THE IMPACT OF AKIRA
Author: Rémi Lopez
Publisher: Third Editions
Publication Year: 2021
Topic: Manga, Anime, Biography, Cultural History
WHAT IS IT?
The Impact of Akira: A Manga [R]evolution is an immersive and wide-ranging look at Katsuhiro Otomo and where he fits in the history of manga. If you want to learn about the creation of Akira, how it was adapted into a movie, or the history and politics behind Otomo’s stories, Rémi Lopez has you covered.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
As his title implies, Lopez centers his story around the “beautiful and violent” Akira manga and anime. He first tells the story of Akira’s creator Katsuhiro Otomo, and in learning about Otomo’s influences we are given a look into the expansive history of Japanese manga. The book looks at Otomo’s early life, discusses the importance of Young Magazine, considers the rise of cyberpunk, and shows how Akira helped to launch “manga mania” in America and France.
This is about so much more than just one creator or story. To explain Akira, Lopez must explain post-war Japanese history and culture. He talks about the lasting influence of war and destruction on Japan and shows how the World War II experiences of Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy), Kenji Nakazawa (Barefoot Gen) and others informed their work. The Impact of Akira serves as an excellent starting point for American readers who are interested in understanding some of the themes that have dominated Japanese manga and is a great way to learn a bit about some of the medium’s greatest artists.
I did not know much about the history of Japanese manga, and was worried I might be completely lost. Luckily, this book does a spectacular job of introducing and connecting generations of creators and stories. Lopez provides ample context and builds his story carefully and effectively. The Impact of Akira is an excellent example of a cultural history. It's entertaining, and you learn a lot about manga, anime, and Japan along the way.
Otomo’s story is told extremely effectively. Lopez shows early work and influences, explains how and why Otomo chose to do things the way he did, and helps you to better understand why everything in Akira keeps exploding!
A highlight for me was the chapter where Lopez looks at the Japanese bosozoku motorcycle gangs that were the inspiration for Akira’s bikers. With a history involving kamikaze pilots and Rebel Without a Cause, their nihilistic, tribal and violent culture was given a punk aesthetic and futuristic design by Otomo, but Japanese readers of the time would have immediately recognized the Capsules gang as kindred to the bosozoku while foreign readers likely missed the reference entirely.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
The book has no images, which is unfortunate. Licensing for comic art can be a thorny issue, and manga is probably much the same. Even so, it would have been nice to have some reference panels or historical photos. I was not familiar with Barefoot Gen and other works, so I kept a web browser handy to Google for reference images.
WHY SHOULD YOU READ IT?
Japanese imports are an incredibly important and vibrant part of the American comics landscape. This is an excellent way for western readers to better understand the history and meaning of manga. If you are a fan of the Akira manga or anime, you're going to enjoy this a lot, but even if you don’t know Kaneda from Tetsuo, this is a great introduction to manga and one of its most influential creators.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you want more Japanese history, only in comics form: Showa: A History of Japan by Shigeru Mizuki
To read about another master of manga and anime: Miyazaki World by Susan Napier
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rémi Lopez is a French author who has worked on gaming magazines and has previously written a book on Final Fantasy VIII. He has a degree in Japanese from Bordeaux III University.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
This book is ©2020 Third Editions. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED