The iFanboy Letter Column – 11/06/2009

Friday means many things to many people. For some, Friday means it’s searching for the ultimate party where on the way, you and your friends get stuck in a 1980s movie-esque adventure. For others, Friday is the day you take a ride down the Canyon of Heroes.

At iFanboy, Friday means it’s letter column time.

You write. We answer. Very simple.

As always, if you want to have your e-mail read on the any of our shows or answered here, keep them coming —

So I know that no one reads manga amongst the iFanboy staff, except maybe Ron, but I have question concerning the series entitled Akira, written by Katsuhiro Otomo, which doesn’t really classify as the typical manga we think of today. First of all, I just wanted to know if any of you have read the series, which is an epic six volumes long. I’ve heard incredible things about it, and it’s even won a few awards. Luckily, I’ve been able to find the first two volumes at the library and so I’m on my way to reading those.

If anyone has read it, I just wanted to know your thoughts on the series and its themes. Fittingly, I think the first volume is being re-released, so if no one has read it over there, I encourage you guys to try it out and read it along with me, as it would be interesting to discuss later on

Erin A. (Legend)

It’s amazing how some offhand comments nearly 3-4 years ago can spawn a life of their own. Admittedly, both myself and Josh and Conor have in the past commented on how we don’t care for manga for a myriad of reasons. Personally, for me, it’s not because I think the style of comics in Japan isn’t any good or that the stories are bad. Rather for me, it’s a combination of not being terribly interested and/or not having the time to tackle another line of comic books. American comics have kept me quite busy reading them week in and week out, so it’s hard to find time to “expand my horizons” so to speak.

That said, I have read a few manga titles such as my beloved Project X Challengers series as well as some of the work of Yoshihiro Tatsumi. I have not as of yet tackled Otomo’s classic work, Akira. Of course, I’ve seen the classic Japanimation movie adaption of Akira, and I have flipped through the books, but I’ve never actually sat down and read it. Believe it or not, I do have a list of manga titles I would like to read some day, and Akira is on that list, along with Nana, Buddha and some other titles. Perhaps this re-release of Akira is a good time to jump on? It’s funny though how having seen the movie a bunch of times when I was a teenager and I wonder if that’s, subconsciously, keeping me from reading the books, as I might feel as if I already know the story. Of course I know the book experience is way different than the movie — I would feel bad for someone who saw the Watchmen movie and then chose not to read the graphic novel. But on some level, if I had to choose between picking up Akira or Buddha, I’d probably go with the latter because it would be completely new to me.

Tangentially, I have been reading some manga in the form of the most excellent collection Oishinbo from Viz Media, which collects the stories of the long running Oishinbo series of manga stories that explore, explain and educate about the world of Japanese cuisine. Apparently the best way to get me to read a manga title is for it to be about food. I’m not quite sure what that’s about, but I’ve enjoyed Oishinbo immensely having flown through the first 5 volumes in the span of about two months. Great stuff, I strongly recommend if you’re into manga and Japanese cuisine.

Ron Richards

Like many other comic book readers I’ve considered switching to trades, but ultimately always end up realizing how difficult it would be to go on the internet, if I didn’t get my books weekly. And how much I enjoy that. Now obviously you guys have the site, and that great community here interacting and having fun — but where else out there, do you go to sate you comics-cravings? Do you follow artists-blogs and such? Where do you go for comics journalism, and where do you go for laughs?

Cav from Denmark.

Does that make you Dennish?  I can never get that right. Crap, I’m exposing my American ignorance! Moving on!

I think it’s time to come clean. I get the distinct impression that people out there think that myself and my partners, whom I will not name because their egos are quite big enough thank you, live and breathe comics 24/7. It’s kind of true that we do, but the fact is, if I do that constantly, I’m going to get burned out. As a result, I don’t really follow all that much in comics.

(Pause for shocked gasps…. aaaaaand continue).

There are something like 45 million comic book podcasts, and I listen to 2 of them, I believe in large part because they’re produced by my friends more than anything else. As a member of the comics media, I should probably be checking comic book sites more often, and keep up on things, but I just simply don’t. I have them all bookmarked, and they’re up in my toolbar, but I just don’t think to click on them that often. I have very little desire for comic book “news” as it were, and while this is going to sound so totally ridiculous, I think we have some of the best comic writers out there working on this site. Who am I going to read that’s better than Jim, Paul, Mike, or Sonia?  I haven’t seen them. I’ve tried some blogs, but I always drop off, and forget to go, because it never really grabbed me. Out of a professional interest, I try to remember to go to CBR now and then, but it only happens a couple times a week. Like I need to know that a book sold out again.

However, the place where that’s different is Twitter. On Twitter, I follow a bunch of artists, writers, and editors, because they talk about making comics, and that’s where I learn things, and get a taste of the industry, as it’s happening in real time. If there’s a big story, people will talk about it, but I find it interesting that these guys so very rarely link to “news” stories about comics, but rather talk to each other about their work, and the stuff they’ve been enjoying. It’s so much more of a first person experience, and Twitter has been one of the best things to happen to the comics industry in a long time, as far as fostering a community. If you want your finger on the pulse of what’s happening with your favorite creators, Twitter might be a really good place to be. Make sure you check out the lists we’ve created if you want to get involved. Or just follow the people who are important to you.

Other than that, I read comics, and hope for the best. Between that and iFanboy, I get plenty of comics, regardless of if I’m reading trades or issues!

Josh Flanagan


  1. I like how Ron started his response by pretending to be Conor.

  2. For those interested in the Akira manga, it’s actually quite different from the movie.  *Movie Spoilers* when Akira arrives in the film, it forms the climax of the movie.  In the Manga, Akira arrives at the end of the 2nd volume.  There are 6 volumes.  After he arrives, they are barely a fourth of the way through the story.

  3. Obviously, I meant "there are" not "they are".  I need to proof read my comments better.

  4. @AMuld: I noticed that too. Weird.

    I have very little desire for comic book "news" as it were, and while this is going to sound so totally ridiculous, I think we have some of the best comic writers out there working on this site.  Who am I going to read that’s better than Jim, Paul, Mike, or Sonia?’

    Well, what the iFanboy writers do are more ‘lifestyle’ articles (centered on their own personal experiences and perceptions), which isn’t the same as journalism. (Yeah, I know that you guys post brief news items too whenever something big occurs.) I think iFanboy does a great job at what it does, but I think the letter was asking about journalism, which isn’t the same as lifestyle articles or newsbulletins. Personally, for actual journalism I’d recommend Comics Buyer’s Guide. And there’s also a magazine called "Back Issue" or something, which is supposedly pretty good. Online, has pretty good journalism, especially the reviews-cum-dissertations by Thom Young. The man known as "rikdad" is a genius ( if you’re into the stuff he’s into, and Timothy Callahan is pretty damn smart too.

  5. Oh dear God, I did mean "they".  i’ll shut up now.

  6. I’ve read Akira. It was long ago, and didn’t make much of an impression on me. Maybe that’s cuz I was destroyed by the mental impression of hearing TETSUO! get yelled over and over and over and over again.

  7. @josh the new translation/voice-over they did for the re-release of Akira a few years back is far superior to the original one. Like you, I had that annoying guy who did the voice of Leonardo on TMNT screaming "TETSUO!" in my head for a decade,which actually made me ignore all other anime. Back when i had money to send on things I only vaguely wanted, i bought the newer version of Akira, and it way better.


  8. Thanks for answering my question Ron!  I actually finished the first volume of Akira today, and I understand avoiding the novel if you’ve seen the movie.  This first volume didn’t speak out to me as much as I thought, maybe because I had such high expectations from what I’ve heard.  In my opinion, it’s definitely worth looking at to see how detailed some of the environments are drawn.

    @josh: As I said, I just finished the first volume and I can relate to your experience.  Overall, while I’m interested to see how the story unfolds, some of the writing styles didn’t appeal to me.  Personally, I found it odd that the characters always had to speak out loud when they were alone.  It’s like what Mike said in a recent article: a lot of text, at least in this first volume, could have just been expressed through the art, specifically facial expressions or body language.

  9. I was at a famous comic book and anime shop in Osaka last week (I live in Japan), and I was surprised to learn that the original Marvel/Epic run of AKIRA was release in Japan in English under the moniker AKIRA: International Version.  Apparently they sold the colorized, English-language, 48-page prestige format books as four-volume sets here.  I guess the appeal was the awesome coloring Steve Oliff and Marvel did since Japanese comics are almost never printed in color.

    AKIRA has a special place in my heart for many reasons, not least of which was that I discovered it around the same time I was growing disgusted with mainstream Marvel and DC titles.  It  was the early 90s, so there wasn’t much good coming from them, especially after the Image founders left.  (I also discovered "Sandman" and "Sin City" at this time.)  I remember trying to hunt down the individual issues and the intermittent trades so I could complete the story.  Then once I caught up with them, I remember having to wait years (yes, literally) for Marvel to release the conclusion.  Every time Jo Duffy (the translator) would do an interview, I would scour it for any hints at a possible release date.  I think half my enjoyment with AKIRA wasn’t just the story and art, but the time-consuming hobby it became to track it all down.

     As for Erin’s (Legend) question, I think AKIRA is worth reading.  It’s not your typical manga like the Shonen Jump ilk.  Otomo set out to tell a coherent, literary story, and I think he succeeded.  Because I live in Japan, I can see how the story is more relevant than ever.  (Political scandals politicians using the Olympic Games to distract people from the aforementioned scandals and lackluster economy, etc.)  But you don’t have to live in Japan to find meaning.  Otomo was very attuned to the entire geopolitical situation of his time, and he translates that into a powerful story.  (Although some of the Cold War references fall flat given the fact it was written before the Berlin Wall fell.)

     Otomo also liked American comics, which is why he published AKIRA in Japan in TPBs that are roughly the same size as their American counterparts.  He wanted to do something different from the typical manga, and few other artists have done that since. 

     Just like with American comics, there are good and bad manga.  Just as not all American comics are superheroes, not all manga are DragonBall and Naruto, both of which I enjoy.   

     Erin, I hope you enjoy the first volume. I’m glad you wrote in with your question because I’ve been thinking about rereading AKIRA again to see if it holds up.  I’ve only read it twice: the first time in English when I was in high school, and the second time in Japanese about 8 years ago.  I’d be curious as to what I think about it now.  I just finished reading the Absolute Sandman volumes and they held up (or maybe even got better!), so I hope AKIRA has too.

  10. read the manga ‘monster’.

    its great


  11. I stumbled on the Akira trades in a used book store, picked it up and read it, awesome, just awesome. Great Art, and with 6 phone books there is alot more story then what they put in the movie, but it’s interesting to see that even thought there is a shit load of material, the movie feels stream lined, and it doesn’t feel choppy or anything (probably because the creator actually made the film)

  12. Anything by Naoki Urasawa (Monster, 20th Century Boys, and Pluto) is top notch storytelling.  Really good suspense in his stories.  Nana is also amazing.  I highly suggest you read it (though the story doesn’t really pick up until the second volume, and doesn’t REALLY pick up until a few past that).


    Another great one is Solanin, which is a slice-of-life story about twenty-somethings just out of college with a music backdrop.  It’s one of the best one-volume manga out there.