'Akira' and 'Lone Wolf and Cub' were among the first complete manga masterpieces to be published in English, and despite the mirror-imaging, were very similar to their original tankobon incarnations. Katsuhiro Otomo's SF-classic 'Akira' -- as well as it's equally brilliant predecessor, 'Domu' -- revolutionized Japanese comics. It introduced realistic, incredibly detailed artwork that merged a far more subtle manga stylization with European influences, incorporating aspects from the art of 'Metal Hurlant' regulars Moebius, Francois Schuiten, and Enki Bilal. The importance of 'Akira' is difficult to express, but it certainly rivals US contemporaries 'Watchmen' and 'The Dark Knight Returns', though it ran far longer than either title. While the film adaptation is perhaps the best anime -- and animated -- film ever made, Otomo wrote and directed his debut when he was only around half-way through the manga. The 6-volume, 2200+-page series is not just 'worth checking out' for fans of the anime, it's essential. The film contains less than 15% of the super-epic that inspired it, but the art, the characters, the basic plot, and the light-speed pacing will all be unmistakably familiar.
P.S. While I prefer the original right-to-left orientation for translated manga, Kodansha is still using the Dark Horse translation that appeared before Japanese formatting surprised the hell out of US publishers by catching on. It's only as big a deal as you make it, in my opinion; obsessive-compulsive types are out of luck, but anyone who has recovered from the mind-blowing shock of confronting a left-handed doppelganger in the bathroom mirror will do just fine. My preference for R-to-L has to do with preserving the artist's original vision... does that sound right? Something like that, anyway. As far as accessibility, flipping the art is probably easier for weak western minds and eyeballs. I'd rather watch a film reflected in a mirror than I would one played in reverse*.
P.P.S. *Please ignore the lame analogy that concludes the above post-script. I'm pretty sure it doesn't even make sense.**
P.P.P.S. **Please forgive my stupidity in wasting your time with a P.P.S., when I could have just deleted the sentence in question. Yep.
on February 15, 2002
A lot of people are familiar with the film version of Akira. Readily available in the US, it's become a keystone in many American anime collections and is revered by many as one of the best Anime films ever made.
Of course, along with the praise comes the obvious (and, in many cases, justified) complaints regarding the movie's plot and pacing. As wide in scope as the movie is, it's also exceedingly vauge on many topics, and it seems like it only offers a glimpse into something much larger as opposed to being a singular narrative in and of itself.
Well, Akira fans, your boat has come in. The original Japanese Mangas (comics) are now available in the US, and to those unfamiliar with the works of Mr. Otomo, brace yourself. This is the world of Akira as it was originally concieved, and the result is simply breathtaking. If you thought the movie lacked scope, wait 'till you get ahold of these books.
The futuristic story of Akira revolves around several factions - government, anti-government, spiritual, political, and more - all struggling against each other in an attempt to unearth a secret that started the third world war. That secret is a child, Akira, subjected to tests and adjustments by a government project to bring his latent psychic abilities to their full potential. Now, he is gifted with a complete attunement to the ebbs and flows of all the energies in the universe...And the ability to control them. He is the ultimate evolution of humanity, and the most dangerous and uncontrollable weapon ever unearthed by science. After an unleashing of his energy sets off World War III, he is locked deep underground at absolute zero, kept asleep until modern science can figure out a way to deal with him.
I won't get into the story for anyone who doesn't know it (it's significantly expanded and altered when compared to the movie version). For anyone expecting a graphic novel version of the events in the movie, however, you're going to be surprised. Many of the characters that made simple cameo appearances in the film, such as Joker or Lady Miyako, are now key characters who play major roles in the unfolding plot. Other principles, such as Tetsuo, are altered slightly in order to fill their original roles.
Tetsuo is not the runt of the biker group, as he was in the movie. In fact, he's much more agressive and dark in the comics, and the deep friendship between Kaneda and Tetsuo that was evident in the final scenes of the movie is replaced with an intense sense of rivalry. You get the impression that, rather than Kaneda defending Tetsuo in the early years, they've been bucking heads for a long time. For his part, Kaneda seems to have lost some intelligence and gained some coarseness, but since the focus of the story no longer rests on his shoulders alone, this fits very well (though you do want to smack him sometimes.)
Kei is similar to her movie counterpart, at least in the first novel, though Ryu is much more prominent in his role. The Colonel has a fantastic charatcer development that was only hinted at in the movie, but you'll need to get the books that come later in the series for that.
The first book follows the plot of the movie pretty well, and while it has several additions added in, those who have seen the movie will feel right at home. The second book in the series is the same way. It's starting with book three that things become radically different from anything in the movie, but the first two are important in that much is clarified, and after reading them you can go back to the movie and notice things that you might have missed the first time around.
A note on the artwork and translation: The artwork is top notch, but in the first book the style is quite different than the later installment. The characters look fairly rough to begin with, Kei and the Colonel in particular, though they fall into their usual forms fairly quick. Otomo's astounding attention to detail shines through from the very first panel, however, and the cityscapes are simply breathtaking.
The artwork is flipped to accomodate english readers, and it's sometimes a little weird as the flow gets interrupted in spots. The translation is also pretty accurate. The dialouge isn't the greatest prose ever written or anything, but it's a far better translation than one might expect.
It's worth noting that the books have not been edited in any way, as should be expected. Still, this regulates it to the 13 and up crowd, at least. The violence is quite bloody and frequent (the Akira series is known for frequent exploding heads), so concerned parents might want to pass this series up. There's also rampant profanity throughout the book, which (oddly) gets more prominent as the series progresses (by book 5, the F-word is thrown out on a regular basis, in book 1 it appears once.) There is also a fair amount of nudity, mostly upper female but some male as well, so if that sort of thing worries you, take note. It's a series meant for mature readers, and while Kudos should go to Dark Horse for not butchering it, don't fall under the common American assumption that, because it's a comic, it's therefore kiddie stuff.
This series is a true landmark in science fiction storytelling, and I highly reccomend it to anyone who's ever wanted to read a thought provoking, action packed, and genuinely startling story that will keep you turning the pages until you hit the back cover.
This is only the first book, and chances are, once you read this one, you'll wind up buying the other 5.
on November 19, 2001
Akira is definatively one of the best anime ever made, only closed matched be Princess Mononoke. Akira is a classic in today's anime world, although gory at times (not necessarily a bad thing) it is a wonderfully thought of story. Otomo truly knows how to make a great and addicting sotry, with awsome and mostly belivable characters (with only some exeptions), and an involving plot. Although the movie is good it cuts a lot of the original story out, it's about a 2 hour outline of a 2000 page plus manga.Now, however, thanks to Dark Horse those who do not own or saw the original Akira manga will finally get another chance.
This here is the first volume out of the six. Although a little slow at first it gets to action fairly quick. In this first volume you mostly get to know the main characters, and some of the plot. During the comic Tetsuo (bad guy) gets taken away by the military and they run several tests on him, ending up making him a child with a killer mind with psychokinetic abilities. By the end, one of Kaneda's (good guy, may you call him so) friends gets killed by an ex-comrad of Kaneda, Tetsuo. And that's exactly where it stops.
In the end, this comic is entertaining even if it is only a fraction of a colossal epic manga classic. I recomend this book to anyone who watches anime (real anime, that means Pokemon and stuff like that doesn't count), and just about anyone who likes a good get-ya-thinkin' type of story. However, due to some gore and some offensive language I suggest parental advision to parents of 11 year-olds down. But for other people of other ages that cares about this I say go for it, it's an exelent manga, and you won't regret it.
on November 17, 2001
Do you love mind-blowing graphics and cool stories?Then Manga(Japanese comix) and Anime(Japanimation) are ALL you need...I thought American comix were fun. European ones were better-until I discovered the Japanese jems.Needless to say,I am addicted since.Frank Miller and Todd Mcfarlane both cite these to be inspirational(read Miller's "Ronin"?)
So where should one start on Manga/Anime?I would recommend the "Akira" series-for the depth of its story and animation/graphics.Watch the Anime first and read the Manga next-you'll understand the story better that way.("Akira" the Anime can be thought to happen in a shadow universe-a la "The fabric of reality" by David Deutsch- of the original "Akira" the Manga...the stories are slightly different).Katsuhiro Otomo has presented us with a dystopian view of a possible future-where Tokyo has been destroyed by a devastating explosion(A uniquely Japanese preoccupation with ww ii atomic disasters) and the neatly ordered,squeaky clean society is fast degenerating into an arena of anarchy and mayhem.The grown-ups may be content being Sarariman(Jap workoholics) but the younger generation want only their daily dose of fun,excitement and drugs.(A recent TIME magazine report on Japanese youth culture brings a sharp feeling of de ja vu!).
Kaneda, the teenage hero of "Akira" is the leader of a biker gang.He is happy being a juvenile delinquent along with his buddy Tetsuo.But their biker days change forever after an accident involving a runaway psychic kid called Takashi.The are drawn into a maelstrom of violence and death and the fate of the world depend on their quest to unravel the enigma of the entity called "Akira"...
Afficianados of radical bikes,fights,Japanese pop culture,attitude,girls,special powers,fate of the world,destruction,etc will find the Anime and Manga series worth their trouble and money.I spent years in despair searching for the other volumes after reading the first(by Mandain paperbacks) and seeing the subtitled VHS "Akira".These days one could buy the special edition DVD and all 6 volumes of the Manga at Amazon.com(best place to shop on the net) without getting scalped by shady book dealers/importers.Thus one could enter the multiverse of Anime/Manga, explore its complex and varied contents and ultimately attain the blissful state of Otakuhood!
Neo-Tokyo is about to E X P L O D E!!