on June 3, 2004
Most readers who first come across this book were more then likely first exposed to this epic sci-fi tale by way of the excellent 2 hour animated movie. Those that actually make the commitment to read through this 6 volume, 2000+ page magnum opus of graphic storytelling are in for one heck of a ride. Don't let this 360 page bad-boy's size scare you off - Katsuhiro Otomo's crisp storytelling and fantastic artwork literally flows at 100 m.p.h. giving you a smooth and intense reading experience. Before you know it you'll be finished with this first volume and scrounging up the scratch to buy the rest of the books in this series.
Vol. 1 of, 'Akira,' sets the tone for the rest of the series at breakneck speed. For those of you enamored with the film you'll truly enjoy and appreciate the heaping portions of additional backstory and characterization that the original 'book' series provides. But perhaps most important of all is the stunning visuals of Otomo's fluid and highly detailed black & white drawings. The sheer amount of detail is breathtaking and will have you coming back for repeated reads just to appreciate the visuals. A must read for fans of the movie or of sci-fi in general.
on May 22, 2004
Wow! I saw the anime (which has some of the best animation I've seen) and had to buy the graphic novel. I found that the pictures were detailed and the action sequences were very, very good. I'm thankful that they didn't try to squeeze the pen and ink drawings into tiny little boxes, making everything barely visible. It didn't skimp on the number of panels in each scene, making it smooth and easy to read. Buy this book.
1. I saw ten books in the series at the book store at twenty dollars each. That's $200 for part of a series.
2. Not recomended for young readers. There's loads of blood and cussing.
3. I've heard that this series used to be in color. The first few pages are in color and it's very nice. However, I realize that if the entire comic was in color, the price would probably be doubled.
'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 December 16, 2001
While, I enjoyed the Akira movie, I found I enjoyed the comic much more. The first volume of the 6 Part reprint is incredible and definately hints at the huge epic the book is to become. The theme of the book is power: who has it and who wants it.
When a street punk named Tetsuo runs almost runs over a strange looking psychic, Tetsuo finds that he has psychic powers himself that seem to have no end. Unfortunately he needs a large and steady suplly of drugs to keep a monster headache at bay. Meanwhile, Tetsuo's friend Kenada ends up working with a group with an unknown agenda for the mysterious person known only as Akira... a person who destroyed Tokyo. Kenada later finds out that Tetsuo not only has deadly powers but also an alliance with the rival gang known as the clowns. But when these old friends become foes, Kenada discovers that Tetsuo is more dangerous that he or even Tetsuo could ever have imagined!
It's a fast paced exciting work featuring some incredible artwork and marvelous storytelling. No black and white characters, in this series everyone is guilty of sin. Tetsuo is a great quasi-villain who is no longer merely a punk but also a MONSTER! I can't wait to pick up the second volume.
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!!
on September 25, 2001
Amidst the flotsam and jetsam of former pop-culture sensations, there are a few items of media that, through sheer visceral creative force, transcend the 'cool one moment, cliché the next' element of disposable entertainment. The Japanese manga/movie _Akira_ is among these rare and dignified. Although the movie version is cluttered and convoluted, an epic mess-and what can one expect from the effort of reducing 2000 pages into two hours?-there still remains a power and presence to it that is at once unnerving and captivating.
I "got" Akira upon my first viewing, but like many others found the movie unsatisfying on a basic level. Characters and concepts popped up out of nowhere, seemingly important to the overall arc, yet remaining undeveloped. It felt as if an enormous amount of back-story was left untold. Thankfully, Dark Horse has decided to give the manga version of _Akira_ the definitive publishing it deserves, to fill in the gaps and give us a deeper and far more gratifying glimpse into Katsuhiro Otomo's astonishing vision of dystopia.
And what a glimpse it is! Biker gangs roam the concrete byways of Neo-Tokyo, seeking a score or a scam or a healthy does of ultraviolence...Meanwhile, the top brass of the military attempts to keep an experimental group of growth-stunted paranormals under control. A chance run-in between these disparate tribes eventually leads to cataclysmic results, as something disturbing and long-hidden begins to stir in the bowels of the earth...Akira...and, as the movie-posters state, 'Neo-Tokyo is about to E X P L O D E.'
This first volume, at 360-pages, introduces us to the shell-shocked environment of Neo-Tokyo, sets up the numerous character conflicts, and gives us a few premonitions of what is to come. The relationships between Tetsuo and Kenada, Ryu and Kei, are given greater detail than in the movie, and the story, though paced slowly, is far more smooth and lucid in the manga format.
Otomo's art is masterful and, in places, astounding-the level of detail given to a cityscape or motorcycle shows this as truly a labor of love on the creator's part; the many hours devoted to each pages is a figure I cannot begin to contemplate. The drawings are clean and crisp and always consistent, at times cinematic in presentation. _Akira_ should be read at least twice, the first in order to digest the story, the second to fully appreciate the skill of the artist.
Well worth the rather steep price. And if you like _Akira_, I would suggest investigating Hiroaki Samura's _Blade of the Immortal_ and Hayao Miyazaki's _Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind_, both further examples of manga at its mature best.
on August 8, 2001
A year ago I rented the movie AKIRA, hearing from friends that it was awesome, visually and plot wise. After renting it I was very confused and felt let down after hearing how this movie was such a culture sensation. I never gave up anime though and continued to rent and buy animes. On Amazon I discovered that the Akira comic book was being releasd in the US. Knowing that this comic started all the Akira craze, and knowing that the author/artist won nummerous awards for his work I thought I would take a longshot and see what it was all about. This time I was not dissopointed... I was amazed by the artwork and level of detail, and this made more sense than the anime. Since buying the first book I have purchased book 2 & 3. I'm hooked. The story has tons of plot, scenes, and characters the movie missed! I find the comic to be more indepth with more character development, and beautiful visual sequences. If you liked the anime you will live this book, and if you didn't like the anime you will probably like this book more!
on July 30, 2001
If you`ve watched the animated film AKIRA and have never read the manga`s you must know the two have almost nothing in common. The stories are radically different, in all aspects, plot, themes, allusions, everything. Also the characters are very different. Important characters in the manga make appearances as crowd memebers in the anime and characters who died in the film live in the manga, and sometimes viceversa. AKIRA the manga is a mythic, almost biblical story, and has more in common with a fantasy novel than a science fiction story. The film is very much a science fiction story. If you read the manga expecting something even remotely like the movie the third volume will render you stunned, the plot is that insanely different. Both manga and anime are extremely well made and I highly recomend them, but be warned, they`re nothing alike. AKIRA chornicals the story of children used in a government experiment to produce children with pyschic abilities in an atempt to produce the next super weapon (think big freaking explosions, not something like cameron`s travesty `dark angel`) The story follows three main characters; Tetsuo, Kaneda, and Kei (spelled KAY in the english side panels in my Japanese editions, though correct romanji spelling is Kei) Tetsuo, an atention hungry teenager is suddenly endowed with spectacular powers, and in his new found power he rebels against friends (Kaneda), society, and ultimately God. Then there`s Kei, a member of an anti government militia who acts as Kaneda alter ego. Where as Kaneda is rash and impulsive Kei is thoughtful and pragmatic. One of the down sides to reading translated manga is that the some of the flow is lost in the reversing of the images (ie panels don`t seem to logically flow to gether for english readers) and some of the cultural refrences and spellings can`t be picked up by english readers. (For instance, Akira name is spelled in Katakana (the japanese alphabet used to discribe only forgien words) rather than kanji or hiragana. Also similarities in Kanji words are often used as literary devices in japanese writing.) Despite this, english audiences still have much to appreciate. So read on!