Published: December 6th, 1982 – June 11th, 1990 (original Japanese release)
Written by: Katsuhiro Otomo
Art by: Katsuhiro Otomo, Steve Oliff (colors in original US version)
Kodansha, Epic Comics, Marvel Comics, 2660 Pages
For my 500th comic book (or manga) review, I wanted to do something iconic; a true classic. Something that was epic in size, beloved by most and is considered to be one of the most influential works of all-time in the medium.
Now I should preface this by saying that I didn’t read this in it’s traditional manga form but I instead read the original American releases that Marvel put out through their imprint, Epic Comics.
What’s special about these is that they were broken out into 38 volumes, as opposed to the six beefier manga books. Also, the Epic version was colorized and had the art flipped to read like a traditional American comic from left to right.
But, back in the day, this is how I first read Akira, as I had the first few issues. Sadly, I never completed the set of 38 and therefore wasn’t able to read the entire Akira epic until now.
I can say that my expectations were pretty high, as I’ve been a lifelong fan of the anime film, owned all the McFarlane Toys action figures and used to draw the characters quite regularly. Akira even inspired my own comics in the early ’90s.
This exceeded my high expectations and the reason why is because I had no idea how much story I missed out on just seeing the anime. In fact, those who enjoy but who’ve only seen the anime have been severely cheated. But there is only so much you can do with a story this large with just a two hour running time. Plus, Katsuhiro Otomo made the film before completing his manga, so there are certainly some major differences with how the two conclude.
This was a stupendous read and even though it’s massive in scale, there wasn’t a dull moment or a chapter that just felt like filler. Every issue, every page and every panel served the story in some capacity. There are a lot of characters, a lot of layers and multiple avenues to explore. Akira does a fantastic job at managing multiple plots threads and bringing them all together for an incredibly satisfying conclusion.
I don’t want to go into too much detail about the story and its differences with the anime. Besides, it’s all pretty complex. But that doesn’t make this hard to follow, there are just so many things to take in and process.
I guess I should also point out that Otomo’s art is some of the best I’ve ever seen in manga. And while the standard black and white form is probably how this should be read first, the colorized versions are pretty much perfection, especially considering that they were made well after the original black and white pages were published in Japan.
If you love Akira but haven’t read the manga in its entirety, it’s definitely something you need to do.
In the end, comic book or manga, this is one of the best stories I have ever read in the medium.
Pairs well with: Katsuhiro Otomo’s other works, as well as Ghost In the Shell and Battle Angel Alita.