Writer(s): Katsuhiro Otomo.
Illustrator(s): Katsuhiro Otomo.
Publisher: Kodansha Comics.
Release Date: October 13th 2009 (first published September 21st 1984).
Genre(s): Manga, Science-Fiction.
My Overall Rating: ★★★★☆.
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.
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.
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada and Kodansha Comics for sending me a copy for review!
The movie is considered to be the most visually-stunning and revolutionary animated movie of all time! Have you seen it?