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This is a past article published in Hiragana Times. Each Japanese paragraph is followed by its English translation or vise versa, and furigana are placed above each kanji to make Japanese study even easier. [Magazine Sample] [Subscription Page]

Sci-fi Work that Broadened the Scope of the Manga Medium

[From February Issue 2015]

201502-9-1

AKIRA, Cover of issue 1. Written by OTOMO Katsuhiro.
Published by Kodansha Ltd.

AKIRA

OTOMO Katsuhiro’s masterpiece is regarded as a work that revolutionized the medium of manga in Japan. It introduced a variety of techniques: detailed and realistic depictions; and the effect of a spherical impact in the ground when supernatural powers are used. It was serialized in the weekly publication Young Magazine from 1982 through to 1990. The 1988 animated feature film was a big hit just like the manga. Currently, a live action film adaptation is in progress in Hollywood.

In December, 1982, a new and unidentified type of bomb explodes in the Kanto area. Triggered by the collapse of Tokyo, World War III begins. Skipping forward 37 years to 2019, the new capital of “Neo Tokyo” stands in Tokyo Bay. While it appears to have regained its prosperity, an unstable situation continues with anti-government guerrillas opposing the police and the military.

With the Tokyo Olympics to be held the following year, redevelopment of the neglected old city is due to begin. While KANEDA Shotaro is driving down the highway towards the old city with his motorcycle gang, a strange boy with white hair and a wrinkled face suddenly appears on the road before him. SHIMA Tetsuo, who is a member of the gang, is severely injured when he swerves out of the way.

The boy disappears into thin air right in front of Kaneda. Tetsuo is not hospitalized, but is admitted to a military facility where a series of tests proves that he has dormant supernatural powers. Kaneda meets the boy again by chance and witnesses his mysterious powers. The guerrilla army is investigating supernatural research and abducts the boy from the military facility. Soon Kaneda and Tetsuo come close to discovering the secret behind the government’s supernatural power development project.

Before the breakout of World War III, a project to develop supernatural powers in humans got underway. Children with artificially developed abilities were called Numbers. However, the abilities of Akira – one of these Numbers – accidentally destroyed Tokyo. The real identity of the new kind of bomb was Akira. After this, the military continued to suppress Akira.

Desiring this incredible power, Tetsuo forcibly wakes Akira. The government and the military are at odds over the issue of Akira. Guerilla forces and new cults also get involved and a struggle ensues. In the midst of this chaos, Akira again unleashes his powers and Neo Tokyo is demolished. Tetsuo absorbs Akira’s powers and builds his Great Empire of Tokyo on the ruins of Neo Tokyo.

With Akira by his side, Tetsuo’s powers rapidly develop. To compensate, his body undergoes a strange mutation. Kaneda stands in the way of the suffering Tetsuo. Should Tetsuo – who has started to become a monster with his powers going out of control – be destroyed or saved? Does Akira, who sympathizes with Tetsuo, finally end up destroying the Earth? The curtain rises on the final battle. This work continues to exert an influence in all kinds of media.

Text: HATTA Emiko


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