Otomo Katsuhiro: Akira’s creator

February 26th, 2014 by

Otomo Katsuhiro is most well known for creating Akira, the 2000-pages long manga, whose anime film adaptation Otomo was allowed to direct himself. Akira consequently became the most iconic manga AND anime ever.

You can’t talk about Otomo Katsuhiro¬†without talking about Akira. It’s by far the most well-known work created by this manga artist, screenwriter and director born on the 14th of April, 1954, in the Miyagi prefecture, Japan. Akira is an epic cyberpunk manga comic taking place in a post-apocalytic Neo-Tokyo ravaged by an apparent nuclear explosion and now mostly devolved into anarchy. A situation that becomes far worse when kids with incredible psychic powers, products of a secret military project, are allowed to run wild and take control of the city.

Akira took eight years to complete, was serialized from 1982 to 1990 in Young Magazine and eventually printed in six volumes by publishing giant Kodansha. The quality of the drawings of Akira is astounding, as well as the level of detail and realism. Even before the manga was finished, Otomo was presented with the oppurtunity to create an anime film adaption of it. Wisened up from past experience, he demanded and received complete creative control of the project costing about $11 million. The resulting film was a landmark production for the anime industry, setting new high quality standards for animation.

Steamboy poster, copyright holder unknown, shown under fair use

Since then Otomo has been as much a token figure in the anime industry as well as in the manga industry. In 2004 he created and directed Steamboy, an epic steampunk animation film, which was in production for ten years and one of the most expensive anime films of all time. Since Akira, Otomo has been writing, penciling and directing new manga and anime titles in more or less equal amount. These works include but aren’t limited to titles such as Hipira: The Little Vampire, The Legend of Mother Sarah, Mushishi (live-action), Metropolis and Short Peace. The latter was an anthology (a set of short films), of which Tsukomo, the short film written by Otomo himself, would become nominated for Best Animated Short at the 86th Academy Awards.

Still, Otomo’s legacy will be mostly about Akira. Especially the anime film had a big impact in the West, introducing Japanese animation to an international audience like nothing that has come before it. The manga was widely adopted, being one of the first Japanese manga titles that has been translated to English in its entirety. There’s also a Western-produced live-action film coming up, now currently a hot topic as its director, Jaume Collet-Serra, recently gave an interview to ComingSoon.net offending a great deal of fans.

Ennio Wolsink is a Dutch ICT-entrepreneur, avid manga reader, anime watcher, Karate black belt and Japanese in spirit. He dreams of his own manga/anime productions.

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