Tag Archives: anime

Akira (Book One) by Katsuhiro Otomo

Akira book oneSince the western release of the anime film version of Katsuhiro Otomo’s early 1980s manga Akira it has entered the western pop culture lexicon like few other things from the Far East, arguably kick starting the ongoing fascination with Japanese culture in the western world that spans from the films of Studio Ghibli to the likes of Pokemon.

Despite having seen the film long ago and the many references to it in cinema since, I had yet to go back to the original manga until now. So, while I had some expectations, I didn’t have a total grasp of what it might be like.

This first book of the series kicks off by introducing us to a teenage bike gang (bōsōzoku) in Post-World War Three Neo-Tokyo, and we are dropped into a slightly familiar, exaggerated gang culture of Japanese youth (if this exists in real life or just in manga and anime I’m not able to say, but it certainly has a ring of truth) in a vaguely totalitarian society where we soon discover something is amiss with superpowered mutant humans being hidden, somewhat unsuccessfully, by mysterious government agencies.

Akira - Kaneda and Tetsuo

Kaneda and Tetsuo

The story itself is one that has become somewhat cliché, but this feels like where it started, so we follow gang member Kaneda as he becomes embroiled in this mystery following the apparent death and resurrection of fellow young biker Tetsuo.

While the story is undeniably engrossing what sets Akira apart, and at the time of its original publication must have been fairly astonishing, is the pace of the storytelling and action. While American comics traditionally were fairly verbose works, with long passages of expository dialogue, in Akira much of this is removed and Otomo allows the images to do the heavy lifting.

So we race through the society and city which is never explained explicitly but we explore it much as we might in a film, through the detailed visuals. Similarly the characters are revealed to us as much through action as anything else and, while they are mostly fairly typical, it isn’t long before we get behind Kaneda and get a genuine sense of mystery over the fate of Tetsuo that builds to this part’s climax.

Katsuhiro Otomo

Katsuhiro Otomo

While American comics have since caught up with this style it’s hard not to recognise the pioneering nature of Akira as it races along like its characters. While this first volume is clearly just getting the story up and running, it is as engaging and engrossing as any comics I’ve read and, as well as being a notable historical artefact of the medium, remains a compelling read with some excellent artwork.

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El Scar – Drowning In Information, Starved For Knowledge

Prolific solo instrumentalist El Scar broadens his horizons with acoustic ambient metal on new ‘double A side’.

Over the last couple of years Brighton based and Guernsey born musician Marc Le Cras has been putting out self-produced albums and EPs of his own music on a relatively regular basis under the name of El Scar.

Largely instrumental, save for a few guest vocal spots from Jack Fletcher on The Human Instrumentality Project album, his work falls into a strange place of instrumental, atmospheric metal.

All grown from and inspired by El Scar’s evident love of both ‘djent’ style progressive metal and anime (and specifically Neon Genesis Evangelion), the albums and EPs he has put out so far have been a surprisingly rich and varied batch of sound (though all still clearly rooted in their genre).

For his latest, the two track Drowning in Information, Starved for Knowledge, El Scar has put down the electric guitar and picked up the acoustic, along with the usual programmed drums and other backing instrumentation.

What this has done has expand El Scar’s palate of sounds in a way that I think was needed at this stage, while still keeping a similar style and sound to the production and composition.

Even more so than on his earlier work these two tracks have the feel of a soundtrack to a hyper-futuristic sci-fi or, appropriately, anime movie.

The one thing that really struck me, though, was how short the two tracks are, on both I was left wanting more.

Both tracks begin slow and quiet before building with additional instruments to add depth to the sound. However, just as they are really getting going, at around the three to four minute mark, they end, in both cases, it seemed to me, somewhat abruptly.

While three to four minutes is a fine length for a pop song or regular piece of music for casual listening, it felt like these two pieces both had further to go and more to do and really could have become deeply engrossing pieces if they had time to expand.

It’s not often I think songs need to be longer (as a Metallica fan, recent years have often had me wishing their songs would be shorter) but in the case of Drowning in Information, Starved for Knowledge, I wanted more!

You can get hold of all of El Scar’s singles, EPs and albums via his BandCamp page.

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