Modern Visual Culture

Recommended Works

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99%Al Jensen



Mangaka: Katsuhiro Otomo 大友 克洋
Born: 14th of Apr, 1954 Miyagi Prefecture, Japan
Original Publisher: Kodansha
English Language Publisher:
Published: December 1982 to June 1990
Status: Finished
Number of Volumes: 6
Serialized: Weekly Young Magazine 週刊ヤングマガジン
Genre: Cyberpunk, Dystopian
Demographic: seinen

NEO-TOKYO is about to EXPLODE!! For the west, the film AKIRA was a revelation: people can do this with cartoons?! Few at the time were aware that the film was a truncated, albeit brilliant, version of its manga source material.

Thirty years after WWIII, Neo-Tokyo is facing growing unrest as revolutionaries, the government, and the military vie for power amid an urban populace increasingly disenchanted with its hyper-technological future. Disaster comes when two seemingly disparate groups of youth come into contact, the juvenile biker gang called the Capsules and a number of test subjects from a secret government program to harness ESP.

The stark technological setting of AKIRA was (and is) often compared to Blade Runner, both tales of an uneasy elite trying to maintain control over powers they have unleashed on an unsuspecting world. Whereas Blade Runner is an intimate portrait as well as an homage to the American hard-boiled detective, AKIRA is an apocalyptic vision of shonen gone wrong.

At its heart, AKIRA is the story of a how a society pays for the neglect and exploitation of its most vulnerable members, in particular, its children. This theme is personified by Tetsuo, a lonely, neglected youth harboring deep feelings of inferiority and powerlessness, who is suddenly granted the powers of a demigod, and his predecessor, the eponymous Akira, who is literally buried underground when he is no longer deemed useful.
Background & Impact
The dark cyberpunk future of AKIRA, teeming with people, machinery, and machinations, started a trend in manga that continues to be felt today. Katsuhiro Otomo's realistic illustrations, nuanced plot, and sheer scale of mayhem and destruction was unprecedented, although presages of it can be seen in the work of the French artist Moebius.

Recognized as a landmark series within the industry, AKIRA has won a number of prizes, including the 1984 Kodansha Manga Award for best general manga and a Harvery Award in 1993. Its visual and thematic influence can be felt in such disparate works as Blame!, Eden:It's an Endless World!, Ghost in the Shell, and even Shin Sekai Yori.