Akira Volume OneA comic review article by: Craig Lemon
Plot: Neo-Tokyo in the 21st Century, and something strange stirs beneath the surface of the city.
Let’s get the downsides of this book out of the way first. It’s twenty-five dollars. It’s in black-and-white. It’s seen print before.
Right, those are the downsides. Now for the upsides. It’s one of the three best Manga stories you’ll ever read. It stands up there with the best of the superhero collections and doesn’t falter. It’s 360 pages of total quality entertainment.
I read the Epic version of this when it came out all those years ago. 64 pages each month, full colour, nice cards covers. I was expecting to hate this particular collected edition, but instead, I absolutely love it.
The text has been re-translated and reads far better than I remember the original doing so, the black-and-white art in no way detracts from the story (in fact, there are a number of grey tones here to provide the contrast, and the decent quality paper this is printed on lends the whole package a quality feel.
The story, if you don't know it, concerns itself initially with a young chap called Kaneda and his wastrel friends. They are more interested in riding their souped-up motorbikes like maniacs across the city than in education, they want fun, drugs and to have it all, and they don't really care who gets in their way.
That's until his gang is involved in a nasty incident involving a couple of psychically endowed, prematurely aged, humans, one working for a mysterious government organisation, the other on the run. One of Kaneda's gang (Tetsuo) is (it seems) adversely affected by this incident - in fact, he also have psychic powers, and the incident triggers them off, and sends him over the edge.
Meanwhile, Kaneda becomes involved with a resistance movement that was trying to help to escapee - not through any sudden burst on principles on his part, but essentially because he fancies the pants off of the female resistance fighter (and she is v-e-r-y nice too).
What the government is up to, who the most-psychic-of-all-psychics (the titular Akira) really is and what he can do, and how this all pays off are the focus of this five or six volume series. Volume one is pretty much essential to learning the background of the characters and the situation and is actionpacked enough - given that further books increase the action quotient even further, get ready for a hell of a ride.
If you want emotional resonance, quiet flowers in the garden type scenes, or even justice wreaked on bad guys, forget it. If you want a roller-coaster, thrill-a-minute ride to leave you breathless, drop the cash now and settle back for 360 pages of total enjoyment.
The only thing that disquiets is that Dark Horse now publish two of the best series of TPBs in the world - Lone Wolf and Cub and Akira. Both of these are more than ten years old. Pretty sad state of affairs for comics that this should be the case.