As I reach the halfway point in Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, I think I’m also nearing the end of the material that was adapted for the film. While familiar elements appear throughout this volume, they’re deviating from how the film rendered them more and more. THIS is what I’ve been waiting for, as I’m finally starting to set foot in uncharted territory (for me, anyway).
Akira Vol. 3 (Kodansha)
So yeah, remember the last act of the film? A lot of STUFF happened in that hasty climax, but it felt so spontaneous and hollow that you either didn’t follow most of it or didn’t particularly care. You just saw the commercial on the Sci-Fi Channel with the guy turning into a giant exploding fetus and you were counting the minutes until that thing showed up.
Remember that old politician guy that looked like a rat? Nezu? The one who died at the end of the movie from a heart attack and you probably only vaguely gave a rat’s ass about? Well, it’s all spelled out a bit more succinctly here; who he’s working for, what his connection to Kei’s faction is, why he’s out to get Akira, and so on. Again, it’s been seeded throughout earlier volumes, so his secret betrayal of his spiritual mistress (Lady Miyako), and desire to see Akira eliminated, has considerably more heft to it. He even plays a much more direct role toward the end of this volume, interacting with the main cast and causing what’s ultimately a MAJOR event in the series (albeit unintentionally).
And hey, Lady Miyako. Remember her from the movie? She was in it. She was whatever the f--k THIS thing was supposed to be:
Miyako was a non-character in the movie, appearing only in crowd scenes and dying unceremoniously in a montage of citywide destruction. Here, she’s a big wheel in the grand scheme of things and the leader of a major faction that’s vying for power and control (the full extent of which we’re still in the dark about).
This volume ends essentially where the film ended, but in a different way. Akira’s revival causes a major disaster that kills thousands, just as in the film, but Tetsuo doesn’t mutate into a giant goo-baby (again, he sits the volume out except for the final pages). Most of the same characters buy it, albeit in different ways, but with the exception of Tetsuo surviving we’re pretty much at the point where the movie left off. So I’m psyched to see the continuing adventures of these characters next volume, since that ought to be where things really get crazy.
This volume introduces Lady Miyako’s trio of psychic kids who act as an opposing force to the Espers working for the Colonel. This volume is their first appearance and they die almost as quickly as they come. While one of the girls (Sakaki) hangs in there for close to the end of the volume, she doesn’t participate long enough to have a personality or any characterization. Otomo makes a big to-do about her death, with this sequence homaging “The Little Match Girl”, but the tragedy rings hollow because Sakaki wasn’t around long enough for us to make any emotional connection to her.
Otomo’s art shines brighter in this volume than the last. Volume 2 was set almost entirely in claustrophobic hallways and tunnels, but Volume 3 takes the action to the city streets. We get to see a lot of Neo Tokyo, particularly the suburbs, and the post-coup environment breathes some manic life into it. There’s rioting and robot spiders and tanks and all sorts of cool s--t (which Kaneda and Kei have to dodge as they drag Akira around).
The end of the issue features the aforementioned citywide destruction and it goes on and on for TWENTY pages!
Is It Good?
While the story is still stuck in a seemingly neverending chase, the characters and their motivations manage to get fleshed out along the way. The non-stop action ensures that nothing ever gets dull, at least. While this volume covers the last act of the film, for those like me who are only familiar with the movie version, seeing how differently things turned out is a real trip.
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