Graphic Novel Review: Akira Club
You can tell how popular any particular media event or personage is by how many ancillary products emerge. Something really popular will metastasize into toothbrushes, sports cars, sleepwear, foodstuffs, architecture, and so on – the specifics depend on what the original piece was, and who the audience is, but the number of those products is a good guide to the popularity of its original.
Akira Club, thus, shows that Otomo Katsuhiro’s epic comics story [[[Akira]]] is at least moderately popular, at home in Japan and here in the USA. Akira was turned into a movie and had the usual small flood of licensed goods, and it was also thought worthy of a book to document all of the odds and ends – both the bits of art from the original serialization that didn’t make it into the collections, and some records of those many ancillary products.
Akira Club was originally published in Japan in 1995, fairly soon after the original story ended in 1993. It took another twelve years to be translated and make it to the States; it probably needed the full Akira story to be available here (which didn’t happen until Dark Horse’s six-volume set was complete in 2002), and then to have a few years to build up in popularity until there were enough Americans who’d want a sidebar book like this.
Akira Club may be a sidebar, but it’s a gorgeous one: printed on very white, coated paper stock, with excellent reproduction of both linework and full-color art; it has a satisfying heft in the hand. There isn’t a whole lot of text – the focus is on the art – but the captions describe the pictures and it’s all been translated into clean, colloquial English. (Which isn’t always the case with projects like this.)
There are four sections to Akira Club; the first collects miscellaneous illustrations, from the original serialization in Young magazine to the Japanese compilation covers to various other covers, illustrations, and preliminary sketches. The second, and by far longest, section shows all of the original serialization title pages, both as full-page illustrations and in a smaller size with the original Japanese text on them.
The third section, called “Memorial Gallery,” looks at promotional art and various merchandise (T-shirts, posters, toys, foreign editions, and movie products) related to Akira. And the last section is filled with outtakes and sketches, along with a discussion of what was cut or rearranged for the collected editions.
It’s an expensive book, but it’s a big one, so that balances out. If you’re interested enough in Akira to think you want this book, you won’t be disappointed by it.
Dark Horse Manga, 2007, $29.95