I still remember when I first encountered Akira. It was the anime version which I had gotten as a part of some promotion long forgotten. At the time, I had never really seen any anime. I loved cartoons, but, in my late middle-school years, felt like I was outgrowing them.
When I put Akira into the DVD player, everything changed for me. It was brutally violent, gory, gross, and more than anything, strange. Dream sequences and psychic energies confused me, and no matter how many times I watched, I was always convinced that there was something hinted at I would never understand, like the filmmaker was just one step too abstract for me.
Suffice it to say, I was hooked. It opened up a whole new world for me, and I was fascinated by the sheer scope of the story.
I just recently finished reading the manga versions of the story, over 2000 pages of beautifully illustrated graphic novel. It was a wonderful experience.
For those who haven’t encountered the story, I hesitate to recommend it. It’s certainly not an easy entry point into anime, and while the manga is much more easy to comprehend (at least at the beginning), it too rapidly becomes very complex and abstract. It deals with issues of life and death and evolution and friendship, and I’d be a liar if I told you I could explain why and how everything happens.
But at the same time, it’s an amazing work which has earned the title of a classic. It was post-apocalyptic before post-apocalyptic was cool. There are so many deep themes embedded in the work it would be almost silly to list them all here. Parts of it are now over 30 years old, and it still has more ambition than much of what is written today.
When all is said and done, it’s far from a perfect work, but I deeply love it. For anyone interested in anime or manga, I would suggest trying it out. I won’t say it’s for everyone, but I suspect that if you like it, you will love it.
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