Thursday, March 5, 2009

Akira - Volume 5

Akira - Volume 5
By Katsuhiro Otomo

Katsuhiro Otomo's beloved manga sprawls out into its fifth volume, and with it comes sights far more extraordinary than anything we've seen to date, stuff that makes Akira's destruction at the end of Volume 3 look positively tame by comparison. Things that not a single person on planet Earth could miss.

See, by this point Tetsuo's powers are surging beyond belief. He is now capable of feats the likes of which only gods should be capable. This seems to be changing him. His brief encounters with Lady Miyako may or may not be helping him control his power -- it remains an open question whether she is helping him or using him -- but at the very least this savage character has undergone a change. There is an almost angelic air about him through a long stretch of this volume. His hair is light and short, his demeanor no longer menacing, his approach almost gentle. This is not the Tetsuo we knew.

A real change or the calm before the storm?

What we've got here is a shifting of the powers, the chess pieces being moved into place for the epic, volume-long climax to come. Once again, there is more substance here than in the first part of the saga. Previously one-dimensional characters continue to develop flesh and bones, and, most interesting of all, the Neo Tokyo situation becomes an international issue. And how could it not? When you see what Tetsuo does about midway through this book ...


It ought to be outlandish, Tetsuo's insane abilities at this point, but Otomo's art and fantastic sense of composition have you too busy picking your jaw up off the floor to bother questioning the extent to which Tetsuo has developed. Does this kid need to breath anymore? Can he travel at the near light speed? It doesn't matter. There is simply too much awesome to fuss with such questions.

The penultimate volume of Akira is every bit as packed with action as the previous four, only now we sense the endgame is near. Things are drawing to a close. The storm has one last burst of fury to unleash.

And now we haven't a clue how these two super powerful kids can ever be stopped.

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