Akira is one of the great animated movies. If it had not been for Covid-19, I would have been there at my local Cineworld theatre to watch the brand new 4K version. Instead I watched it again on Blu-Ray and decided that now was finally the time to read the manga. Hell, given that the film successfully predicted Tokyo winning the right to host the 2020 Olympics and that 2020 would be pretty bad, I wanted to see what else there was.
As with most anime adaptations, especially for the big screen, there is a lot more in the manga. What’s especially interesting about the manga versus the anime is that the beginning and ending are broadly the same, it’s just that it’s missing pretty much the entire second half before we get to the cool body horror and existential big bang parts.
It’s especially interesting that in 1982 you saw the first publishing of Akira in Japan and then, in the West, the release of Blade Runner. Like something was in the collective air that allowed the co-evolution of the cyberpunk genre – of which Akira is so incredibly influential. Like, without Akira it’s highly unlikely we would have gotten things like Ghost in the Shell or even The Matrix.
The imagination on display here is incredible and even if the ending doesn’t quite stick the landing of 38 volumes of build up. Some threads are left dangling, yada yada yada, but boy it is one hell of a ride. Reading this really makes me yearn for an Akira anime series where they do the complete manga like they did with Monster. Maybe written and directed by Katsuhiro Otomo so it can bring his creation to full life. I say this as someone who absolutely adores the 1988 film – a greedy person who wants more.
Who can say no to a full cyberpunk series dealing with psionic powers, cyberpunk themes, motorbikes and eventual body horror? Seriously though, screw the Hollywood live action version and let’s have it done properly!