THE ART OF KATSUHIRO OTOMO
by Jeremy Mark Robinson
This is a book about the genius Japanese artist Katsuhiro Otomo (b. 1954). Best-known for the Akira manga of 1982-90 and the Akira movie of 1988, Otomo is also an all-round artist who writes fiction, writes and directs short and feature movies, produces commercial art, and design projects. Among Otomo's works are the movies Steam-Boy, Mushishi, Metropolis, Memories and Roujin Z, and manga such as Domu, The Legend of Mother Sarah, Hansel and Gretel and Sayonara Japan. The works of Otomo have been celebrated with awards - he won the Kodansha Comic-Strip Award in 1984 for Akira, and the Science Fiction Grand Prix Award in 1983 for Domu.
There are very few genuine auteurs in Japanese animation: the animation industry, like all filmmaking on a large scale, is truly collaborative. However, you can definitely see elements in the films directed and written and supervised by Katsuhiro Otomo that are auteurist: Otomo has his own style, visually, but also his own concerns, thematically, politically and psychologically.
Akira is a giant of a movie that opens at full blast: this movie rocks from shot one. It really rocks - at a far higher level of intensity than any comparable movie, including all of the classics regularly trotted out as hi-octane movie-making. Akira is clearly one of those movies where the filmmakers have thrown everything they can think of into the mix, and it's a movie in which the filmmakers have given their all.
Meanwhile, the manga of Akira exceeds all expectations - about storytelling, about what a comicbook or manga is, about how an action-adventure-fantasy story can work in a contemporary setting, and how a story can be genuinely thrilling, genuinely political, genuinely wild and epic.
In short, Akira ticks all of the boxes: (a) it has action and spectacle in spades, (b) it has fascinating characters and situations, (c) it is incredibly exciting, (d) it is very unusual, sometimes downright eccentric and out-there, (e) it is highly politicized, (f) it has plenty to say about living in the modern world, about contemporary, advanced capitalist societies, and (g) it establishes its own world, its own raison d'etre, its own philosophy with supreme self-confidence.
Akira is the manga to top all manga, to end all manga. It is a manga designed to go further, louder and crazier than any other manga. And it does Akira delivers on its promise: it really is every bit as great as everybody says it is.
The Art of Katsuhiro Otomo includes chapters on: Katsuhiro Otomo's manga and movies; lengthy chapters on every aspect of the Akira movie (animation, sound, music, voices, story, themes, etc); the story of the Akira manga; Otomo's inspirations and inflfiuences; the contemporary anime industry; and a section of the views of critics and fans.
Fully illustrated, including many images from Otomo's whole output, the Akira movie, the Akira manga, Otomo's other works in comics and cinema, and Otomo's inspirations.
Bibliography, resources and notes. 632 pages.