Special Edition Podcast

Booksplode #13 – Akira, Vols. 1 & 2

Show Notes

“TETSUO!” “KANEDA!” Paul Montgomery and special guest Skottie Young discuss the first two volumes in Katsuhiro Otomo’s landmark manga saga Akira.


Welcome to Neo-Tokyo, built on the ashes of a Tokyo annihilated by a blast of unknown origin that triggered World War III. The lives of two streetwise teenage friends, Tetsuo and Kaneda, change forever when paranormal abilities begin to waken in Tetsuo, making him a target for a shadowy agency that will stop at nothing to prevent another catastrophe like the one that leveled Tokyo. At the core of the agency’s motivation is a raw, all-consuming fear of an unthinkable, monstrous power known only as Akira.

Katsuhiro Otomo’s stunning science fiction masterpiece is considered by many to be the finest work of graphic fiction ever produced, and Otomo’s brilliant animated film version is regarded worldwide as a classic.


Running Time: 01:01:01

“World War III”



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  1. Really liked the podcast guys!

    Hey, something I wanted to mention in regards to Kaneda and if we are supposed to like them or not, I think a few things are lost in translation from Japanese culture in the 80s to USA now.

    The child-based biker gangs in Akira are a real thing in Japan called bosozoku. This was something that was terrifying to the Japanese public and was part of the underlying cultural paranoia, it would be like setting Akira in America and making the main characters terrorists or part of the crips or something. I definitely think we were supposed to be shocked by the characters and have an aversion to them from the start and then grow into caring about them.

    The fact that Akira starts out with basically a nuke blast (a real Japanese national tragedy) and then bosozoku as the main characters would be like starting an American comic off with a school shooting and then the main characters would be street youths or child prostitutes. It’s very shocking, very potent and grabs you from the start and says, “This is the type of comic story I’m going to tell you.”

    • Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:


      Really good points here. I feel like this is at least one area where the movie bridges that cultural divide a bit more, if only because the opening seems so much more violent. I mean, a dog gets shot if I’m remembering correctly (again, it’s been over a decade since the last time I saw it). In the manga, the gang reads more like a bunch of thrill-hungry hoods than a serious menace to society. At least at the start.

    • Great insight.

      Man, I really need to read AKIRA again. It’s been, like, 20 years.

    • The opening of the movie starts with a rebel helping Number 23 and he gets shot to pieces and attacked by dogs if I remember right. I remember the entire movie being a really shocking experience and feeling like it was incredibly foreign.

  2. Can’t wait to listen to this. I’ve always wondered what your guys thought on Akira was. It’s so groundbreaking.

  3. I kind of miss that feeling now, a lot of movies feel the same, culturally.

  4. Well well, someone has come a long way from the WYLD Scottie Young who used to derail the Around Comics podcast

  5. A great first episode guys. Can’t wait to hear the next one once things start diverging and opening up from what was established in the movies.

  6. I’ve never read these, but really enjoyed the discussion. I’d love to read along, but that $130 price tag is intimidating. Anybody read this in issues in the late 80’s? I remember seeing them on the racks–wish I’d picked them up back then.

    • When Dark Horse first reprinted them in the phonebook sized editions it was at a time before internet shopping was a regular thing. Combined with a severe lack of comic shops in Ireland at the time I paid €50-€60 per volume. At least €300 for the whole story. Worth every penny though! 😉

  7. Really enjoyed the podcast…made me quite jealous to listen to others thoughts reading through it the first time like I did so many years ago. I’ve sold off every comic I owned as a teenager except for my entire collection of the Epic (marvel) Akiras (and a leatherbound Dark Knight Returns). They are like a prized treasure to me.

    You mentioned that there seemed to be a lack of motivation for Tetsuo’s actions in the first volume, and while you’re right, there is a subtle nod right at the very beginning…when the gang is on their nighttime ride to old Tokyo, Tetsuo tries to prove he’s the best by beating everyone else and that’s why he ends up running into Takashi and having the accident. As we find out more in the later books, Tetsuo’s main motivation is to prove his worth, something he has struggled to achieve his whole life. So when he gains powers and bests his old biker gang (by killing pretty much all of them except Kaneda), the whispers of Akira being the most powerful psychic of all time are all the motivation Tetsuo needs to find this guy out and prove that he’s truly worthy of respect.

    Finally, I’m not sure how you guys heard that the entire Akira saga was condensed into the movie, because it wasn’t. I don’t want to ruin anything for you, but if you’re wondering why the first few volumes seem so ‘rushed’ compared to the plot of the movie, it’s because there’s a LOT more story to go after the credits roll on the feature.

    I can’t wait to hear what you guys think of where the story goes!

  8. Cool booksplode! I just started reading Akira again. I just started volume 3.
    Thank you Paul Montgomery for talking about manga! I love iFanboy to death, I really do; you guys are just the best in your business but I would love to hear more about manga! Can we expect more things about great manga, and maybe even European comics?

    Peace and Love from Holland!

    • Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

      What up, Holland! And thanks! Yes, definitely more Booksplodes about manga and European comics in the future. Nothing formal yet, but there have been talks in dimly lit, smoke-filled rooms about such things as Nausicaa…

    • Thats sounds (or as I should say ‘reads’) GOOD!

    • Nausicaa would be so rad. Another I would really enjoy is the Eastman-Laird TMNT (I realize this is neither manga nor European). I recently read the first volume of the ultimate collection, and it left me conflicted. I’d like to hear others’ take on it.

  9. Akira and Nausicaa are definitely manga classics. Add Lone Wolf and Cub, Monster and Death Note to that list and you can make a series of manga Booksplodes! Mainstream/’superhero’ manga like Naruto, Dragonball, One Piece and Bleach also deserve attention.

  10. I absolutely LOVE that you guys are going through this series. I’ve reread these so many times I can’t even explain. I do think it’s important that you guys separate the movie version of the story from the manga, they are two very different works. I can’t wait to hear how you guys feel about the story in the later volumes. I love how much you two wanted so much from the story up front, this is definitely a story that rewards the patient reader. 100%

    It’s a little frustrating because you guys are talking about it before having finished the entire story, so I feel like the talk could have been even stronger if it came from a place of completion. But it was still entertaining, so what do I know?
    You guys are going to absolutely flip your lid as you keep going through this story there’s so much character development.

    Finally I would have to agree with a lot of the people who have commented here, you should do a talksplode of the Nausicaa manga. That’s another story that is bigger and better than the movie version, hands down.

  11. Thanks for the Podcast. Listening now.

    I’ve owned these books for years and have never made it past Vol 3. Not because I don’t like them, they’re great. You fellas have inspired me to finally finish up the series so that I can listen to the show. looking forward to the experience.

    Thanks again.

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