• Dark Horse (2000–2002)
• Kodansha (Young Magazine, 1982–1990)
• Seinen, Science Fiction, Action
• Unrated/16+ (language, graphic violence, nudity)
In the megalopolis of Neo-Tokyo, thirty-eight years after World War III, the government, military, and revolutionaries struggle for power behind the scenes. But two random factors soon trigger a disaster: a teenage biker gang and a secret psychic research program, whose ultimate success was sealed away forever under the name Akira. One of the most important manga of the 1980s, Akira influnced thousands of science fiction manga and anime with its dark urban future, its detailed renderings of cities and machinery (co-opted by lesser artists into the screentone cutout backgrounds of today), and its ever-escalating cycle of destruction. (The realistic, three-dimensional look of Otomo’s characters was also trendsetting.) Prior to Akira, Otomo’s most significant work was the untranslated collection of New York stories Sayonara Nippon, and perhaps owing to this experience in urban realism, Akira starts out with a realistically dense web of street crime, coups, and conflicting factions. When things finally get crazy, though, they get crazy, culminating in a possibly dragged-out conclusion of endless shocking battles and explosions. The visual similarity to the French artist Moebius, who also did a few stories about futuristic wild-goose chases, is strong, but Moebius never drew any stories of this length. Sadly, Otomo has never again produced another manga work of this scale—but he probably realized that he didn’t need to draw another Akira, since everyone else was going to try to draw it for him. Prior to the Dark Horse edition, the series was released in a colorized edition by Marvel’s Epic line from 1988 to 1995.