Hey kids. We’re going to keep this one kind of short and sweet, if that’s alright, as this is more or less an addendum to my review of Akira, Vol. 4. If you’re not familiar with the Akira series, you may want to check out that review first – there’s some good background info on the story there, which I’m not going to rehash here. But to reiterate, I’m reviewing the recently-finished reissue of this classic, epic, ground-breaking manga series, which was originally published from 1982 to 1990. So let’s talk about Vol. 5…
Long story short, Akira, Vol. 5 is kind of the slow crescendo before the inevitable climax of the final volume of the series, Vol. 6 – which is perhaps to be expected. That being said, there are some critical and surprising events that transpire within these pages…
Perhaps most notably, we see our favorite son Kaneda mysteriously re-enter the fold, with no explanation of what alternative universe he’s been occupying. Rest assured, he’s still hell-bent on ending the tyrannous rule of the increasingly powerful telekinetic (and former friend) Tetsuo. In this volume, Kaneda is flanked by his old pal Keisuke, but surprisingly now also finds himself in cahoots with Joker (of rival biker-gang fame), and The Colonel (a.k.a. “Skinhead”).
Akira, Vol. 5 also finds Tetsuo slowly losing control of his immense power, which presents an opportunity for Lady Miyako and her disciples to put an end to his terrible threat once and for all. Enlisted in the operation is the lovely Kei, who finally admits her love for Kaneda before (what could be) her final mission. On top of all that, the remaining military super-powers of the world (U.S., Russia, etc.) are seen preparing an offensive on Akira and his dark deputy Tetsuo.
In Vol. 5, Katsuhiro Otomo brings us more of the same engaging, exciting, dynamic story-telling that has characterized the previous 4 volumes. And true to form, there are some brief moments of levity that delightfully round out the entertainment value of this brilliant tale. One of my favorite moments: a naked and fully erect acolyte maniacally declares his love for Akira at a rally of the Great Tokyo Empire, while his compatriots deride him for being an idiot. It’s not as funny when I tell it, but trust me, I laughed all the way on the bus ride to work.
I pretty much went over this in my review of Akira, Vol. 4, but I’ll say it again: Katsuhiro Otomo‘s illustrations are incredibly clean and essentially flawless, especially from a technical standpoint. I mean, this guy must have a drawer full of protractors and Rolling Rulers, because the perspective in his panels is basically perfect. I bet he makes professional looking office forms, charts, and graphs too.
That’s cool enough, but even more importantly, Otomo also does a masterful job at pacing the panels, so that the book basically becomes the storyboard of a great sci-fi action movie. AND (while he’s doing all that) he manages to expertly capture the emotions and subtle motivations of his characters, sucking you in and emotionally investing you in the story arc.
I also want to take a minute to call out the sound effects text that pervades the Akira series. It’s prominent, entertaining, and definitely enhances the reading experience. A lot of comics make use of sound effects text (often quite cornily), but none do it quite as well as Akira. Kudos to whoever lead that effort. Well done.
While I’m a huge fan of the Akira series overall, this particular volume was just a little less riveting than some of the previous volumes – probably because it’s largely setting the stage for the final confrontation. So while I would give the Akira series a 9/10 in general, this specific volume perhaps only warrants a 7/10. It’s not a bad book by any means – it’s just a relatively low chapter in an otherwise epic story line. I still fully recommend that you read this series. It would definitely make the cut for my favorite comics list, if I had been reading this story when I wrote that post. And I’m not going to lie – I can’t wait to read the finale…
I guess that wasn’t that short after all. I’ll leave it to you to tell me if it was sweet. 🙂
So do yourself a favor, get some Akira in your life, and happy reading!