on 9 April 2002
Wow, what can I say!
Book number 5 of the Akira saga, and the post-apocalyptic action is still going strong! The US and other superpowers finally decide to act to eliminate Tetsuo and Akira, calling in the help of scientific geniuses from around the world. Meanwhile, Tetsuo is continually building his psychic powers, despite the fact that his ever-decreasing public appearances mean that the New Tokyo Empire is gradually losing supporters. Kei also starts developing her powers as a medium, and... Kaneda is back, seemingly from the dead! With this combination, you just know the results are going to be explosive, to say the least.
Some other old characters also make their return, for example the gang leader turned mechanic, Joker (check out his tyre-tread facepaint he's wearing when Kaneda is first reintroduced to him - a nice reminder of when we last saw him!).
Tetsuo himself becomes more and more destructive - first taking apart an aircraft carrier, then blasting a chunk out of the moon (!). Pretty soon, he finds his psychic powers are limited by his human form - cue a whole load of freaky transformatoins! Is there any stopping this raging juggernaught?! I guess we'll just have to wait for Volume 6 to find that out...
This is a great book, and a worthy addition to the ongoing Akira story. The quality of artwork and plotine is as high as ever, although there are one or two semi-noticeable spelling or grammatical errors. Weighing in at 413 pages, you're certainly getting your money's worth from this baby! Long-term Akira fans really MUST own this title, but for newcomers, I'd certainly recommend they start reading at Vol. 1, otherwise much of the plot of Vol. 5 would make no sense whatsoever! Also, although most Akira fans will already know this, it's worth mentioning there is a fair bit of blood and gore, among other adult themes, so maybe this is best not for kiddies or the easily offendable.
To sum up, another healthy dose of futuristic, apocalyptic, psychotic-psychic, high-octane mayhem from Katsuhiro Otomo! Get it while you can!
on 22 June 2002
Not much that needs to be said... like sci-fi? Like a good story? In one of those unimaginative moods that mean you have trouble visualising scenes for yourself? :-) or even if the third one is false.. I highly reccommend this. First read it serialised in a magazine, now very ragged, so the proper collected version was a must. Great story, generally brilliant (though -occasionally- rough) artwork, and now with cheezy colour bits, what more could you want! Pageturnertastic.
The story has already been expounded, even if in a bit of a B-movie review style, by others here so I'll leave that out.
Shown by the magazine experience, it's perfectly possible to pick up the story starting with book 2 or 3 (though, not reccommended).. coming in any later might leave you a bit stranded. Best to treat it like Lord of the Rings and get the whole set. Better yet get someone else to buy it for you!
Next stop... Nausicaä, if it's still available :) oh joy!
The volume kicks off with the customary recap of the story so far. And then when we return to the story we are away from Neo-Tokyo. Instead we get to see a meeting of the Russian and American military, or more aptly - a congregation of genius when great minds from around the globe meet in person for the first time. Volume 4 mentioned the international intrigue and concern over the events in Japan, and in this volume the extent of foreign interests are clear. Armed forces are gathering, apprehensive over the release of Akira and desperate to act whilst also scared to trigger an unleashing of power which could end the world as we know it.
Traditional enemies find themselves joining forces - and not just on an global scale, but within Neo-Tokyo as well. It's interesting to see how things have changed since the first book. Kaneda bikes through the city with an old friend, a bike built by someone he considered to be his nemesis at the beginning of the story, his journey through the city isn't illuminated with shop lights this time - instead it is devoid of normality and littered with broken buildings and broken people. As they make their way to find Kei there are images to show the extent of human suffering, a particularly sobering moment involves a solemn prayer when the corpses of a family are seen huddled together.
Volume 5 builds on the religious parallels between the worship of real life deities and the adoration of Akira. A national event held by Akira's henchmen to strengthen solidarity between Akira's flagging followers has the distinct feel of an evangelical rally. Dogmatic phrases and propaganda sell the idea that Akira is a saviour and exists inside everyone, Akira and Testsuo are worshipped and feared by those who leave by their rule. As a demonstration of power the manic Tetsuo makes a bold statement in the sky, something visible from anyone in the world - a long lasting reminder. Tetsuo is becoming more and more powerful, he is reaching the point where his control over his abilities will fail as his body becomes too small a container for such energy.
The artwork show no sign of dropping the high standards established so far. An incredible amount of work must have gone into the many drawings of various military vehicles and new characters which are introduced as a result. Neo-Tokyo is mess of twisted steel, flooded streets and collapsed buildings - but after 5 volumes I feel so familiar with the city. I can visualise the various regions and landmarks in relation to each other, Otomo's metropolis is utterly convincing and provides a science-fiction future which is grounded in a familiar reality.
In a nutshell: The inhabitants of Neo-Tokyo aren't just at war with themselves, it seems they also have the forces of the world eying them up for attack. Akira remains eerily quiet but Testuo is quickly losing the plot, interestingly we can sympathise as we get to see him not as the potential destroyer of the world - but as a child who is possessed by a power he has no chance of controlling. The relationship between Kaneda and Kei is complex but it develops stronger bonds in this volume, it's clear that the two are emotionally involved and it adds a great element to the story which has been there since the beginning, but has never been as compelling as it is now.