Film Review: Robot Carnival (1987)

Release Date: July 21st, 1987 (Japan)
Directed by: Hidetoshi Oomori, Hiroyuki Kitakubo, Hiroyuki Kitazume, Katsuhiro Otomo, Koji Morimoto, Mao Lamdo, Takashi Nakamura, Yasuomi Umetsu
Written by: Hiroyuki Kitazume, Katsuhiro Otomo, Mao Lamdo, Takashi Nakamura, Yasuomi Umetsu
Music by: Joe Hisaishi, Isaku Fujita, Masahisa Takeichi

A.P.P.P., Studio 4°C, Diskotek Media, Streamline Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

Robot Carnival is a pretty neat and interesting picture.

The film is an anime anthology where everything in it has the theme of robots. It also has a steampunk and cyberpunk aesthetic throughout the picture. Another interesting thing about it is that most of the film is actually silent in regards to dialogue.

The biggest thing that made me want to check this out, however, is that it features a story by Katsuhiro Otomo before he worked on the film adaptation of his megahit manga Akira.

Otomo’s contribution to this film is the opening and ending scenes. Both are fairly short but they act as the bookends to all the short stories in-between. These segments also feature a massive city structure on treads, rolling over the countryside. It’s actually pretty damn clear, once seeing this, that the Otomo segments were the inspiration behind the novels and film adaptation of Mortal Engines.

All the other stories are pretty cool and unique. It’s honestly a mixed bag, really, but it is cool seeing all of this as a larger body of work where its segments have a nice variance in art style and narrative structure.

This is a pretty chill and kind of relaxing anime to sit through. Each film is straightforward and just a neat, simple concept that has been realized and presented in all its glory. While everything has its own feel to it, the picture, as a whole, has a pretty consistent vibe.

I wouldn’t categorize this as a classic but I can see why many have held this in pretty high regard. I see it as more of a sampler of what many of these creators were capable of before they went off to make their own, larger features.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other cyberpunk and steampunk anime of the late ’80s/early ’90s.

Vids I Dig 204: Comic Tropes: ‘Akira’: Breaking Down the Themes and Influences

From Comic Tropes’ YouTube description: Katsuhiro Otomo is the writer and illustrator of the Akira manga as well as the director of the anime adaptation. Both were being worked on at the same time and influenced one another. This video takes a look at the cultural and artistic inspirations that influenced Otomo’s work, as well as breaking down his stated intentions. After comparing and contrasting the manga and anime, the video discusses the themes of Akira.

Book Review: ‘Otomo: A Global Tribute to the Mind Behind Akira’ by Various

I really would love to see an art book that features the best work of Katsuhiro Otomo one day and maybe that exists in Japan but I’ve never come across one, here, in the States.

This is still a pretty cool book though, as it features tribute pieces done by dozens of artists inspired by Otomo, especially his work on the long-running manga Akira.

Honestly, there’s not a bad art piece in the lot and I enjoyed every page of this hefty, oversized hardcover.

Each spread has the art piece to the right with the left side giving you a nice bio of the artist who created it.

There’s not much else to say really. This is a neat book to own if you love Otomo, Akira or cyberpunk styled art.

It’s well presented, looks nice on the shelf and it’s actually pretty inexpensive for what it is.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira manga and other works, as well as other comic/manga art books.

Vids I Dig 169: For the Love of Comics: ‘Akira’ Edition Comparison: Marvel/Epic Comics Vs. Kodansha 35th Anniversary Hardcovers

From For the Love of Comics’ YouTube description: A quick comparison between the new 35th Anniversary Edition of Akira and the ‘88 Epic Comics edition, focusing on: production and content differences.

Vids I Dig 140: AnimeEveryday: The Influence of ‘Akira’

 

Taken from AnimeEveryday’s YouTube description: In this video I discuss the influence Akira had on anime & the industry. I discuss the ’80s building up to Akira, its immediate effect in the ’90s and how its influence evolved into modern anime.

Comic Review: Akira – The Complete Saga

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

Review:

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.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: Katsuhiro Otomo’s other works, as well as Ghost In the Shell and Battle Angel Alita.

Film Review: Akira (1988)

Release Date: July 16th, 1988 (Japan)
Directed by: Katsuhiro Otomo
Written by: Katsuhiro Otomo, Izo Hashimoto
Based on: Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo
Music by: Shoji Yamashiro

Akira Committee Company Ltd., Akira Studio, TMS Entertainment, Toho Co. Ltd., 124 Minutes

Review:

“Look at what they abandoned in their panic, they were afraid! They were too scared, so they hid it away from the public. They forgot all shame and honor, cast off the civilization and science we had created, and shut the lid of the Pandora’s Box they themselves had opened.” – Colonel Shikishima

This wasn’t the first Japanese animated film that I saw but it was the first one to have a lasting impact on me. In fact, this is the one anime film that I have seen more than any of the others, as it is damn near perfect and the older it gets, the better it ages. Plus, it really got me into what was then called “Japanimation” before Americans started properly calling it anime.

Akira really opened the floodgates for me. Even though I was already a fan of Robotech, Voltron and Star Blazers, I didn’t really know that they were Japanese properties retrofitted for American kids. But after seeing Akira, I started renting or buying almost every anime I could find. Many were bad but many were also good. It was a rabbit hole I really enjoyed going down, especially from the early to mid-’90s.

But what makes this film the best of the lot, at least from its era, is that it has a solid story, truly embraces the cyberpunk aesthetic and was just too damn cool to turn away from.

Now I might not of understood the film as a kid but I didn’t care. In my mind, this was the best animation I had ever seen and it made the American cartoons I enjoyed look drab by comparison. Also, being that it was animated, I could watch it without my parents suspecting that it might not just be some regular Saturday morning action cartoon. And that was cool because this was so adult and I hadn’t experienced that in anything animated up until this point.

Through adult eyes, I still can’t turn away. This picture is absolutely beautiful and Katsuhiro Otomo did a stupendous job in adapting his stellar manga into an animated movie. Granted, I wish that he would’ve gone on to continue to adapt the manga series, as this film doesn’t give you the rest of the lengthy story.

But as a standalone film and a self contained story, this works well, even if it opens a Pandora’s box by the end and leaves you with a lot of questions as to what the future holds for those living in this world.

It’s also a film that is good in both the subtitled and dubbed versions. While I typically prefer subs, the English language dub is better than most.

But the sound and the music really take this picture to another level. Sound was used to great effect through simple effects and audio cues that still sound cool and otherworldly regardless of how many times I’ve watched this film.

If someone where to ask which single anime is the best to show people to see if they’re into the style, Akira would be my answer. But I’m also a fan of cyberpunk sci-fi, neo-noir and youth gang movies.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the Akira manga series, as well as Katsuhiro Otomo’s other manga series. Additionally, Ghost In the Shell.

Vids I Dig 030: Cartoonist Kayfabe: Akira – Making a Masterpiece, Part 2: ‘Domu, A Child’s Dream’

From Cartoonist Kayfabe’s YouTube description: The King Kayfabers continue their coverage of Katsuhiro Otomo’s work leading up to Akira by revisiting Domu: A Child’s Dream.

You won’t want to miss the revelations your favorite comic books hosts unearth as they into toward their commentary on the great manga, Akira.

Vids I Dig 022: Cartoonist Kayfabe: Akira – Making a Masterpiece, Part 1: ‘Fireball’

From Cartoonist Kayfabe’s YouTube description: Masterworks don’t come out of thin air and with this multipart series, the boys examine the earliest comics work of Katsuhiro Otomo that establish many of the themes he will eventually refine into his crowning achievement, Akira.