Akira kicks so much ass that everyone who reviews comic books and animated movies has already been there. But let me add a personal postscript, because Akira and I have a history.
The film version of this monstrous manga wasn’t released in every major theater at once. It opened in a few U.S. cities, then a few more, then a few more. In the pages of the original Epic printings of this translated and colorized version, the film showings were announced in each issue. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, without Internet or social media, this film became legend.
My friend Dave took me to see it at a theater in downtown St. Louis, Missouri in what must have been its first run in U.S. theaters. The venue was known for showing independent and avant garde films we didn’t see in the suburbs back then. I was 17 or 18 at the time, and 17 with an ID got you into the theater. I’m fairly certain this was the Tivoli Theater, which has since closed and re-opened. The old Tivoli showed some non-rated and NC-17 films such as The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover, but I never saw them. I was only there for Akira, and Akira fried my brain.
I didn’t even know what the hell to think when the credits rolled. I thought I kind of maybe understood… something? But I loved the experience.
Later, I watched Akira a second time on video and realized what was happening, and I’ve watched it about a half dozen times since. The crazy thing is that the original manga is way more complicated and drawn out than the film, and even more epic in scope.
In print, the series takes a while to pick up steam, but my favorite issue rolls around when all the tension is set to explode. It explodes in the form of a bullet that kills one of Akira’s freaky little friends. Until then, for hundreds of pages, Akira was hardly more than a MacGuffin in child form. He never had any agency since being introduced. Characters told us we should fear him, but we as readers had never been shown a reason to.
But when Akira’s buddy is shot in the head, the mysterious title character freaks the fuck out and sets off a massive explosion on the scale of a nuclear bomb.
And creator Katsuhiro Otomo gives Akira an entire issue to blow it up!
Collector’s Guide: From Akira #16, Epic Comics, 1990. Story and Art by Katsuhiro Otomo; Coloring by Steve Oliff.
You’ll never find the entire series in stock on MyComicShop, though you might get lucky and see it on eBay as a full run for about $150.
For $180, you could own the 35th anniversary boxed set edition on Amazon. It isn’t fully colored like the Epic edition, but it restores the original back-to-front layout of the original Japanese editions.
If you prefer a digital and low-cost edition in English that reads front-to-back, Kindle in 2020 released the Akira series in a four-volume, black-and-white, “deluxe set” for about $16 ($4 per volume). Considering that the single issue featured in this post will cost you more than that in print, the digital edition is one hell of a buy and fun to read!