Recently I was reading this interesting article by the Japan Times about the famous Japanese manga, Akira, and it’s amazing how much time has passed since it was first published. The article makes a very good point:
There’s no denying that for many non-Japanese back in early 1990s. The anime adaptation of the manga “Akira” was for them the first taste of a drug that ultimately drove the addicted to seek more highs like it, and it caused a pandemic of interest in Japanese pop culture that still exists today.
I know exactly how this feels. When the original Akira comics first came to the US, I was maybe 12 or 13. I remember standing at the bus-stop with some older friends. One of them would buy the new issues every 2 weeks or so and show them to us. At that time, I knew almost nothing about Japan, but I was really fascinated with Otomo’s images of a futuristic, modern Tokyo that was dark and violent, but also really vivid. I really wanted to be there, speak Japanese, etc.
When I was in high-school, and finally had a part-time job, I would go downtown to a certain comic shop and look for the new issues. They cost $8-$10, and but I was happy to spend the money. Then I went to the Teriyaki shop next door and ate something “Japanese” for lunch. Yeah, that was my world when I was 15 or so.
Around 18, I went with a friend to a late-night theater which was showing some of Otomo’s films, including Akira, and other short films. The images were amazing, and really make you think about society and such. In one movie (I forget the name), the robots working at a factory take over and kill all the humans, but they keep working themselves to death doing the same jobs over and over, until they fall apart.
Now that I am older, married a Japanese woman and have visited Japan many times, my view of things has changed a lot, but Akira still remains one of my favorite memories in my youth. While living in Dublin, Ireland, I did buy all the Akira comics as graphic novels (much cheaper than buying the originals) and read through them. At the age of 32, and with more experience in Japanese culture, the comics are not as interesting as they were in my teenage years. But the nostalgia is still fun to think about.