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Akira, Vol. 1 by Katsuhiro Otomo

Akira, Vol. 1 (edition 2009)

by Katsuhiro Otomo, Satoshi Kon (Illustrator)

Series: Akira (1)

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903139,768 (4.25)27
Title:Akira, Vol. 1
Authors:Katsuhiro Otomo
Other authors:Satoshi Kon (Illustrator)
Info:Kodansha Comics (2009), Paperback, 352 pages
Collections:Your library

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Akira, Volume 1 by Katsuhiro Ōtomo

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Of course, if you made it to the Open Mic, you already know what I've been re-reading.

I read a lot of memoirs in graphic novel form, and that is not what Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira is.

For all that made it groundbreaking in the 1980s (one of the first manga to be translated into English), volume one of Akira is also a throwback. The sound effects leap off the page like the old Batman live action tv show. The set-up is classic comic: young men, apparently still in school but independently resourceful enough to operate a drug dealing motorcycle gang, stumble their way into an adventure that unfolds slowly enough for them to figure out most of what's going on without any of main characters coming to serious harm.

Fandom has given a lot of attention to how numbing the violence becomes in George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire (and especially the novels after Game of Thrones). And while it's true (for me, at least) that I find it annoyingly disengaging to see Martin kill off major characters just as the readers have gotten to know them well enough to become attached, I also find it ridiculous to see multiple characters survive a dozen close calls within the span of a few hundred panels.

Because of this disinterest in the plot, I've never gotten around to buying volume two of Akira. But on re-reading, I found enough to like that I'm reconsidering my position. Especially in Otomo's framing and shading, and most especially in his speed lines, I find a lot to hold my attention on each page. ( )
  jscape2000 | May 13, 2013 |
Post-apocalyptic only in that we're in a post-apocalyptic world, but the story is less about that than the sci-fi/fantasy elements, with supernatural/psychokinetic powers and all that.

Will probably watch the movie; not super-inclined to read the rest of the series right now. Sad but true. ( )
  librarybrandy | Mar 31, 2013 |
I think my opinion on this work will be largely influenced by the quality of the rest of the volumes. I was entertained and intrigued by this book, though I found Tetsuo's personality change to be rather abrupt and lacking in foundation. I hope that the rest of the books will provide the illumination I seek. The art was incredible however, and I stopped reading more than once just to admire a panel and idly wish I had a print of it. But while I find the work to be very good, it's still a far cry from cozying up next to Watchmen on my Graphic Novel of Epic, Transcendent Genius shelf... of course, Watchmen is the only book on that shelf. ( )
  Kyniska | Apr 10, 2012 |
A mysterious governmental project in Japan yields super-powered children. Rival bike gangs war in the streets of Tokyo. Kaneda and his gang stumble upon a super-powered runaway. Kaneda's best friend, Tetsuo, bails on his bike and is taken away by ambulance. Later, Tetsuo reemerges with similar powers, and with the young Akira awakened from cryogenic slumber, Tokyo is levelled to ruin and overtaken by Tetsuo's army in the name of Lord Akira! Oh noes! However will Kaneda and co. be able to stop this dastardly duo?? ( )
  chantienyee | Jun 12, 2010 |
From the aftermath of World War III, the city Neo-Tokyo has arisen. It’s a mixture of the destroyed and decaying Tokyo, and a new and vibrant metropolis that grew up in the original’s ashes. Against this background, Tetsuo, a member of a motorcycle gang run by his friend Kaneda, is hurt in a mysterious accident, and the injured Tetsuo is taken away by the military for testing. This testing probes that Tetsuo is starting to develop psycho-kinetic powers. As Tetsuo's psychic powers develop, he becomes less mentally-stable and more prone to violence, and events lead inevitably towards a confrontation between Tetsuo and Kaneda.

That's a short outline of the main plot for the first novel. There's a variety of other plots related to this that I could discuss (that become more relevant in the next five volumes) - the Japanese military working on cultivating psychic powers in special individuals, and a rebel group seeking the mysterious entity known as Akira for unknown purposes. All of these plots, and the characters involved, are juggled with some skill – each of these stories are all connected in a plausible manner. One or two of these intersections do occur by means of coincidence, but is largely handled quite well.

Superficially, the book can be viewed as a fun, quick read, with the occasional element of ridiculousness, but there’s more serious stuff going on there for those that look beneath the surface. There is the theme of how power is earned and used, how those with power maintain their power, and how that power can be abused and corrupted. Central to this theme is the rise of Tetsuo, his increase in power parallelled with his loss of morality and rapid personality change. There is also parallels drawn between the society of Neo-Tokyo and that of post-World War II Japan, both having largely finished rebuilding efforts after the war, both looking for a new direction.

And if you aren’t looking for intelligent ideas and complex themes, though, there’s definitely a lot of action going on.

The artwork on display here is excellent. It's simple, black, white and greyscale, (except for the cover and the first eight pages, which is all vibrant colour) but is also quite evocative and well-drawn. Otomo’s artwork (Katsuhiro Otomo was the artist and the writer) conveys the story quite well. Much of the panels either have no words, or just short, sharp sentences – the story is largely in the pictures themselves.

Akira is an extremely fun story with intelligent ideas bubbling beneath the surface, all shown with some excellent artwork. “Akira” is definitely worth a look, particularly as, in spite of its length, it is quite a quick read. ( )
2 vote rojse | Sep 18, 2009 |
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Science fiction tale of 2019 Tokyo after it's destruction in World War III, following the lives of two teenagers, Tetsuo and Kaneda, who must deal with the monstrous consuming power -- Akira.

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