. 1) is a story set after the detonation of a nuclear explosion in Tokyo on December 6th, 1982. With the start of World War III, a new city called Neo-Tokyo is hence born. In 2030 AD, this city is overrun by biker gangs with violent and dangerous behaviours who center their core business around drugs. One of these gangs is formed around Kaneda and Tetsuo who will go down as key characters throughout this series. On a rowdy night filled with adrenaline, a race among them leads to an incident where a young boy with an old man’s face stood in their way. It is from this moment forward that the story takes a turn towards science-fiction grounds and drags the readers on a page-flipping course in search of immediate answers as to what is going on. From secret organizations to psychic powers, Akira (Vol. 1) is nothing you’ve ever seen before as it  is the first step towards huge change for manga and anime.

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The first striking element about this volume that needs to be addressed is how manipulative and addictive the structure is. It is an extremely-light on dialogue story that heavily focuses on action sequences, especially bike chases, and there is only a limited amount of panels per page that beautifully capture the most intense moments of each scene. With the incredible artwork that brings out the most meticulous details of the ruined setting and the frenzied story-telling that pumps so much adrenaline into your blood as you try to decipher what is going on, you don’t realize how quickly you flip through the pages and finds yourself immersed in this post-apocalyptic and futuristic universe. Not to mention that Katsuhiro Otomo doesn’t take you by the hand as he tells this story. The pieces of the puzzle slowly crawl out of the ruins of Tokyo and further tease the readers of what the story is all about. In fact, the biggest question that torments the reader is who or what Akira is, and that’s what I loved about this first of six volumes. It throws you around maniacally without any care for your understanding, yet you love every second of it.

The characters in this story are intriguing in their own rights, but there was still more fleshing out that could’ve been done before or during this volume. Tetsuo’s and Kaneda’s friendship is one that should’ve been further explored before the game-changing moment took place. Their relationship plays a big role in some of the confrontations that take place and the emotional impact wished for these moments weren’t as powerful as they could’ve been if the reader had more knowledge of how close they actually were. There is also the introduction of a secret organization and their mission that is teased here, but there development wasn’t as necessary as the tease in itself was enough to keep me hooked for what they have planned in the long run. A resistance group is also however introduced and they were even more mysterious than the evil organization which sort of bugged me considering that they seemed like the good guys, yet you have no clue what they really want. At least one thing’s for sure, Katsuhiro Otomo knows how to get you hooked. His artwork alone does the job.

Akira (Vol. 1) is a wild and mysterious look at a post-apocalyptic and futuristic world where a surge in psychic powers among people announces the beginning of something terrible.


EXHIBITA

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Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada and Kodansha Comics for sending me a copy for review!

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The movie is considered to be the most visually-stunning and revolutionary animated movie of all time! Have you seen it?

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21 comments

  • Hurray for AKIRA!!!! Hip, hip, hurray!

    I absolutely love this manga series. The anime, no, but the manga, oh yes. I own the original dark horse trade paperback releases and thanks to Loose Logic, I was able to pick up a beautiful box set of the hardcovers on Amazon Canada for under 200. Price gougers had jumped the price up to over 300 here in the US. I just looked and it looks like the price has come down to just over 100 now. Ahhh welll. It was totally worth it. And the hardcovers have the books using the original right to left, as it should be.

    Even as much as I love the manga, you certainly won’t hear me claim that it is perfect. A couple of the volumes were really skirting the 3.5 edge and it was only because of the overall coolness that I bumped them up to 4.

    And just for clarity, the manga was not finished when Otomo greenlighted the movie. So he had to end the movie as best he could. I think it shows, as I prefer the longer drawn out and much better nuanced story we get in the manga.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hhahahaha I knew I’d get an enthusiastic response from you for this one. 😀

      I do remember you getting your hands on that pretty huge box for a decent price too. I believe I said I’d totally hunt down my own box one day, but for now I’ll explore these “American left-to-right” paperbacks and see what’s the whole story really about. I did love what the hardcover right-to-left edition looked like though!

      Ahhh, I totally understand about the rating too. There’s something too special about the way the story is told that makes this addictively good. I do look forward to the next 5 volumes now though. I wonder if it’ll get better… 😀

      Oh, I’ve heard about that too. And that he accomplished all that (manga and movie) at a pretty young age. Truly amazed by what he was able to do.

      Liked by 1 person

  • I know… for shame… but I’ve never read any manga. This may be my chance to dig in a bit. I have a colleague who is really into it and this is the one she has been pushing on me for awhile.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Yes, Akira… I love the movie, and I swore to one day read the manga, so thank you for reminding me 🙂 It does look great, and with so many trusted sources claiming it’s just as worth our time as anime – I’m moving it up on my TBR!

    Liked by 1 person

  • Oooh this sounds really intriguing! I haven’t seen the movie or heard of this, so clearly I have been living in a hole.

    I used to pick up manga from the library sometimes when I was a kid but I haven’t read any in years and years. I should really try it again!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahahaah I’m glad to be the one to introduce it to you in that case! 😀 You should totally give them a shot again. I used to read them a lot (and watch a lot of anime too) back in high school and then dropped them for whatever reason, and now I’m back exploring them and even revisiting some of my favourites. Reading them with an adult’s perspective can be so refreshing!

      Like

  • Well I have never read any manga so far! My son is the in house expert.But I do agree with you on the graphics and the drawings here 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh no! Sophie! Sounds like your son has been doing a bad job in getting you to try them out, especially for an in-house expert!!!! 😛 You should give one a try some day. They are quick to read and can be quite surprising, in a good way! 😉

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  • Amazing stuff my friend, I really liked reading your thoughts on this. I’ve always been a fan of the anime adaptation and checking out the manga is something I’ve intended to do for a long time and unlike Ghost in the Shell it seems worthwhile and the artwork is much, much more to my liking (I love those short page-flipping videos you include).

    I think this may be my first manga series then!

    Liked by 1 person

  • Oh, Akira. My original introduction into graphic novels (I was only reading standalone comics prior to this)! I haven’t re-read this in a long time, but perhaps I should. Now that I’m older and more experienced in reading science fiction, I might be able to better appreciate this story. It’s a classic — but mostly because it completely changed the way manga is respected and viewed in the world. Plus, some amazing science fiction ideas are explored here.

    Is this your first time reading this series? Have you seen the film? The film doesn’t do the graphic novel justice in my opinion. But, that’s fairly standard when adapting something so complex into another medium.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ohhh!!! Two comics/manga that you’ve also read!!!!! I am so happy hahahaha 😛 I can assure you that revisiting these will likely be super rewarding. I’ve been revisiting a lot of manga that I’ve loved as a teenager back in high school and have found so many new details to appreciate!

      Yep. It’s the first time I’m exploring Akira. I’m keeping the movie for after I complete the series since all I hear from everyone is that the movie does a “rushed” job on adapting the series, so there’s no need for me to “rush” into it either. 😀 I still look forward to it since it is still considered a revolutionary piece of entertainment! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve been revisiting a lot of novels I read in middle school/high school lately as I’m reading through all the Newbery Medal winners. I agree that new details are popping up all over the place; I defintely have a new appreciation for these books as an adult!

        Yeah.. the film doesn’t do a great job capturing what happens in the manga. There are too many little details which build to the conclusion that get dropped. Yes, the film tells a cohesive story, but it’s… well, not the manga. You’re right, it’s considered one of the greatest animated and science fiction films of all time. It really put cyberpunk on the map!

        I cannot wait to see what you think of this series overall. It’s a lot to take in.

        Liked by 1 person

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