Daily Graphic Novel Recommendation 207

Akira

by Katsuhiro Otomo
Genre notes: post-apocalyptic sci-fi psychic punk epic
6 vols
ISBN: 1632364611 (Amazon)

Akira is pretty much just legendary. One of those books that is so good that it ought to sit comfortably in the top half of any reputable Top 20 comics of all time list.

And it's not just one of those books that is lauded and recognized for its place in comics history. Akira is every bit as vibrant and jaw-dropping today as it was in 1989, when I first encountered it. That a book produced in the '80s should 30 years later still feel better and more accomplished than nearly anything in the last ten years is impressive, seeing as how we are essentially living in a golden age where every living artist can do pretty much whatever kind of comic they want.

Akira spawned an awe-striking animated film that basically turned the american sense of what animation could be on its head even though Akira the movie was a piss-poor adaptation of the glories found in Akira the book. (I remember wearing out my Streamline VHS tape back in 9th grade and it's still that dub that echoes through my mind whenever I remember scenes from the movie.)

Akira is about the leader of a teen biker gang that runs the streets of Neo Tokyo, a Tokyo that has arisen from the ashes of a terrible explosion decades earlier. It's about one of that leader's lieutenants who after an accident begins to develop powerful psychic powers. It's about how those unstoppable psychic powers, powers that make him a god, are nothing next to the powers of a kid who's been on ice for decades. It's about a city under military control. It's about politics and religion and annihilation and apocalypse and drugs and revolution and lasers and hovercraft and motorcycles and a guy who really just wants to spend some sexy time with this one girl terrorist.

When Marvel first brought Akira to the US, colourizing it and having Otomo redraw a couple scenes that wouldn't likely fly on American shores (like full frontal of a teen boy, redrawn to show him from behind instead), it was a revelation. If you are picking up Akira today for the first time, it will be a revelation. Last time I reread the series, it was a revelation—the book is so thoroughly a legend, so thoroughly a part of the comics canon, that it's easy to forget just how magnificent it really is.

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