After twenty years of living in country Western Australia, I’ve finally discovered a country called Japan. It is a country populated entirely by Japanese people. I know, amazing, right? And it turns out they’ve got these comics they call “Manga” and cartoons they call “Anime”. I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking: “Slow down there, hombre, you’re going a mile a minute. I can’t possibly take all this information in!” Well, whatever.
Actually, I collected Pokemon cards when I was a kid. Probably because everyone else was doing it. But the only book store in town didn’t sell Manga, and none of our two TV stations (eventually… four) broadcast Anime. I think this is because the TV people and the book store people know that absolutely no Japanese people live in country Western Australia. Something like that. So, yeah, whatever.
So I moved to the city where the kids grew up with a few more TV channels and they got shows like Pokemon and Dragonball Z and junk like that. Power ups and battles and shit. You can learn all you need to know about these types of shows from suff like this and this. I think I have memories of watching a Digimon movie at a friend’s house and a film which I believe is called Porco Rosso in year 8 Japanese class. The first anime film I bought was called Interstella 5555, the musical set track-for-track to Daft Punk’s album Discovery. That was only a couple of years ago.
Since then, I’ve become absorbed with all sorts of genres of books and films and such, although I never really bothered much with comics. I remember reading Richie Rich and Archie and Simpsons comics, just a couple of volumes of each here and there, sometimes I got them just to pass time in long road trips. Other than that, it was just the Newspaper comic strips, Garfield and Zits and Calvin and Hobbes, and whatever was in the Disney Adventure magazines I used to read.
That was a very long time ago.
No masked superheroes, no fighting crime, no secret identities, no justice.
It wasn’t until February of this year that I bought my first graphic novel; V for Vendetta. I saw the film a few years ago and I enjoyed it, and I read the graphic novel and I loved it. And the guy who wrote it also wrote the graphic novel for another film I enjoyed; Watchmen. And it, too, was brilliant. Alan Moore is a fantastic comic book writer. And then I picked up a collected volume of the first eight volumes of The Walking Dead series. It was pretty awesome, but after I finished the compendium I had no idea where the story was going. The characters had gone from place to place, fighting off hoardes of zombies and occasional squabbles with other real people/isolated communities. What frusted me was that it didn’t end and it hasn’t shown any sign of an end. Which I guess is more true to the situation, but really, after a while it gets exhausting and starts to drag.
The next logical step to checking out different genres and formats was to give the manga a go. There were a few that I was looking to start with, such as Uzumaki, Ghost in the Shell, Battle Royale (well, I’d prefer to read the novel first), amongst others, but the one I started with, as recommended by a friend who is a bit of an anime/manga/comic book enthusiast, was called Akira. I’d never heard of it before, so I thought, yeah, whatever, I’ll check it out. Six decent volumes (considering how quick it is, comparitively, to read comics) of psychic/telepathic children, a cyberpunk looming apocalypse backdrop, bike gangs, military testing facilities, underground resistance movements, an all out war between telepathic experiments, it’s pretty full on.
There is a lot of action. There’s a lot of plot development and character development, and the magnitude of the story is huge. The artwork is brilliant and the story just keeps building up and building up and each volume has so much going on at times it feels a little difficult to follow all the different threads unraveling at the same time, but it comes together fantastically I found myself hanging out for the next volume to arrive on my doorstep, and by the third one I didn’t want to wait to read one at a time and ordered the last three volumes in the one go and pretty much read the last half of the series in one and a bit days.
I’m keen on checking out the movie adaptation of the series, but really, this is exactly why I wanted to have a poke around with manga, there’s a lot of stuff out there I haven’t looked into, there are bound to be quite a few gems in there. So while I won’t go out reading everything I can find on manga, I’ve got something, a reference point to compare other books and series to. Akira is top quality punk-ass cyberpunk manga of epic proportions.