Writer(s): Katsuhiro Otomo.
Illustrator(s): Katsuhiro Otomo.
Publisher: Kodansha Comics.
Release Date: November 30th 2010 (first published July 10th 1987).
Genre(s): Manga, Science-Fiction.
My Overall Rating: ★★★★★.
Previously on Akira:
Akira (Vol. 1)
Akira (Vol. 2)
Akira (Vol. 3)
It has been over 30 years since Katsuhiro Otomo has stunned the world with his visionary six-volume manga, which also gave birth to one of the best animated movies of all time of the same name. By not only reforming the way stories are told through this medium, whether it is through the characters, the world-building or the artwork, he successfully creates a post-apocalyptic science-fiction filled with action, suspense, thrill, philosophy, religion, and insanity. While the first volumes were focused on building his universe and in meticulously teasing the reader by sending them on a rollercoaster of questions with no answers, this fourth entry sets its eyes on exploring civilization built from ground up, with the birth of religious concepts and beliefs in people, as they try and understand the world they live in.
What is Akira (Vol. 4) about? Following the tragedy that besets Neo-Tokyo at the end of the previous volume, the story now explores the city in ruin ruled by a godlike telekinetic superhuman child with the psychic juggernaut Tetsuo by his side as they establish the Great Tokyo Empire with fanatic acolytes ready to do anything for their ruler. In the meanwhile, several different rebel legions concoct a plan to stop Akira from maintaining absolute control over humanity and the answer seems to lie in the mysterious Lady Miyako who holds the key to everything. Through a myriad of revelations, the story thus trusts forward with engrossing theological ideas and delivers one of the best story arcs in this classic masterpiece.
This is exactly what I expected from this franchise and I’m delighted to see it so perfectly executed in this installment. With the ending in the previous volume, it was almost impossible to see where mangaka Katsuhiro Otomo would henceforth possibly go with the story. Thankfully, he begins the story as if he had hit the reset button on mankind while mysteriously keeping a couple of characters alive. With some incredible ideas based on religion and philosophy, he presents the established cults that now rule the city as well as the status of each individual within this society, from the one who plays God to those who worship him out of fear. Subtlety he also explores the lack of women and the sexual impulses of men hungry for pleasure and who would do anything to get what they want. The exploration of drugs and there use to repress our development is also brilliantly employed within the science-fiction context of this story. Simply said, mangaka Katsuhiro Otomo does an incredible job in taking the best elements of his series so far and clearly conveys awe-inspiring ideas but with all the chaos and destruction that he is known to incorporate in his franchise.
If you thought this would turn out to be another volume where there would be more questions than answers, think again. For once, this volume starts off by tossing the reader into a bottomless abyss as they try to figure out where they are and what is going. As the story progresses, several characters appear and the answers are gently handed over, exposing the history behind a lot of the stories supernatural elements, while maintaining a certain hallucinogenic and religious connotation that makes the ride trippy from cover to cover. In fact, the artwork sustains mangaka Katsuhiro Otomo’s incredible ability to draw the setting in all of its splendour, while still dragging the story through a chaotic slaughter that illustrates the epic scale destruction that comes with the bloodbath and gore. The attention to detail and the way each panel is drawn also allows for such an incredibly fast-paced adventure where the tension is constantly high and rising. While it is the fattest volume so far, the amount of dialogue is still relatively low yet so significantly absorbing and engaging.
Akira (Vol. 4) is a thought-provoking tour de force that revolutionizes the medium as it provides a devastating yet gorgeous portrayal of mankind’s rebirth and own undoing.
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a copy for review!
The movie adaptation is considered to be the most visually-stunning and revolutionary animated movie of all time! Have you seen it yet?