Akira Volume 6 (Akira (del Rey)) Paperback – 12 Apr 2011
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Amidst the flotsam and jetsam of former pop-culture sensations, there are a few items of media that, through sheer visceral creative force, transcend the `cool one moment, cliché the next' element of disposable entertainment. The Japanese manga/movie _Akira_ is among these rare and dignified. Although the movie version is cluttered and convoluted, an epic mess--and what can one expect from the effort of reducing 2000 pages into two hours?--there still remains a power and presence to it that is at once unnerving and captivating.
I "got" Akira upon my first viewing, but like many others found the movie unsatisfying on a basic level. Characters and concepts popped up out of nowhere, seemingly important to the overall arc, yet remaining undeveloped. It felt as if an enormous amount of back-story was left untold. Thankfully, Dark Horse has decided to give the manga version of _Akira_ the definitive publishing it deserves, to fill in the gaps and give us a deeper and far more gratifying glimpse into Katsuhiro Otomo's astonishing vision of dystopia.
And now, finally, volume six is here, containing story and art never before seen on these shores. Here Otomo takes the hints and fragments presented by the film--Tetsuo's metamorphosis, the fate of Neo-Tokyo, the showdown of primal force between Akira and his prodigy companions--and ties them together in a way that, as an end result, far overshadows the 16mm attempt. I have to agree with a fellow reviewer who claims that the movie and manga compliment each other...but while the former is interesting and challenging, the latter is far more essential in terms of scope and overall achievement.
The art is, as usual, clean and crisp and amazingly complex; one can simply contemplate the detail of various panels for hours on end. But the story is paced at such an ongoing peak (especially considering the cliffhanger ending to vol. 5) that upon first reading you may do what I did: breeze through the pages, totally involved in the build-up/release of conflict, while using the art as merely a visual representation for the ongoing story. Thus, Akira vol. 1-6 contains immense re-read potential: firstly to glean Otomo's philosophical ponderings on energy and consciousness, secondly to appreciate the amazing artwork.
And the ending...in true Japanese form, the very ambiguity of it hints at a far larger story in progression; the end is the beginning, apparently. Those with concrete story-structure paradigms may find it unsatisfactory, but I personally loved the surreal suggestions.
Truly an epic, in all sense of the word. Five stars.
The ending of this volume may disappoint some, but I for one was happily confused, as I expect many others should be. Like the ending to the "other" great six part science fiction drama, Dune (heresy, I know), the head-scratching that will undoubtedly go on will most likely be remembered as the best confusion one can partake in.
I wouldn't want to spoil any of the story, but all the pieces seem to fit, all the loose ends tied up, and many possibilities unravel at the very ending (thus, the confusion). When you set down this very big (and very digestable) volume, I hope it will be with a feeling of disturbing peace, and leave the impression that science fiction is viable in all mediums, be it the written word, art, or, as this series proves, a combination of both.
Those who buy it for the art won't be disappointed. Those who buy it for the story won't be disappointed. Those who buy it out of pure curiosity will find themselves truly blessed. But do yourself a favor. Before tackling Volume 6, beg, borrow, or steal the other five volumes and prepare to be immersed in a science fiction epic unrivalved in this medum, and greater than some books in print.