Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Akira v. 1 - 6

by Katsuhiro Otomo
Published in the U.S. by Dark Horse Manga

Slugline: Tetsuo rides the psychic-power rollercoaster amid chaos, apocalypse, and his ex-best friend trying to kill him.

I haven't read Akira in at least ten years, and I was a bit worried it wouldn't hold up after so long in the otaku world. But it does, and I know exactly why it converted me to the fandom.

- Crystal clear action. None of those big, vague, swooshes, no wondering whose ass that weapon came out of, no fudging of geography, physics, or biology.

- Excellent application of psychic powers. It's still some of the best telekinetic combat on paper. Makes Obi-Wan look like a noob.

- Consistent, if limited, characters. Especially Kaneda, who is not only an ass, he's too clueless to realize he's clueless and is the kind who brings a knife to a gun fight. A butter knife.

- Lovingly rendered military equipment. No roses or sparkles in this one, and a couple ass-kicking ladies that I can root for.

- Mass destruction. Tokyo gets flattened, and more than once.

- Plot never loses focus, even in the chaos of a freshly ruined city. We don't get sidetracked into tangential flashbacks. Everyone's relevance to the story is quickly established and we keep moving.

All these qualities are a bit unusual for a manga, in that they are rather Western and much closer to what Hollywood et. al. have trained Americans to expect. But it's Japanese enough to stand well apart from them, too. That's what makes Akira such a good "conversion" manga (and anime) for action/scifi/apocalypse fans.

If you have a friend who's curious about manga, I'd recommend Akira unless your friend's into sensitive romances (try Utena on those friends.) And I think the bridge can work both ways: read Akira and then pick up Dark Knight Returns,

V for Vendetta, Sin City or Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Akira is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Miranda

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