Tripwire continues its 100 Graphic Novels You Should Read While Stuck Inside with its eighty-third choice, Akira Volume One, by Katsushiro Otomo and reviewed by Tripwire’s editor-in-chief Joel Meadows
Akira Volume One
Writer/ Artist: Katsushiro Otomo
Today’s choice is the seminal manga title Akira. Some series transcend the genre they are created for and this manga sci-fi classic is definitely one of those titles. Katsushiro Otomo’s post-apocalyptic science fiction epics is set in neo Tokyo, 38 years after World War Three and deals with a teenage bike gang. The gang contains two friends, Kaneda and Tetsuo, who find themselves part of a Japanese government conspiracy that involves the former site of the Olympics in Tokyo and mysterious figures who possess strange psycho-kinetic powers. At the heart of this is Akira, who could hold the key to everything.
Originally published in Japanese way back in 1982 and 1983 in Young Magazine, and then translated into English and published by Marvel’s Epic imprint in the 1980s.
Just like Lone Wolf and Cub, which featured earlier on in this list, Akira has broken out of simply being a Japanese comic series and has achieved iconic status around the world. In 1988 it was adapted as an anime film, which was very well received and it got a worldwide release four years later in 1992.
Akira is a wonderfully executed science fiction epic with Otomo’s vision of Neo Tokyo offering something bold and original for the reader. He is just as much at ease in the talking head scenes as he is in the frenetic bike chases. There is a visceral quality to Otomo’s lines too which take certain scenes flying off the pages as well. The interplay between Kaneda and his former friend Tetsuo is well-handled too while Kay is a female character who develops as the story progresses.
Akira feels like an ambitious science fiction movie which explains why it made the jump to anime. In terms of creating the look of Neo Tokyo, Otomo has paid as much attention to detail as a production designer would for a film. His concepts are magnificent and the city is as much a character in the story as Kaneda, Kay and Tetsuo. There has been talk of it getting adapted again as a live action Hollywood production but each time, they have discussed shifting the story to the US. This would be a huge mistake as Akira works because of its Japanese setting and if you took its Japanese culture out of the equation, it would just feel like another generic sci-fi movie with some cool kit. There is an off-kilter feel here that American science fiction finds it hard to replicate.
Almost forty years old, Akira still has the power to smack the reader in the face and it more than deserves its place in this list.
Here’s links to the other graphic novels reviewed so far