AKIRA: explodin’ brains and tilted panes

March 1, 2009

akira-vol-1Akira was an amazing, albeit somewhat mind-boggling read. What struck me most about the book was Otomo’s excellent usage of action lines / “zip” lines, such as in most of the motorcycle chase scenes or other action sequences. Otomo also interestingly utilizes action lines to mimic quick zooms or pans of an imaginary camera (or in this case, the reader’s POV), such as in the bottom right panel of page 333 (I’d include the picture, but I couldn’t find it online…). Another subtle device that Otomo often employs in these action scenes are tilting the panel frames (such as on pages 292-293) or employing canted angles, another cinematic technique.

The story itself was pretty enthralling, but at the same time, totally confusing. While I enjoyed all the action and fast-pacing, I had a hard time recalling what exactly happened in the pages. All I could really carry away was the basic idea of two blood-brother type buddies turned against each other (classic storytelling trope since Cain and Abel) in the midst of some kind of government cover-up / super weapon in post-apocalyptic Tokyo. Along the lines of character develop, I wanted to know a little more about Tetsuo and Kaneda in this first volume. I feel like having a better idea of their friendship before Tetsuo became psychic would have made me care more about them being turned against one another, although Otomo doesn’t seem to eager to play up that brothers turned mortal enemies angle. Also, I had some problems with the Kaneda-Kei dynamic, where it seems to veer from playful hero / damsel rapport to pseudo-rape (pages 190-191). But most of my problems with the Kaneda-Kei relationship stem from my wanting to more about Kaneda in general. But I also suppose I have five more volumes of character development to come, so I shouldn’t complain.

an example of tilted panels, albeit not the one I referenced above.

an example of tilted panels, albeit not the one I referenced above.

One thing I found really bizarre / unintentionally funny was all of the sound effects / onomatopoeia, as they were so different from American or “Western” comics, e.g.  “broo broo…” for an engine revving, “skriiii…” for something skidding, or the “tokka tokka tokka…” of soldiers’ boots in the picture above. While I found this pretty absurd and comical, I also realize there’s a cultural divide, and different sounds may be interpreted in different ways in Japan.

Overall, I found Akira to be a very engaging and exciting read, and I hope to read the other volumes soon.

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One Response to “AKIRA: explodin’ brains and tilted panes”

  1. caroline Says:

    josh!
    have you seen the anime akira? i’ve never read the manga…but i wonder how it compares to the anime.


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