Katsuhiro Otomo's AKIRA

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Katsuhiro Otomo's AKIRA

Postby TheButcher on Thu Jun 23, 2011 3:28 am

Akira: The Story Behind The Film - Empire explores the apocalyptic anime great
ANDREW OSMOND wrote:
In 1988, Katsuhiro Ôtomo turned his bestselling manga into a $10 million feature-length cartoon. The result, Akira, is quite simply one of the greatest animated movies ever made. With its release in Neo-Tokyo-enhancing Blu-ray, Empire talks to Ôtomo and traces the making of the cartoon classic that helped shape the modern blockbuster...

The audiences who saw the first Godzilla (1954) might have been watching a documentary; after all, the damage by the scaly Big G was no worse than that meted out by B-29s. Three decades on, the apocalypse was still a threat, but also a thrill: a way for a new generation to trample down the old world and build another. In Akira, one of the main characters, a colonel, mourns that, “Gone are the passion and joys of reconstruction.” But destruction is also joyous and passionate. When Akira’s director, Katsuhiro Ôtomo, was asked which book had the greatest impact on him, he nominated H. G. Wells’ War Of The Worlds, in which Martians obliterate 19th century London and the Home Counties. (Ôtomo would beat up Victorian London in a later anime epic, Steamboy.) Akira is full of smashing down and building up — sometimes at the same time — as creation and destruction become part of one great, organic process. Our first sight of Akira’s Neo-Tokyo is a visceral red shape suggesting a heart, lungs or guts. Teen biker gangs rule the streets on huge, phallic motorbikes that blur into neon-coloured speedlines. Armed police battle the rioting unemployed, terrorist gangs adding to the mayhem. And in a super-deluxe nursery, housing a top-secret state project, three withered children await the return of their divine brother. A boy named Akira...

The bikers (the main characters) bomb cars, smash windows and beat each other into pulpy messes, but they’re part of one organism. We see them from a God’s-eye viewpoint passing under mammoth skyscrapers, reduced to white dots, like blood cells, or zooming in aerial battles through Neo-Tokyo’s flooded bowels. At the climax, a boy swells into a fantastic bloated giant that mewls, pukes and excretes its way into oblivion. The film’s high-energy transformations are driven by cosmic forces, hokily explained but brilliantly visualised.

The director Ôtomo started his career as an artist-creator of manga comics, the format in which Akira was born, but he’d always been a film geek. A country boy, Ôtomo travelled three hours by train to see the latest films when he was still at high school. He was the right age to see Easy Rider and Bonnie And Clyde, along with assorted yakuza pictures and Japan’s “pink” (soft porn) films. His first strips, published in the 1970s after he moved to Tokyo, were mostly short stories, but they grew in scale. His 1980 serial, Domu, about a paranormal battle between a girl and an old man in an apartment block, was hailed as a masterpiece; it was the first manga to win Japan’s sci-fi “grand prix” award. Then, in December 1982, Ôtomo released the first part of Akira. It was serialised in Young magazine, a 300-page anthology manga magazine for high-school and college students.

Akira was a hit — the first collected volume was a number one bestseller. Yet Ôtomo later claimed Akira’s world could only have been fully realised in animation. “It is extremely difficult to express the depth of such a vast city,” he said. “In the comic, I used each issue to build more depth and size. But in a film, you get to combine this all into one. It’s much more convincing… I could really create the type of environment that I wanted to depict.” When the film entered production in the mid-1980s, Japan was in its booming “bubble” economy years, and companies were ready to invest in anime. When Akira’s art director asked Ôtomo (who would storyboard the film) what the film’s “world view” would be, Ôtomo drew him a dirty, grungy city sidewalk, the lived-in detail rivalling any live-action set. The art director looked at it and declared it impossible. But then, Akira had a budget of 1.1 billion yen (about $10 million) and resources to match: a 70-strong staff working round the clock, new technology that allowed for character lip-synch, and the resources to make “full” animation on 12 or 24 frames a second. (Even Studio Ghibli films use semi-limited character animation, which is why they’re less smooth than their Hollywood rivals.)

“Producing animation is very similar to making a live-action film,” Ôtomo says. “I used the techniques and forms best suited to my purposes: cinematic styles, building up speed, cutting and editing.” At the same time, many of Akira’s character names and story points hark back to a vintage comic and cartoon series, Tetsujin 28 (Gigantor in America), in which a young boy operates a remote-controlled robot. “Heck, considering Akira’s basic concept is that a secret weapon from a past war is resurrected, you could say that Akira was based on Tetsujin 28,” Ôtomo says.

But Ôtomo was also inspired by what he saw in 1970s Tokyo. “There were so many interesting people… Student demonstrations, bikers, political movements, gangsters, homeless youth... All part of the Tokyo scene that surrounded me. In Akira, I projected these elements into the future, as science-fiction.” Ôtomo further drew on the 1960s zeitgeist. Akira’s climax takes place in an Olympic sports stadium, a potent Japanese symbol of reconstruction. The 1964 Olympics were a milestone for the post-War country, as this summer’s Beijing event has been for 21st century China.

Jonathan Clements, co-author of the Anime Encyclopedia, sees deeper, more provocative, historical echoes in Akira’s flurry of subplots. Halfway through, the colonel character brings about a military coup, echoing an actual (failed) insurrection in 1936. The adults in Akira carry out cruel medical experiments on children, recalling Japanese war crimes. The clash between Japan’s old and young generations is also a hot issue in a fast-changing country. After Akira, it would play out in one of the biggest 1990s anime, Neon Genesis Evangelion, ostensibly a robot show like Tetsujin 28, but with a boy hero who’s driven by his rage and bitterness towards his commander, who’s also his dad. Akira’s lurid hyperviolence would resurface in Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale, the ultimate Japanese youth-alienation fantasy, where evil adults try killing their kids off completely.

Akira also anticipates the recent evolution of Hollywood comic-book movies. It has the manic violence of The Dark Knight (there’s even a biker gang dressed up as clowns), but the film is closer to Marvel franchises like X-Men and Spider-Man. Akira’s monstrous character Tetsuo is a youngster who finds horrific forces mutating his body. Peter Parker shoots out embarrassing strands of web-goo, but Tetsuo’s whole body engorges into a swelling, seething, liquefying ball of flesh. Akira further foreshadows some of the TV show Heroes, such as the season one set-piece where a radioactive man goes uncontrollably nuclear.

None of which is surprising, given Ôtomo’s love of American pop culture. He said of the first Akira collection that, “I wanted the page-count, the contents, the paintings, everything about it to create a deep, full, American comic-style world.” Archie Goodwin, Marvel editor-in-chief during the 1970s, noted that, “Akira seemed to fit the tastes of American audiences... Ôtomo was dealing with a science-fiction story, which they like, but he was also dealing with beings with paranormal powers, which is a popular theme in American comics and science-fiction now.”

Akira also anticipates certain Hollywood comic-book films in its overstuffed plot. The film compresses hundreds of manga pages, originally published over several years, into two dazzling but very confused hours of animation. Subplots and support characters are truncated or plain forgotten: plot points are vague, even contradictory. Perhaps it was just the difficulty of compressing such a long strip, which hadn’t even been finished when the film was made. It also seems possible, though, that Ôtomo wanted to throw in extra twists to surprise fans of the manga. For example, the “Akira” that Tetsuo unearths in the film is very different from the one he finds in the strip.

And yet, this messy plot is a big part of Akira’s fascination. More than any sci-fi film since Blade Runner, it hurls the viewer into the middle of a world that bleeds from the screen in multiple hinted backstories. The action scenes are a blend of bloody carnage and information overload. The first 15 minutes serve up (in rough order) the end of the world, a new metropolis, rioting students, biker thugs in high-speed chases, and paranormal beings fleeing from sinister men in black, the whole heady montage overlaid with TV news reports and dog-food commercials. The spectacle takes on muscular momentum, driven by the brilliant score by the group Geinoh Yamashirogumi that’s full of explosive breathing and clacking percussion. Later in the film, an empowered Tetsuo fights his way through tanks and helicopters, taking on a supergirl on a huge, metal globe as giant pipes and energy beams destroy the surrounding infrastructure. Then a military satellite comes into play and the battle goes into outer space.

Akira demands to be seen on the big screen. Harry Knowles, founder of Ain’t It Cool News, remembers, “College theatres got hold of that film and just played it over and over and over. It became a midnight thing… When I was at college, Akira and Ghost In The Shell (the next big anime film import) played forever.” Akira became a true midnight movie, befitting an action film that often feels like an endless fever dream. In Britain, too, many viewers first caught Akira at one-off cinema showings around the country. One of the first to see it was Andy Frain, former marketing manager at Island Records, who checked it out as a possible commercial proposition. “It blew me away,” he said. “I’d never seen anything like it. It was like an animated Blade Runner, clearly not for children, but a well-crafted, philosophical movie that happened to be in animation.”

America had enough of a Japanese animation fanbase for Akira to be released on video. In Britain, where anime was almost unknown, Frain set about creating a new brand. “I started thinking Akira was more than a great film; it might be a phenomenon. Were there more films like this in Japan? If so, we could treat them like a record label, like Def Jam, a genre in itself. Nobody in Britain knew the names of the films, the names of the directors, anything about them other than that they were brand new (for Britain) and that if you enjoyed one, you were likely to enjoy others.”

The result was the so-called “manga” cartoon brand that was unleashed in Britain in the 1990s. (Asked if he considered using the brand name “anime”, the Japanese word for animation, Frain replied that the phrase “anime cartoons” would be like saying “film films”; “We were giving a doff of the cap to the original comic source.”) A few years later, Frain’s new company, Manga Entertainment, would co-produce another sci-fi Japanese animation, Ghost In The Shell, which would be one of the main inspirations for The Matrix.

In the years after Akira, Manga Entertainment caught flak for its emphasis on sex and violence, which fans said misrepresented the medium. But “anime” was equally stereotyped as violent animation in America, at least until Pokémon and Spirited Away arrived a decade later. The apocalyptic vision of Akira seared its way into the global consciousness, even in parts of the world torn by war. In 1993, a Japanese critic was walking through bombed-out Sarajevo when he was amazed to see a mural from Akira on a crumbling wall. In the panel, one of Ôtomo’s scowling teen bikers glared out at a world gone to hell.
Last edited by TheButcher on Sun Feb 02, 2014 4:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Katsuhiro Otomo's AKIRA

Postby TheButcher on Thu Jun 23, 2011 3:29 am

Last edited by TheButcher on Sat Jun 25, 2011 1:09 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: AKIRA

Postby TheButcher on Fri Jun 24, 2011 10:59 pm

From CA:
Katsuhiro Otomo and the Perfect Panels of 'Akira'
David Brothers wrote:Like Moebius, Katsuhiro Otomo is a creator's creator. He's perhaps best known for the animated version of Akira, his beautiful feature film about the perils of power, but before it was a movie Akira was a manga, and Otomo's work on it is astounding. Akira is incredibly detailed, sprawling, funny, violent, and wonderful. It's everything the movie was meant to be, and considering how well the movie has aged, that's saying a lot. The cartoonist Zack Soto has chosen to follow in the footsteps of quenched consciousness by creating Otomblr, a shrine dedicated to Otomo's art. That means that now's as good a time as any to tell you what makes Otomo so great.

(A brief-ish aside before we begin: there are two versions of Akira out there. For a shining period in the late '80s and early '90s, Marvel published an English translation of Akira via their Epic imprint, which featured colors by Steve Oliff and a translation by Jo Duffy. Years later, Dark Horse published Akira in black and white with a new translation. The current versions, the ones you will most likely find, are the black and white volumes published by Kodansha, which utilize the Dark Horse translation. The scene spread throughout this post is from Akira Book 2, which can be had for less than twenty dollars online.)

Panels are how information is delivered in a comic. So-called iconic poses, conversations, fight scenes, and everything else in comics are depicted as a single frame, one moment, from that scene. The story (usually) takes place within the panels, so panels serve as both a focus ("This is the most important part of this scene") and a suggestion ("The previous panel flows into this one, and you have to fill in the blanks in between.").

Panel-to-panel progression is closely related to storytelling. Skilled progression will create the story in your head, and turn still pictures into animation. Picking that perfect moment for a panel may well be the most important job a cartoonist has. A talented artist who draws the action half a second too late will create a book full of awkward poses and ugly action. A talented artist who nails that moment, though, can make something fantastic.

Katsuhiro Otomo's good at a lot of things -- pacing, plotting, destruction, terror -- but today? Today, he's good at storytelling. Otomo is a master of the perfect panel.
Last edited by TheButcher on Sat Jun 25, 2011 1:09 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: AKIRA

Postby TheButcher on Sat Jun 25, 2011 1:08 am

'Art of Akira' Showcases Largest Collection of 'Akira' Production Art [Exclusive]

Andy Khouri wrote:Most ComicsAlliance readers are no doubt familiar with Akira, the landmark animated science fiction film directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, based on his manga. Its accolades are legion, and Akira has been canonized in every conceivable sense since its premiere in 1988. What you may not be aware of is how much of Akira has been lost over the years. Being a traditionally animated film -- perhaps even the last truly 100% hand-made animated feature film ever made -- the background art, character cells, production designs and other materials that you see in the finished film exist independently of each other as physical objects, as opposed to assets in a computer. As such, that beautiful material came to be scattered across the world, with much of it lost forever.

In a valiant effort to preserve the artistic legacy of this most beautiful film, writer Joe Peacock has spent years amassing the single largest private collection of Akira production art. The Art of Akira exhibited recently in Philadelphia, but will be hitting the road soon.
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Re: AKIRA

Postby TheButcher on Sun Jan 22, 2012 1:07 am

From Geeks of Doom:
Over 400 Pages Of Original ‘Akira’ Storyboards Available For Download
With the live-action remake of the seminal 1988 Japanese animated futuristic action epic Akira that absolutely no one was asking for recently being shut down due to budgetary concerns (apparently Warner Bros. thinks a sprawling science-fiction adventure set in a dystopian future can be made for less than the cost of an Adam Sandler movie) there’s no time like the present to begin your appreciation of the original manga-inspired film.

Tumblr user Otomblr has given fans of the Katsuhiro Ohtomo-directed anime classic a special treat: over 400 pages of the film’s storyboards assembled into their original continuity. You can check out a gallery of the storyboards here below.

We’re talking thousands of storyboards here, ladies and gentlemen, and there is some amazing artwork on display. Most of the images here are quite evocative of Ohtomo’s manga graphic novel that the movie was based on. This is a magnificent find any fan of the film or anyone interested in classic hand-drawn animation will find fascinating.
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Re: Katsuhiro Otomo

Postby TheButcher on Thu Mar 29, 2012 2:36 am

From CA:
'AKIRA' Creator Katsuhiro Otomo to Return to Long-Form Manga
Andy Khouri wrote:The great mangaka Katsuhiro Otomo is recognized around the world for his enormous influence on comic books and anime, a legacy cemented in his seminal work, AKIRA -- a 2,000-page opus that remains Otomo's only long-form manga. That is set to change, however, when Otomo begins work on what will be his first extended serial in more than 20 years. The as-yet-untitled project will be in the shonen arena (manga targeted at the young male market) and set in Japan's historic Meiji period between the late 1860s and 1912.

The news comes courtesy of Japanese art magazine Geijutsu Shincho, which also features "DJ Teck no Morning Attack," a new eight-page color manga by Otomo and his first since 2006's "Kouen." Otomo also told the magazine that he's produced a new anime short called "Hi-no-Youjin" or "Combustible," which will screen at the Annecy festival in France this June.

Little is known about Otomo's new serial, just that it will be the author's first exercise in shonen and be set during Japan's Meiji period, around the mid 1800s to July 1912, when the nation transformed from an isolated feudal state into the Empire of Japan. Translation of the original interview is subject to inaccuracies, but it seems Otomo played coy with the release date and other details, saying that his new work will be serialized in "a certain shonen magazine."

In other Otomo news, the master recently released his latest art book, Kaba 2, a sequel to the original released all the way back in 1989. The book is only available as an import and features extremely high quality reproductions of all sorts of Otomo work, including AKIRA paintings and a colorized and Japanese language version of his contribution to the 1996 DC Comics anthology Batman: Black & White. I have seen the book and can assure you it is gorgeous. You can find Kaba 2 for around $150 at finer comics shops, art book stores and online.

[Via Anime News Network]
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Re: AKIRA

Postby TheButcher on Tue Jun 26, 2012 5:54 am

Helen McCarthy Delivers A Comprehensive Crash Course In Manga History

Caleb Goellner wrote:If you're a regular ComicsAlliance reader, chances are you know a thing or two about manga, but what if you're an advisor to the president some day and you have to catch them up on Japanese comics in eight minutes in order to, I don't know, stop a volcano from erupting? Well good news! Manga expert and co-author of the stellar The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga Helen McCarthy has done the work for you as part of a history of manga lecture for D&AD! Now you can totally explain to this imaginary president that, with a little education, manga can be universal. "...Manga are really packages -- containers -- for hopes and dreams and fears and manga are where we decode our ideas about Japan against its own ideas," McCarthy says, "And we learn that decoding through the language of line, a narrative language that is quite different from words. But if we don't know its history, we won't see it clearly, we'll see it as 'alien' or 'other' and it actually isn't 'alien' or 'other,' it's actually much closer to home than you think." You can take in McCarthy's presentation and save the world from a completely hypothetical erupting volcano alongside a fictional future president after the cut. Your planet thanks you.
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Re: AKIRA

Postby TheButcher on Wed Aug 07, 2013 6:35 pm

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Re: AKIRA

Postby Spandau Belly on Sat Aug 10, 2013 2:22 pm

"They don't teach tact at the academy!"
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Re: AKIRA 2

Postby TheButcher on Fri Aug 16, 2013 2:13 am

Why There Won't Be Akira 2
Brian Ashcraft wrote:Katsuhiro Otomo created the now classic Akira manga. He brought that to the screen as a groundbreaking anime. And Otomo is not interested in making a sequel.

In a Japanese TV interview earlier this summer, Otomo talked about his latest effort, the anime Short Peace. Otomo also talked about why he continued to produce varied projects. His experience on Akira seems to have influenced his decision not to repeat himself.

After working on the manga for eight years, Otomo directed the Akira anime, but also found himself doing more than just directing. “I was always correcting poorly executed key frames,” he said, adding that it was like he didn’t know anymore what his job was: doing his own work or fixing other people’s. “It’s not something I really want to remember,” he added.

“That’s the way it goes when everything gets tough,” he added. “It’s inevitable that drawing is no longer fun.” Otomo said he thought this was perhaps where his desire to work on new projects came from. This attitude, in turn, keeps things fresh for him. That hasn’t exactly made things easy for Otomo, as fans often want more of the same. He said wryly, “Each time I always come up with a new project, and everyone generally rejects it.”

“You all want me to do Akira 2, right? I’m not going do it, however,” he said with a laugh.

Akira, of course, is a landmark manga and anime that helped definite a generation and even influence Hollywood films like The Matrix. For years, the movie industry has been trying to turn it into a feature film.

According to Otomo, “it can’t be helped” that he wants to work on new things. He explained that years are spent working on these projects. “That’s why I think it’s good to attempt something new,” he said. And while the fans might be content with more Akira, Otomo’s work shows what he’s content doing.
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Re: AKIRA

Postby TheButcher on Sun Feb 02, 2014 4:23 am

Annie Awards to honor animator Katsuhiro Otomo for career achievement
The Japanese artist known for the groundbreaking 'Akira' is considered among the world's most influential animators.

Charles Solomon wrote:Otomo declines to comment on the prospect of a live-action remake of "Akira," a project that's been kicking around Hollywood for more than a decade: "I illustrated the manga then directed the animated film: I will not be involved a third time." But he's directed one live-action movie, an adaptation of Yuki Urushibara's supernatural manga "Mushishi," and would like to do more,

"I would love to make live-action films, but have not had many opportunities. I'd have to start by finding trustworthy staff, which is very difficult. But I will do it. I'm thinking of making a live-action film next."
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Re: Katsuhiro Otomo's Astro Boy

Postby TheButcher on Thu Mar 27, 2014 5:31 am

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Re: Katsuhiro Otomo's AKIRA

Postby TheButcher on Thu Aug 06, 2015 8:18 pm

The deep influence of the A-bomb on anime and manga
Frank Fuller wrote:At the end of Katsuhiro Otomo’s dystopian Japanese anime film Akira, a throbbing, white mass begins to envelop Neo-Tokyo. Eventually, its swirling winds engulf the metropolis, swallowing it whole and leaving a skeleton of a city in its wake.

The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – along with the firebombings of Tokyo – were traumatic experiences for the Japanese people. It’s no surprise that for years, the devastation remained at the forefront of their conscience, and that part of the healing process meant returning to this imagery in literature, in music and in art.

The finale of Akira is only one example of apocalyptic imagery in the anime and manga canon; a number of anime films and comics are rife with atomic bomb references, which appear in any number of forms, from the symbolic to the literal. The devastating aftereffects – orphaned kids, radiation sickness, a loss of national independence, the destruction of nature – would also influence the genre, giving rise to a unique (and arguably incomparable) form of comics and animated film.

The directors and artists who witnessed the devastation firsthand were at the forefront of this movement. Yet to this day – 70 years after the bombs – these themes continue to be explored by their successors.
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Re: Katsuhiro Otomo's AKIRA

Postby TheButcher on Fri Nov 25, 2016 11:17 am

AKIRA: How To Animate Light
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Re: Katsuhiro Otomo's AKIRA

Postby TheButcher on Sat Nov 26, 2016 4:42 am

The Influence of Akira
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Re: Katsuhiro Otomo's AKIRA

Postby TheButcher on Sun Mar 26, 2017 4:42 am

Understanding Disaster, Part 2: Akira and the Postmodern Apocalypse
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Re: Katsuhiro Otomo's AKIRA

Postby TheButcher on Fri Apr 14, 2017 8:01 am

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