Continuing my way through the 6-volume Akira manga series by Katushiro Otomo, I’m still not quite out of the scenes that were adapted for the feature film. However, what’s great is that while a number of story beats familiar from the film are present in this volume, the context surrounding them are almost completely different. And much longer.
Akira Volume 2 (Kodansha Comics)
This chapter is a bit less expansive in scope than the opening installment, with really only two settings being exploited. The story and action are much more decompressed, too, and you might walk away from Volume 2 feeling like a little less happened despite it being 300 pages.
The second half of the volume takes place in the subterranean facility below the Olympic stadium. Most of the action follows Tetsuo as he descends down an elevator shaft on his way to the chamber containing Akira. Once again, Kaneda and Kei are following him, though they fail to really accomplish anything.
This deviates more from the movie than the first half; in the film, Tetsuo going down the elevator and finding Akira was really brief. Here, it is a loooooong sequence full of fight sequences and explosions as the military tries to stop him, since Akira was the reason Tokyo was blown up in the first place.
The action is still fantastic thanks to Otomo’s smooth, intuitive layouts. The sense of motion from panel to panel moves so quickly and easily, you can breeze through the pages without ever hitting a stumbling block.
I think what hurts the art in this volume hasn’t anything to do with its quality, but rather how limited the two settings are. The military hospital is nothing but a bunch of narrow hallways and, likewise, the underground facility is nothing but hallways and elevators. All the details are great; there’s a nuanced, mechanical sincerity to the environments and it’s all very lived-in and gritty. But man, it’s just a bunch of hallways for 300 pages. That gets a little monotonous after a while, ya know?
What’s especially intriguing is that, if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll probably recognize that most of these sequences are from the end of the film or thereabouts. And I’m only on volume 2. So I guess there’s going to be a lot of completely “new” material coming up and I can’t wait to get to it.
So while I do think this second volume was a step down from the first, perhaps stretching its story too thin, it’s keeping me hooked. I’m quickly running out of familiar scenes and the promise of unknown material will certainly bring me back.