A: “!”

June 24th, 2011 by | Tags: ,

There’s the temptation to take this day and deliver a real deal conclusion. Wrap the whole series up in a bow, explain why it’s so great, and do it in such a way that everyone who reads it finishes the post with tears in their eyes and their credit cards in their hands. There’s a part of me that wants to finish it, in the Mortal Kombat sense of the term, so that I can put it into a box and say “I did that.” “Here’s points one, two, and three, and now you understand everything you need to know about Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira. Go forth, and spread the word.”

Instead: four consecutive pages from book one.

Panels generally take place in one moment in time. They don’t really show progression so much as a frozen instant. The word balloons in panel five, though, suggest a progression, and a quick one. A narrowing of the eyes or confusion (“What is that?”) and then vague realization (“Wait!”) which then bleeds into panel six, which has full recognition (“Tetsuo!”). You can see it on Kaneda’s face, can’t you?

I always liked the use of punctuation as an entire word balloon. Or no, that’s not right–punctuation as speech. (If you’ve ever instant-messaged me, I’m sure you know exactly what I mean.) I first came across it in Metal Gear, and I thought it was pretty clever. What you say when you’re surprised doesn’t really matter, because a simple ! lets us fill in the blanks. “What the!” only goes so far, right? I like ?, too. “Wha?”/”Huh?” are kind of… obvious? Is that the word? They’re concrete. You always say them aloud, or just under your breath. ? is a good way to get unspoken confusion or surprise on the page. When you wake up and there’s a big object on the wall that might be a big ol’ spider, you don’t always go “What the heck is that?” Sometimes you just narrow your eyes and cock your head and look. That’s ?.

Kaneda back-handing that dude and then getting off his bike while it’s still in motion is basically the smoothest thing I’ve ever seen.

WHAM to SMUSH, do you see that? Man.

Tetsuo is beating the bone marrow out of this guy, and I like how it picks up with the beating already in progress. The first two panels say a lot about Tetsuo (look at his face, and the way he stays up on the guy–those two panels take place a split second apart). The full page says a lot about our cast, from how casual Kaneda is during the beating to when he’s finally had enough of it.

Look at the tension here. Just three word balloons. Wolverine was never as much of a loose cannon as Tetsuo is right here, and all it takes is one motion, two word balloons, and a hard look.

Every page is a delight. I didn’t even talk about the scene where Neo-Tokyo catches a bad one when Akira loses it.

Maybe that’s the conclusion I didn’t want to write. “Every page is a delight.”

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4 comments to “A: “!””

  1. Man, these are the types of comics I want to read and write. The kind where every page conveys something, every page shows something important; a facet of the setting, a snippet of a character’s personality, the already set or progressing of two characters’ relationship. Even if it’s through tiny details like the ones you explained. The big stuff is what makes good comics, but it’s the small details them great.

  2. This was top-notch commentary. Thank you for this series.

  3. you guys really love akira huh?? nonstop posts. haha. the movie for me disturbed me when i watched it as a kid.

  4. […] David’s Akira posts on 4thletter He tackles the visuals and characters in this series of posts which feature scans from the full-color version of the manga. […]