Akira is one of the most famous Japanese manga series set in a post-apocalyptic and cyberpunk futuristic Tokyo. Written and illustrated by Katsuhiro Otomo, the saga is based on the story of two main protagonists, Kaneda and Tetsuo, based after an apparent nuclear explosion which destroyed Tokyo and culminated in Word War III. The city is in a state of chaos and divided between the absence of a stable govern and rival gangs, the Capsules and the Clowns, all on the trail of the Akira experiment, which caused Tokyo’s destruction. Akira had psychokinetic powers, similar to those discovered on Tetsuo who, finally, comes into control of his powers experiencing a big bang explosion in an other dimension.

Susan Napier has identified this morphing and metamorphosis as a factor which marks the work as postmodern; “a genre which suggests that identity is in constant fluctuation.” She also sees the work as an attack on the Japanese establishment, arguing that Otomo satirizes aspects of Japanese culture, in particular schooling and the rush for new technology. Akira‍ ’​s central images, of characters aimlessly roaming the streets on motor bikes is seen to represent the futility of the quest for self-knowledge. The work also focuses on loss, with all characters in some form orphaned and having no sense of history. The landscapes depicted are ruinous, with old Tokyo represented only by a dark crater. The nihilistic nature of the work is felt by Napier to tie into a wider theme present in Japanese literature of the time.

Read here all the six chapters of the saga: Akira.

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