Akira (Japanese: アキラ Hepburn: Akira), often stylized as AKIRA, is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Katsuhiro Otomo. Initially serialized in the pages of Young Magazine from 1982 until 1990, the work was collected into six volumes by its publisher Kodansha. The work was published in the United States by Marvel Comics under their Epic Comics imprint, becoming one of the first manga works to be translated in its entirety into English. Otomo's art is considered outstanding, and a watershed for both Otomo and the manga form.
Set in a post-apocalyptic and futuristic Neo-Tokyo, the manga focuses on the efforts of a teenaged biker gang leader Kaneda, political activist Kei, a trio of Espers, and Neo-Tokyo's military leader Colonel Shikishima to prevent Tetsuo, Kaneda's mentally-fractured childhood friend, from using his unstable telekinetic abilities to ravage the city and awaken a mysterious individual with similar psychic abilities named "Akira". Through this work, Otomo uses conventions of the cyberpunk genre to detail a saga of political turmoil, social isolation, corruption, and power. It is considered a landmark work in the cyberpunk genre, credited with spawning the Japanese cyberpunk subgenre.
An animated film adaptation (anime) was released in 1988 that shortened the plot considerably while retaining many of the manga's primary characters and plot elements alongside additional scenes, settings and motifs. The manga takes place in a longer time frame than the film, and involves a much wider array of characters and subplots. Otomo's Akira anime marked his transition from a career primarily in manga, to one almost exclusively in anime.
Akira was instrumental in an upsurge of manga popularity outside Japan, especially in United States as Epic Comics' edition was colorized and coincided with the release of the film. It has won several awards, including the Kodansha Manga and Harvey Awards, and is named as being an important title in the French manga explosion.
Japanese cover of Akira Volume 1
|Genre||Cyberpunk, dystopian, political thriller, post-apocalyptic|
|Written by||Katsuhiro Otomo|
|Magazine||Weekly Young Magazine|
|Original run||December 6, 1982 – June 11, 1990|
On December 6, 1982, an apparent nuclear explosion destroys Tokyo and starts World War III. By 2019, a new city called Neo-Tokyo has been built on an artificial island in Tokyo Bay. Although Neo-Tokyo is set to host the XXXII Olympic Games, the city is gripped by anti-government terrorism and gang violence. While exploring the ruins of old Tokyo, Tetsuo Shima, a member of the bōsōzoku gang led by Shōtarō Kaneda, is accidentally injured when his bike crashes after Takashi — a child Esper with wizened features — blocks his path. This incident awakens psychic powers in Tetsuo, attracting the attention of a secret government project directed by JSDF Colonel Shikishima. These increasing powers unhinge Tetsuo's mind, exacerbating his inferiority complex about Kaneda and leading him to assume leadership of the rival Clown gang, who took pity on him.
Meanwhile, Kaneda becomes involved with Kei, a member of the terrorist organization which stages attacks against the government. The terrorists, led by Ryu and opposition parliament leader Nezu, get wind of the Colonel's project and a mysterious figure connected with it known as "Akira". They hope to use this leaked information, and try to restrict Kaneda's movements after he becomes too involved with their activities. However, when Tetsuo and the Clowns begin a violent citywide turf war, Kaneda instigates a counter-attack that unites all of Neo-Tokyo's biker gangs against Tetsuo. The Clowns are easily defeated, but Tetsuo is nearly invincible because of his powers. Tetsuo kills Yamagata, Kaneda's second-in-command, and astonishingly survives after being shot by Kaneda. The Colonel arrives with the powerful drugs needed to suppress Tetsuo's violent headaches, extending Tetsuo an offer to join the project.
After their confrontation with the JSDF, Kaneda, Kei, and Tetsuo are taken into military custody and held in a highly secure skyscraper in Neo-Tokyo. Kei soon escapes after becoming possessed as a medium by another Esper, Kiyoko. Kei/Kiyoko briefly does battle with Tetsuo and frees Kaneda. After rapidly healing from his wounds, Tetsuo inquires about Akira, and forces Doctor Onishi, a project scientist, to take him to the other espers: Takashi, Kiyoko, and Masaru. There, a violent confrontation unfolds between Tetsuo, Kaneda, Kei, and the Espers. The Doctor decides to try to let Tetsuo harness Akira — the project's test subject that destroyed Tokyo — despite Tetsuo's disturbed personality. Upon learning that Akira is being stored in a cryogenic chamber beneath Neo-Tokyo's new Olympic Stadium, Tetsuo escapes the skyscraper with the intent of releasing Akira.
The following day, Tetsuo enters the secret military base at the Olympic site, gruesomely killing any soldiers that get in his way. The Colonel comes to the base and tries to talk Tetsuo out of his plan; Kaneda and Kei enter the base through the sewers and witness the unfolding situation. Tetsuo breaks open the underground cryogenic chamber and frees Akira, who turns out to be an ordinary-looking little boy. The terror of seeing Akira causes one of the Colonel's men to declare a state of emergency that causes massive panic in Neo-Tokyo. The Colonel himself tries to use SOL, a laser satellite, to kill Tetsuo and Akira, but only succeeds in severing Tetsuo's arm.
Tetsuo disappears in the subsequent explosion, and Kaneda and Kei come across Akira outside of the base. Vaguely aware of who he is, they take him back into Neo-Tokyo. Both the Colonel's soldiers and the followers of an Esper named Lady Miyako begin scouring Neo-Tokyo in search for him. Kaneda, Kei, and a third terrorist, Chiyoko, attempt to find refuge with Akira on Nezu's yacht. However, Nezu betrays them and kidnaps Akira for his own use, attempting to have them killed. They survive the attempt, and manage to snatch Akira from Nezu's mansion. The Colonel, desperate to find Akira and fed up with the government's tepid response to the crisis, mounts a coup d'état and puts the city under martial law. The Colonel's men join Lady Miyako's acolytes and Nezu's private army in chasing Kaneda, Kei, Chiyoko, and Akira through the city.
The pursuit ends at a canal, with Kaneda's group surrounded by the Colonel's troops. As Akira is being taken into the Colonel's custody, Nezu attempts to shoot the boy rather than have him be put into government hands; he is immediately fired upon and killed by the Colonel's men. However, Nezu's shot misses Akira and hits Takashi in the head, killing him instantly. The trauma of Takashi's death causes Akira to trigger a second psychic explosion that destroys Neo-Tokyo. Kei, Ryu, Chiyoko, the Colonel, and the other two Espers survive the catastrophe; Kaneda, however, disappears as he is enveloped by the psionic blast. After the city's destruction, Tetsuo reappears and accosts Akira.
Sometime later, an American reconnaissance team led by Lieutenant George Yamada covertly arrives in the ruined Neo-Tokyo. Yamada learns that the city has been divided into two factions: the cult of Lady Miyako, which provides food and medicine for the destitute refugees; and the Great Tokyo Empire, a group of zealots led by Tetsuo with Akira as a figurehead, both worshiped as deities for performing "miracles". The Empire constantly harasses Lady Miyako's group and kills any intruders with Tetsuo's psychic shock troops. Kiyoko and Masaru become targets for the Empire's fanatical soldiers; Kei, Chiyoko, the Colonel, and Kaisuke, a former member of Kaneda's gang, ally themselves with Lady Miyako to protect them.
Yamada eventually becomes affiliated with Ryu, and updates the latter on how the world has reacted to the events in Neo-Tokyo; they later learn that an American naval fleet lingers nearby. Tetsuo becomes heavily dependent on government-issued pills to quell his headaches. Seeking answers, he visits Lady Miyako at her temple and is given a comprehensive history of the government project that unleashed Akira. Miyako advises Tetsuo to quit the pills in order to become more powerful; Tetsuo begins an agonizing withdrawal. Meanwhile, Tetsuo's aide, the Captain, stages an unsuccessful Empire assault on Miyako's temple. After the Colonel uses SOL to attack the Empire's army, a mysterious event opens a rift in the sky dumping massive debris from Akira's second explosion... as well as Kaneda.
Kaneda is reunited with Kei and joins Kaisuke and Joker, the former Clown leader, in planning an assault on the Great Tokyo Empire. Meanwhile, an international team of scientists meet up on an American aircraft carrier to study the recent psychic events in Neo-Tokyo, forming Project Juvenile A. Ryu has a falling out with Yamada after learning that he plans to use biological weapons to assassinate Tetsuo and Akira; Yamada later escapes Ryu's confines and meets up with his arriving commando team. Akira and Tetsuo hold a rally at the Olympic Stadium to demonstrate their powers to the Empire faithful, which culminates with Tetsuo tearing a massive hole in the Moon's surface and encircling it with a ring of the debris.
Following the rally, Tetsuo's power begins to contort his physical body, causing it to absorb surrounding objects; he later learns that his abuse of his powers have caused them to expand beyond the confines of his body, giving him the ability to transmute inert matter into flesh and integrate it into his physical form. Tetsuo makes a series of visits on board the aircraft carrier to attack the scientists and do battle with American fighter jets. Eventually, Tetsuo takes over the ship and launches a nuclear weapon over the ocean. Kei — accepting the role of a medium controlled by Lady Miyako and the Espers — arrives to battle Tetsuo. Meanwhile, Kaneda, Kaisuke, Joker, and their small army of bikers arrive at the Olympic Stadium to begin their all-out assault on the Great Tokyo Empire.
As Kaneda and the bikers launch their assault on the stadium, Tetsuo returns from his battle with Kei. As his powers continue to grow, Tetsuo's body begins involuntarily morphing, and his cybernetic arm is destroyed as his original arm regrows. He then faces Yamada's team, but absorbs their biological attacks and temporarily regains control of his powers. Tetsuo kills Yamada and the commandos; he also eludes the Colonel's attempts to kill him by guiding SOL with a laser designator. Kaneda confronts Tetsuo, and the two begin an epic fight; they are joined by Kei. However, the brawl is interrupted when the Americans try to carpet bomb Neo-Tokyo and destroy the city outright with their own laser satellite, FLOYD. Tetsuo flies into space and brings down FLOYD, causing it to crash down upon the aircraft carrier, killing the fleet admiral and one of the scientists.
After the battle, Tetsuo tries to resurrect Kaori, a girl he had been acquainted with who was killed in the battle. He succeeds to a small degree, but she returns to life blind, cold and in agony, so he lets her die once more. He retreats to Akira's cryogenic chamber beneath the stadium, carrying her body. Kaneda and his friends appear to fight Tetsuo once more, but his powers transform him into a monstrous, amoeba-like mass resembling a fetus, absorbing everything near him. Tetsuo pulls the cryogenic chamber above-ground and drops it onto Lady Miyako's temple. Lady Miyako dies while defying Tetsuo, but not before guiding Kei into space to fire upon him with SOL. Kei's attack awakens Tetsuo's full powers, triggering a psychic reaction similar to Akira's. With the help of Kiyoko, Masaru, and a resurrected Takashi, Akira is able to cancel out Tetsuo's explosion with one of his own. They are also able to free Kaneda, who was trapped in Tetsuo's mass, and he witnesses the truth about the Espers' power as they, alongside Akira and Tetsuo, ascend to a higher plane of existence.
The United Nations sends forces to help the surviving parties of Neo-Tokyo. Kaneda and his friends confront them, declaring the city's sovereignty as the Great Tokyo Empire and warning them that Akira still lives. Kaneda and Kei meet up with the Colonel, and part ways as friends. As Kaneda and Kei ride through Neo-Tokyo, they see ghostly visions of Tetsuo and Yamagata. They also see the city shedding its ruined façade, returning to its former splendor.
Katsuhiro Otomo had previously created Fireball (1979), an unfinished series in which he disregarded accepted manga art styles and which established his interest in science fiction as a setting. Fireball anticipated a number of plot elements of Akira, with its story of young freedom fighters trying to rescue one of the group's older brother who was being used by the government in psychic experiments, with the older brother eventually unleashing a destructive "fireball" of energy (the story may have drawn inspiration from the Alfred Bester's 1953 novel The Demolished Man). The setting was again used the following year in Domu, which was awarded the Science Fiction Grand Prix and became a bestseller. Otomo then began work on his most ambitious work to date, Akira. While Akira came to be viewed as part of the emerging cyberpunk genre, Otomo was not aware of the seminal cyberpunk novel Neuromancer when he began serializing the story, as it was not translated into Japanese until 1985. Instead, he cited as influences such works as the movie Star Wars, the comics of Moebius, the manga Tetsujin 28-go, and the science fiction of Seishi Yokomizo which dealt with "new breeds" of humanity. Famed manga artist and film director Satoshi Kon acted as an uncredited assistant artist for the series.
Akira, like some of Otomo's other works (such as Domu), revolves around the basic idea of individuals with superhuman powers, especially psychokinetic abilities. However, these are not central to the story, which instead concerns itself with character, societal pressures and political machination. Motifs common in the manga include youth alienation, government corruption and inefficiency, and a military grounded in old-fashioned Japanese honor, displeased with the compromises of modern society.
Jenny Kwok Wah Lau writes in Multiple Modernities that Akira is a "direct outgrowth of war and postwar experiences." She argues that Otomo grounds the work in recent Japanese history and culture, using the atomic bombing of Japan during World War II, alongside the economic resurgence and issues relating to over-crowding as inspirations and underlying issues. Thematically the work centres on the nature of youth to rebel against authority, control methods, community building and the transformation experienced in adolescent passage. The latter is best represented in the work by the morphing experienced by characters.
Susan Napier has identified this morphing and metamorphosis as a factor which marks the work as postmodern; "a genre which suggests that identity is in constant fluctuation." She also sees the work as an attack on the Japanese establishment, arguing that Otomo satirizes aspects of Japanese culture, in particular schooling and the rush for new technology. Akira's central images, of characters aimlessly roaming the streets on motor bikes is seen to represent the futility of the quest for self-knowledge. The work also focuses on loss, with all characters in some form orphaned and having no sense of history. The landscapes depicted are ruinous, with old Tokyo represented only by a dark crater. The nihilistic nature of the work is felt by Napier to tie into a wider theme of pessimism present in Japanese fantasy literature of the 1980s.
Akira launched in 1982, serialized in Japan's Young Magazine, and concluded in 1990, two years after the film adaptation of the same name was released. The work, totaling more than 2,000 pages, was collected and released in six tankobon volumes by Kodansha. Concurrently with working on the series, Otomo agreed to an anime adaptation of the work provided he retained creative control. This insistence was based on his experiences working on Harmagedon. The film was released theatrically in Japan in 1988, and followed by limited theatrical releases in various Western territories from 1989 to 1991.
In 1988, the manga was published in the United States by Epic Comics, an imprint of Marvel Comics. This colorized version ended its 38-issue run in 1995. The coloring was by Steve Oliff, hand-picked for the role by Otomo. Oliff persuaded Marvel to use computer coloring, and Akira became the first ongoing comic book to feature computer coloring. The coloring was more subtle than that seen before and far beyond the capabilities of Japanese technology of the time. It played an important part in Akira's success in Western markets, and revolutionized the way comics were colorized. Delays in the publication were caused by Otomo's retouching of artwork for the Japanese collections. It was these works which formed the basis for translation, rather than the initial serialization. The Epic edition suffered significant delays toward the end of the serial, requiring several years to publish the final 8 issues. Marvel planned to collect the colorized versions as a 13-volume paperback series, and teamed with Graphitti Designs to release six limited-edition hardcover volumes; however, the collected editions ceased in 1993, so the final 3 paperbacks and planned sixth hardcover volume were never published. A partially colorized version was serialized in British comic/magazine Manga Mania in the early to mid '90s.
A new edition of Akira was later published in paperback from 2000 to 2002 by Dark Horse Comics, and in the UK by Titan Books, this time in its original 6-volume black-and-white form with a revised translation, although Otomo's painted color pages were used minimally at the start of each book as in the original manga. The English-language rights to Akira are currently held by Kodansha Comics, who re-released the manga from 2009 to 2011 through Random House. Kodansha's version is largely identical to the Dark Horse version. In honor of the 35th anniversary of the manga, Kodansha released a box set in late October 2017, containing hardcover editions of all six volumes, as well as the Akira Club art book, and an exclusive patch featuring the iconic pill design. This release was presented in the original right-to-left format, with unaltered original art and Japanese sound effects with endnote translations.
The serial nature of the work influenced the storyline structure, allowing for numerous sub-plots, a large cast and an extended middle sequence. This allowed for a focus on destructive imagery and afforded Otomo the chance to portray a strong sense of movement. He also established a well-realized science fiction setting, and his art evoked a strong sense of emotion within both character and reader. The work has no consistent main character, but Kaneda and Tetsuo are featured the most prominently throughout.
|No.||Title||Japanese release||North American release|
|1||Tetsuo (鉄雄)||September 14, 1984 |
|December 13, 2000|
ISBN 978-1-56971-498-0 (Dark Horse)
October 13, 2009
ISBN 978-1-935429-00-5 (Kodansha)
|2||Akira I (アキラ I)||August 27, 1985 |
|March 28, 2001|
ISBN 978-1-56971-499-7 (Dark Horse)
June 22, 2010
ISBN 978-1-935429-02-9 (Kodansha)
|3||Akira II (アキラ II)||August 21, 1986 |
|June 27, 2001|
ISBN 978-1-56971-525-3 (Dark Horse)
July 13, 2010
ISBN 978-1-935429-04-3 (Kodansha)
|4||Kei I (ケイ I)||July 1, 1987 |
|September 19, 2001|
ISBN 978-1-56971-526-0 (Dark Horse)
November 30, 2010
ISBN 978-1-935429-06-7 (Kodansha)
|5||Kei II (ケイ II)||November 26, 1990 |
|December 19, 2001|
ISBN 978-1-56971-527-7 (Dark Horse)
March 01, 2011
ISBN 978-1-935429-07-4 (Kodansha)
|Chapters 72-96 (the series took an extended break after Chapter 87, allowing Otomo to work on the Movie adaptation)|
|6||Kaneda (金田)||March 15, 1993 |
|March 27, 2002|
ISBN 978-1-56971-528-4 (Dark Horse)
April 12, 2011
ISBN 978-1-935429-08-1 (Kodansha)
The first tankobon volume, which was released on September 14, 1984, significantly exceeded sales expectations, with its print run increasing from an initial 30,000 copies up to nearly 300,000 copies within two weeks, becoming the number-one best-seller in Japan before eventually selling about 500,000 copies. By 1988, Akira had sold approximately 2 million copies in Japan, from four volumes averaging about 500,000 copies each. As of 2005, Akira has been published in more than a dozen languages and has sold more than 5 million copies worldwide.
The series has won a great deal of recognition in the industry, including the 1984 Kodansha Manga Award for best general manga. It won the Harvey Award for Best American Edition of Foreign Material in 1993, and was nominated for the Harvey for Best Graphic Album of Previously Published Work in 2002. In her book The Fantastic in Japanese Literature, Susan Napier described the work as a "no holds barred enjoyment of fluidity and chaos". The work is credited as having introduced both manga and anime to Western audiences. The translation of the work into French in 1991 by Glénat "opened the floodgates to the Japanese invasion." The imagery in Akira, together with that of Blade Runner formed the blueprint for similar Japanese works of a dystopian nature of the late 1990s. Examples include Ghost in the Shell and Armitage III. Akira cemented Otomo's reputation and the success of the animated feature allowed him to concentrate on film rather than the manga form in which his career began.
While most of the character designs and basic settings were directly adapted from the original manga, the restructured plot of the movie differs considerably from the print version, pruning much of the second half of the series. The film Akira is regarded by many critics as a landmark anime film, one that influenced much of the art in the anime world that followed its release.
In 2003, Tokyopop published a reverse adaption of sorts in the form of an Akira "cine-manga." The format consists of animation cels from the film version cut up and arranged with word balloons in order to resemble comic book panels.
A graphic adventure game based on the animated movie adaptation was released in 1988 by Taito for the Famicom console. The video game version has the player in the role of Kaneda, with the storyline starting with Kaneda and his motorcycle gang in police custody. In 1994, a British-made action game was released for the Amiga CD32, and in 2002 Bandai released a pinball simulation, Akira Psycho Ball for the PlayStation 2.
In June 1995, Kodansha released Akira Club, a compilation of various materials related to the production of the series. These include test designs of the paperback volume covers, title pages as they appeared in Young Magazine, and images of various related merchandise. Otomo also shares his commentaries in each page. Dark Horse collaborated with Kodansha to release an English-translated version of the book in 2007.
In 2002, talks that Warner Bros. had acquired rights to create an American live action film of Akira surfaced. Since the initial announcement, a number of directors, producers and writers have been reported to be attached to the film, starting with Stephen Norrington (writer/director) and Jon Peters (producer). In 2008, Anime News Network reported that Ruairi Robinson would direct, Gary Whitta would write, and Andrew Lazar, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Jennifer Davisson would produce the film. In late 2009, Gary Whitta stated he was no longer attached to the film, and Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby were rumored to be taking over the script writing. In February 2010, Deadline Hollywood reported that Warner Bros. were in talks with Allen and Albert Hughes to direct the film. On June 17, 2010, Lazar said that a new writer had been hired and that the movie was being fast tracked. He also stated that only Albert Hughes would direct the film, and that the first movie would be based on volumes 1–3 and the second on volumes 4–6. In April 2011, Chris Weston stated he was working on concept art and storyboards for the live action Akira, but the film had not been approved for production yet. On May 26, 2011, it was reported that Albert Hughes had left the project due to creative differences. As of January 6, 2012, production has been "shut down" for the fourth time.
In January 2016, Katsuhiro Otomo revealed in a French comic festival that an anime television series was being considered.
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Epic Comics (also known as the Epic Comics Group) was a creator-owned imprint of Marvel Comics started in 1982, lasting through the mid-1990s, and being briefly revived on a small scale in the mid-2000s.Index of Japan-related articles (A)
This page lists Japan-related articles with romanized titles beginning with the letter A. For names of people, please list by surname (i.e., "Tarō Yamada" should be listed under "Y", not "T"). Please also ignore particles (e.g. "a", "an", "the") when listing articles (i.e., "A City with No People" should be listed under "City").List of female comics creators
This is a list of women who have been involved with producing comic books and comic strips. Many notable female comics creators exist even though the field of comics creation is traditionally male-dominated.List of stories set in a future now past
This is a list of fictional stories that, when written, were set in the future, but the future they predicted is now present or past. The list excludes works that were alternate histories, which were composed after the dates they depict. The list also excludes contemporary or near-future works (e.g. set within a year or two), unless it deals with some notable futuristic event as with the 2012 phenomenon. It also excludes works where the future is passively mentioned and not really depicting anything notable about the society, as with an epilogue that just focuses on the fate of the main characters. Entries referencing the current year may be added if their month and day were not specified or have already occurred.Neo Tokyo
Neo Tokyo (ネオ東京, Neo Tōkyō) or "New Tokyo" is a common name for a fictional futuristic version of Tokyo often depicted in manga, anime and video games, originally belonging to Project Team Argos and Madhouse for their production of 迷宮物語, Meikyū Monogatari, Labyrinth Tales.Prosthetics in fiction
Prosthetics, the artificial replacement of organic limbs or organs, often play a role in fiction, particularly science fiction, as either plot points or to give a character a beyond normal appearance. Numerous works of literature, television, and films feature characters who have prosthetics attached.
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Tetsuo may refer to:
Tetsuo (given name)
Tetsuo: The Iron Man
Tetsuo II: Body Hammer
Tetsuo: The Bullet Man
Tetsuo, a character in Akira (manga)
Kodansha Manga Award – General