Otomo's AKIRA is the pinnacle of apocalyptic science fiction comics. Its genius is in linking the apocalypse with the rage of disaffected teenagers. After all, for a teenager, every emotion is apocalyptic. So imagine if a teenager had telekinetic powers that increase exponentially with his emotions, and imagine that this teenager were the most angry, resentful little bastard you've ever met. Think about that and then think about the most epic scenes of devastation you could possibly imagine, and you have this series.
The energy-rush action of AKIRA is more than a 200mph adrenaline ride. It provides the sugarcoating for some serious exploration of ideas and metaphors that preoccupy the Japanese psyche, namely social collapse, malaise and the continuing ambivalence towards military power. It's not an accident that the chief opposing forces in the story are delinquent teenage bikers, would-be revolutionaries and the military. Most of all, its story is fuelled by society's fear of its youth, wild uncontrollable, chaotic youth. Tetsuo is the ultimate pissed-off teen, one with enough power to garner himself a body count in the dozens, and there's a reason the government and the army are terrified of the enigmatic Akira, forever frozen in an arrested childhood. This is adolescence causing destruction on an epic scale, drawing on memories of the atom bombs dropped on Japan in World War Two, and our continuing collective fears of annihilation.
The fascination that Japanese pop culture has with The Apocalyptic goes beyond mere flirtation and leaps headlong into mad, dirty, monkey sex every chance it gets, which isn't necessarily very healthy, but certainly makes for some excellent stories.
Adi Tantimedh is a screenwriter and filmmaker who writes comics when he has the time. He has recently completed JLA: The Age of Wonder for DC Comics, and written and directed Open House, a short film for Studio FP in Italy. His current projects include the forthcoming Blackshirt for Moonstone Books, Anna Passenger, a novel being serialised on Opi8.com, and various film and television projects.