In the megalopolis of Neo-Tokyo, thirty-eight years after World War III, the government, military, and revolutionaries struggle for power behind the scenes. But two random factors soon trigger a disaster: a teenage biker gang and a secret psychic research program, whose ultimate success was sealed away forever under the name Akira. One of the most important manga of the 1980s, Akira influnced thousands of science fiction manga and anime with its dark urban future, its detailed renderings of cities and machinery (co-opted by lesser artists into the screentone cutout backgrounds of today), and its ever-escalating cycle of destruction. (The realistic, three-dimensional look of Otomo’s characters was also trendsetting.) Prior to Akira, Otomo’s most significant work was the untranslated collection of New York stories Sayonara Nippon, and perhaps owing to this experience in urban realism, Akira starts out with a realistically dense web of street crime, coups, and conflicting factions. When things finally get crazy, though, they get crazy, culminating in a possibly dragged-out conclusion of endless shocking battles and explosions. The visual similarity to the French artist Moebius, who also did a few stories about futuristic wild-goose chases, is strong, but Moebius never drew any stories of this length. Sadly, Otomo has never again produced another manga work of this scale—but he probably realized that he didn’t need to draw another Akira, since everyone else was going to try to draw it for him. Prior to the Dark Horse edition, the series was released in a colorized edition by Marvel’s Epic line from 1988 to 1995.
Akko-chan’s Got a Secret!
Akko-chan’s Got a Secret! is most fondly remembered for its spin-off TV show, one of the first examples of “magical girl” anime. Akko-chan, whose mom draws picture books, is a fifth-grade girl who is first seen brushing her hair and looking into her mirror (“A mirror is a girl’s greatest treasure!”). In thanks for taking such good care of her mirror, the Queen of Mirrorland gives her a magic compact, which she can use to turn herself into anyone she wants. As the plot summary indicates, Akko-chan’s Got a Secret! is definitely a product of an earlier age, but the episodic stories (written by male gag manga artist Fujio Akatsuka) are spirited and slapstick; Akko mostly uses her mirror to play pranks. The primitive 1960s shôjo art features eyes like big crude buttons.