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Manga Review: AKIRA

March 28, 2010

AKIRA was the very first manga I heard of. I knew it even before I started reading Dragonball (which was around 1996). At that time I didn’t know much about mangas ‘n stuff. For me it was just a scary comic. I became older, watched the anime, read the manga and now, I’m writing a review…

In 1992 a huge explosion happened in Tokyo which started world War III. The story of AKIRA takes place 38 years after that indecent in the rebuilt town called Neo-Tokyo. The rebuilt town is a place which has nothing to do with the Tokyo we know anymore. There are futuristic buildings n’stuff everywhere.

The main character Kaneda is the leader of one of the motorbike gangs which are painting the town red every night. One time he and his gang enter the restricted area where the huge explosion happened which led to WWIII. Tetsuo – one of the gang members – crashes with his bike ‘cause he dodged a small kid standing in the middle of the highway. Everyone stops and tries to help Tetsuo. But Kaneda wants to kick the children’s ass but he vanishes right before his eyes into nowhere. The little kid’s face looked like an old man one’s. Suddenly the military appears and takes Tetsuo into a hospital.

A few days later, Kaneda notices the kid from the accident on the streets and decides to follow it. He gets involved with a girl called Kei who works for an anti-government underground organization which wants to save the kid from the military as it seems that the little boy has some psycho-powers. Unfortunately, the military finds them and uses a boy called Masaru who also seems to have psycho-like powers to take back the little boy from them. It comes out that the boy isn’t the one the underground organization was searching for as the boy is called Takashi. They were looking for a boy called Akira.

Meanwhile Tetsuo returned from the hospital. Everyone notices some changes in his behaviour. He shows that he’s jealous on Kaneda’s bike which a huge status symbol in the gang. As Tetsuo has a steadily increasing headache, he joins an other motorbike gang called “The Clowns” and becomes their leader. Now they have to bring him drugs to cure the pain but nothing helps. Soon, The Clowns are recognized as drug addicts. Kaneda joins forces with other gang leaders to take down the clowns once and for all.

When Kaneda & co attack the clowns, almost everybody gets killed by Tetsuo as it that he has developed psycho-powers just like the Takashi the little kid he met. Just as Kaneda and Tetsuo are fighting each other, the military appears and takes Kaneda, Tetsuo and Kei (who followed all this time) with them. Tetsuo is told that the military activated his ESP-abilities and that they have the drugs to keep his headache down.

In the military base/ hospital Tetsuo sneaks out to find Takashi ‘cause he might have some answers who Akira is (he heard of his when he was in this hospital for the first time). He finds Takashi with some other kids who are also looking like old guys. He is told that Akira sleeps in a secret military base where the new Olympic Stadium is built. So Tetsuo flees to get there as well as Kaneda and Kei who snuck out too and of course the military who wants to stop them.

Akira is held in a prison in a comatic sleep surrounded by a special cooling system which keeps the temperature at 0.0005 Kelvin. Nevertheless, Tetsuo breaks in and awakes Akira…

So, what happens now? I’m not gonna tell ya as I don’t want to spoil so much and my summary didn’t even reached the end of the second volume. You see, there are still 4 volumes left out there which you can enjoy.

Freakin’ damn why? The thing I hate the most is when English – or let me say non-Japanese – publishers are so stupid and mirror a manga so that you can read it from left to right. They are totally destroying it. You have to read it like the mangaka wants you to and not like a greedy company! This is like eating sushi or eating something Japanese in general. The meal is perfect when the cook serves it. You don’t need more salt or anything. It’s just the way it has to be. Duh…!

On top of that, they made a version where every single page is colored. I mean when you read it, it totally looses the manga-feeling. Relating to my food-metaphor it’s like putting ketchup or BBQ-sauce over your sushi (damn… I’m so freakin’ hungry >_>). Fortunately I found the non-colored version as well so it’s one thing less to care about. So… that were just my 2 cents 😛

So, let’s talk about the drawing style and leave my sweet, crunchy and super tasty metaphor aside.

AKIRA has some unique light effects which I would like to see in today’s mangas. When light sources move quickly, you got this awesome “glowing”:

The clouds and smoke also kick ass:

Look at the color gradient of the smoke in the last picture. There are still some points where the currently running mangas can improve and these pictures are the right examples.

The Japanese sound effects are all replaced by some English ones. I have to admit that sometimes it’s quite convenient not to switch to hiragana or katakana while reading. You can read the panels faster and the story gets more fluent. The only thing is that the effect-style doesn’t fit to the background and to the things happening. Look at the last picture I posted. When the explosion happens you see the “BOOW” on top of it. A sketchy font would be much more supportive to the plot and to the sound it should suggest.

The male characters are designed very well but the female ones are out of shape. They’re looking like guys with some boobs. Even Kei the main girl seems to be drawn as she took some testosterone-hormones. But the ugliest woman in this manga is called Chiyoko and is the aunt of Kei. She’s just like Arnold Schwarzenegger with long hair.

Compared to the Anime:
The anime just left a scratch on the surface as the story in the manga goes much more into details and is actually more as twice as long as the move. Don’t get me wrong. The movie is absolute awesome. I don’t blame the movie for leaving out so much ‘cause the screening time is very limited. I think the anime is more like a good summary of the main events in the first two volumes. As the manga wasn’t finished when the anime was made, the ending is kinda different. The manga is in my opinion much better as the movie doesn’t have this complex dramaturgy.

I rated the anime with 10/10 points and placed it in the 1st place in my top 5 anime (cyberpunk rules everything… but romance). The manga I also rated with 10/10 points but it’s placed 2nd in my top five (20th Century Boys in on the 1st place). The plot covers all the weak spots like the female character design. My recommendation is to watch the anime fist and then read the manga because you aren’t disappointed from the movie when you do it this way.

PS: I just noticed that the majority of my favorite manga are sci-fi ones. The only exception is Mysterious Girlfriend X which isn’t sci-fi but it still has some supernatural aspects.

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