Akira: Memory Explosion

I think it is a good idea to begin writing about something that you deeply care about so here goes nothing.

Otomo’s Akira is a comic that entirely about momentum and energy. From the atom bomb that sets the story off to the motorcycles to the stage in life the characters are at, everything is always accelerating. The story itself takes on this trait too, it will cut away for scenes but it is not a series that rests for any prolonged length of time until a very specific point and that is what I want to focus on.

This wasn’t something I didn’t even notice at first because of how well the story flows, it is not even something I realized while reading the series. I was organizing my bookshelves and I glanced at the top of the spines of the volumes of Akira and noticed that the last volume had pages that were unlike anything that came before.

The entire series is formatted in a pretty uniform way, each page is surrounded by about an inch of white space to make sure that it isn’t running right into the spine of the book so it can be read and so the pages can be numbered example:

However the page following that one the format changes for the first time in the entire book. As Kaneda is absorbed into the out of control form of his best friend Tetsuo he is overwhelmed by what he sees there and at first only the bottom falls out of the page.

What follows however is two double page spreads that are completely unlike the rest of the book  because it does away with the borders, it also kills the thick gutters between panels and the images being depicted are events that have already transpired.

Life flashing before the eyes in the speed of the atom bomb with Kaneda along for the ride, so forceful this is that this recent time I read it I paused when the page exploded in front of me just how it was exploding for the characters in the story. The shrinking of the gutters makes the image seem much more chaotic than it is and the fact that it is depicting events already seen make it easy to glance at and not read because technically we already have read these pages. Also the nature of memory is portrayed exceedingly well with the words have lost the confinement to their panels of origin that they had in the story and are more drifting in and out and not quite making sense.

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One Response to Akira: Memory Explosion

  1. Pretty crazy observation… I wonder if dropping the page number was intentional or just a byproduct of needing more room on the page to fit all of those panels. Also, I wonder if the original comic does the same, or if it is just the graphic novels that push the typical page formatting out of the way?

    I haven’t seen Akira in years, been even longer since I read the comic. Like, decades maybe. I’m like, really old, and stuff.

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