From the back cover:
Welcome to Neo-Tokyo, built on the ashes of a Tokyo annihilated by a blast of unknown origin that triggered World War III. The lives of two streetwise teenage friends, Tetsuo and Kaneda, change forever when paranormal abilities begin to waken in Tetsuo, making him a target for a shadowy agency who will stop at nothing to prevent another catastrophe like that which leveled Tokyo. At the core of their motivation is a raw, all-consuming fear of an unthinkable, monstrous power known only as… Akira.
I’d heard of the animated film Akira back in high school, long before I learned manga even existed. Now that my interest in seinen science fiction has grown, I decided to check it out.
In a word, Akira is cool. The plot is fairly complicated and rather difficult to describe. The military appears to be collecting kids with latent psychic abilities. The procedure to awaken their powers leaves them with chronic pain, so they end up addicted to a very high-potency drug. There’s a resistance group who’s trying to thwart the military’s plans and a thuggish motorcycle gang (led by Kaneda) gets mixed up in things as well. It’s to Otomo’s credit that all the crazy, intense action that plays out in the story still manages to make perfect narrative sense.
There’s a great deal of violence, much of it psychically perpetrated, with lots of explosions and head trauma. I didn’t find anything too graphically portrayed, but it bugged me when innocent bystanders were probably hurt by the actions of the central characters. In fact, no character is particularly likable. I guess I don’t mind Kei and Ryu of the resistance group too much, but Kaneda (the actual protagonist) has no redeeming qualities that I can see.
I really like Otomo’s art, especially the backgrounds in the urban scenes and the science lab where the military conducts its experiments. Facially, the characters have that ’80s manga look, but I like that style. I do have to say, though, that the expanse of Tetsuo’s forehead is truly a formidable one.
Akira is an exciting read, and I plowed through this volume pretty quickly. I’ve already put in my interlibrary loan request for volume 2, and am looking forward to its arrival.