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Thursday, 28 November 2013

Manga in the 80's Pt. 18

AKIRA. Written and illustrated by Katsuhiro Otomo. published by Epic Comics ( a division of Marvel Comics) in a monthly format in colourised version, with a total of 38 issues, from August\October 1988 to  1995 . The manga was originally published between 1984 and 1989 by Kodansha Ltd. & MASH ROOM Co. Ltd.

A first to recognise the market in the readership of High School and College students, Otomo's AKIRA taped in to a arts and entertainment well informed audience hankering for something new that they could relate to. At the heart of this is Otomo's storytelling and artwork, no CUTE teenage school girls in uniform are to be found, with some critics saying that the female characters are even ugly! 

Visually rich (and lucky for us in the West colourised with love and care) and a gripping narrative AKIRA should not need an introduction.
Like a binary star the two protagonists Kaneda Shotaro and Tetsuo Shima two friends in a juvenile biker gang get mixed-up in secret Government experiments, political & military power struggles, religious and anti-government groups all set in the year 2030 in Neo-Tokyo, and they even have time for the societal pressures of relationships, school and the odd scrap with rival biker gangs, and like all teenagers feel alienated and disillusioned with modern society and the adults who run things.

In this lush back drop of a CyberPunk like world in the year 2002 where scientists have nurtured and enhanced children's psychic abilities (because they can!) to catastrophic magnitude in one or two cases of their test group, and by 2030 the decay had set in to this utopian city no more a scientists dream of a better tomorrow! Like “10 degrees of separation” all the supporting characters are in some way intertwined and have their own story arc and considerable time in the limelight too.

This Manga is one that we all should have on our shelf at home, and for some it was their first introduction to a much wider World of this Japanese phenomenon of comic-books.

[Note: Quoting Archie Goodwin - Otomo personally chose Steve Oliff as colourist (America had the most advanced computer colouring system at that time) for the English translated manga and furnished him with colour guides each step of the way. Studio MASH ROOM Co. Ltd. Also adjusted the artwork for the western comic-book format.]

[Note: When the first volume was released in Japan in September 1984 the print run shot up from an estimated 30,000 to nearly 300,000 and became a best seller. The cover had the author’s name in English as well as the title, a bold break with Japanese manga tradition.]

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