Book review: Akira, Vol. 5

Akira, Vol. 5Akira, Vol. 5 by Katsuhiro Otomo.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

So here we are, the penultimate Akira trade. Though there’s plenty of action, it can reasonably be said that this is the calm before the storm. Characters reappear and regroup, and the progression of both political jockeying and methods of government contingency ‘management’ is marked.

BUT. There’s still a lot of batshittery in here. I mean, did you ever gather in an arena with your raggedy-arse compatriots to watch the moon explode? Well?

Me neither, kid. 

Thought so.

This is the part of the series where some of the grosser delights of the film adaptation of Akira begin to make their appearances. Tetsuo’s obviously picked a bad point in his life to give up drugs, and has discovered a new subservience – well, maybe – to the psy-nuke figurehead. To say he’s not handling things well would be an understatement, as several eminent scientists (one with a fucked ribcage after a meet-and-greet with the now-drugless delinquent) can attest.


There’s still skirmishes through the title, with Special Forces turning up (as well as previously hinted-at US warships) to add some piquancy between the haves-and-have-nots struggle playing out in the fucked cityscape. Mysterious military man Yamada’s mission becomes more obvious – and it’s not a good one – and most importantly, Kaneda and a bunch of biker dickheads from the title’s earliest moments return to provide some well-needed comic relief, as well as some motocyclic astonishment.

There’s that subtlety I’ve been missing. 

Certainly, this volume is less full-on action-centred than the previous instalment, but it makes up for it in sheer oddity. You want a display of strength that fucks the moon? Sure. A sedan chair made of road signs? Got it. A dude with nanotubes growing out his arm that ends up in some kind of Cronenbergian meld with an aircraft carrier? OK. How about psychic battles where geriatric psych-kids form a kind of mental Voltron in the shape of a young woman? Done.

(And also, some of the shittiest emceeing you’re likely to see, even if that one guy in the stands does have a drug-induced boner.)

THANKS! And now it’s time for ‘Hotel California’. 

What I’m trying to say is that though it’s lighter on firefights and dismemberment, there’s more of a feeling of gravity to the proceedings here. It’s still post-apocalyptic as fuck, but there’s a heightened sense of pre-apocalypse here that’s hard to deny. Sure, it’s easy to imagine that the story is saving its greatest excesses for its final stretch, and it may be true, but there’s some good groundwork laid here, so that the final fireworks can go off with a body-exploding gush.


Let’s get to it, eh?

My Goodreads profile is here.

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