krpalmer: (kill la d'oh)
[personal profile] krpalmer
At some point early in the 1990s, in a way now obscured by time, I became aware of an animated movie called Akira. It took about a decade for me to see that movie from Japan, and until now to read all of the manga it had sprung from. While I know I'm slower than some at getting around to certain much-mentioned works, this particular gap of time does stand out. A few things might have affected it, though.

In the days when I was sorting out that neither Robotech nor Akira itself had been singular achievements, I glimpsed two short clips of the movie ("ominous futurescape" and "psychic madness") in the rerun of an animation-centred episode of a sort of "science fiction, fantasy, and comics talk show" on the educational channel named "Prisoners of Gravity." The show's host "Commander Rick," though, did just happen to criticise its English dub even as he led into an appearance by Carl Macek, who'd worked on that dub and was promoting the movie over here. That "anti-dub" sentiment returned in spades once I'd got to university, joined the anime club there, and started nudging at the edges of online discussions about anime by people who knew a lot more about it than I did, but beyond the complaints about Carl Macek not making available many subtitled videotapes of his Streamline Pictures' titles there did seem the sentiment that the movie Akira just wasn't as good as the manga it had been abridged from. It took the release of the movie on DVD by Pioneer after Streamline Pictures had folded for me to see some comments that with a new dub (although as soon as it wasn't available, some people became nostalgic for the "Streamline dub"; eventually, a Blu-Ray release included it as well) and a subtitle translation for the original Japanese dialogue, the movie made more sense all of a sudden (which might have been implicit in "Commander Rick's" criticism), and I paid what then seemed like the hefty price to buy the DVD from a comics shop in the first year I had a DVD player. The animation impressed me, I was a bit readier to face the "your regular cartoons aren't like this" content than I'd been when I was still in high school and uncertain where to watch a videotape rather than at my family's home, and things did seem to make sense.

I did still wonder all the same about the manga, though. After a while, I realised the big, if "mirrored," volumes Dark Horse Comics was now releasing it in were available at the local library. I started signing them out, but perhaps I might have been expecting something more "profound" than the running and shouting and narrow escapes I got, more than what had been in the movie but somehow not that different from it. At some point, I just stopped signing the volumes out.

It so happened that when Kodansha Comics was setting up for itself over here, along with continuing some manga titles from Del Rey (but cancelling a lot more of them, something that didn't make it many friends to start with) it began releasing Akira itself. This only seemed to amount to changing the logo on the spine of the old "mirrored" volumes, though, which didn't help its reputation either. One day, however, I needed to order that much more material from the Right Stuf online store to qualify for free cross-border shipping, and decided I could get a bundle of all six Akira volumes. With lots of other manga piled up and arriving all the time, though, I wasn't fast in getting around to it. It just might have been the news that the "Bartkira" "mashup" project had gone so far as to make an "animated trailer" that made me turn to my volumes at last.

My reactions at first weren't that different from when I'd been reading the library volumes, but when I got past the point I'd stopped at all of a sudden I realised I'd managed to stop at the point where the setting changed and forgotten all about that. That did make things more interesting, and my pace of reading picked up, even if I was still wondering if they weren't any more "profound" than before. I did keep thinking things from later on still seemed to have been acknowledged in some small way by the movie, which had me thinking of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, a different anime movie made from a manga-in-progress, but where the manga in a way wound up confronting the easy assumptions of the movie and going against them. (However, despite watching that movie only after I'd read all of the manga, in some odd way I could accept it as a "happier ending" after the place the manga had worked itself into.) I also did think a bit of the impression that From the New World stood out that much more than before in thinking a bit deeper into something that can seem to be invoked to "look cool" in "visual" works. Eventually, though, I might have started feeling as if Akira's characters had developed a bit more character through simple bulk of material, even if the very ending, which touched on a secondary part of the story, might have left me wondering how to "read" or "misread" it, which might even have been a bit more like Nausicaä in the end. In any case, I'm wondering when I might have the chance to get back to the movie, and I'm also looking just a bit more at "Bartkira," which seems to be developing one joke at entertaining length but does leave me wondering if the multiplicity of artists contributing to it somehow got in the way of "Simpsonising" the dialogue the way the art was.

August 2017

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