Ric (Webmaster)

Based on:  Complete Manga

Publisher:  Dark Horse Comics

Costing well over £100 for the whole series you may find yourself questioning value for money and the merit of buying the manga when you have seen the animé. However, comprising six volumes which boast well over 2000 A4 pages of Katsuhiro Otomo’s superbly detailed art this is always going to be worth it.

Although it begins at near enough the same time as the animé you quickly realise that the story is not going to be quite the same. Far more depth is given to the characters with more thought given to their individual motivations and relationships. However, Otomo also makes sure that you know that none of the principal characters are good – Kei is a murderous terrorist, Kaneda is a womanising thug, the Colonel is a warmonger who experiments on children and Tetsuo is an unpredictable junkie. Strangely though, you forgive them most of their crimes and want them each to, is some way, succeed. Otomo’s characterisation is masterful, as is his depiction of humanity at its lowest ebb.

Political intrigue is soon replaced in the story by constant action with all of the principal antagonists battling across the blasted landscape of Neo-Tokyo. Huge set piece action sequences of a scale that would cause several major film studios to go broke and the destruction of a small country should they ever attempt to do a live action film dominate the story. However Otomo once more shows his mastery as the focus is not only kept firmly on the characters but he also manages to get across the affect of these events on a city-wide scale.

The drawing is excellent throughout with Otomo able to depict both characters feelings and large-scale devastation with equal success. He keeps all of his characters humanity intact, even Tetsuo’s, and shows insight into the human condition rarely touched upon in any media. Plus any comic book that involves mini-guns, orbital laser batteries and a giant baby must be good.

The only criticism that can be levelled at it is that it is sometimes excessively violent and occasionally confusing, but the sheer power of the story carries you right through to the surprisingly moving ending.

This is an amazing series and sits head and shoulders above not only most other manga but also the vast majority of western comics series. Rarely has a work of such visual and literary genius been so overlooked in the west, Akira is a science fiction work of as much importance as the best Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke have produced. It is the must buy series for every self-respecting fan of science fiction or manga.

Best Bit: Tetsuo's ravaging of the moon.

Worst Bit: The rediscovery of the stowaway scientist.

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