Review by Woodrow Phoenix
Spoilers in review
Book four of Akira opens with a rescue helicopter attempting to bring food and medical supplies to the survivors of a once again, totally devastated Neo-Tokyo. Buildings, roads and bridges are all collapsed, and the city is basically just a heap of rubble and open water after everything went as wrong as it could possibly have gone at the end of book three. The Colonel finally managed to track Akira down, but as Kiyoko, Masaru, and Takashi greeted their friend again after so many years apart, Takashi was killed by a bullet in the head from Nezu, hiding in a nearby building. The psychic shock from Takashi’s murder instantly triggered Akira’s powers in a wave of horror and anguish, creating a titanic shockwave which ripped Neo-Tokyo to shreds in a massively terrifying replay of the first explosion.
Katsuhiro Ōtomo’s cyberpunk SF saga has already covered 900 pages and it isn’t even close to being finished. The survivors of the cataclysm band together in roving gangs searching for food and water, and The Great Tokyo Empire rises from the ruins, composed of people who now worship Akira. The leader of this ‘Empire’ is Tetsuo, who plans to eliminate anyone left who could oppose him, namely Lady Miyako and The Colonel. There’s a grim tone to events as Ōtomo shows how people deal with the consequences of a post-apocalyptic society; some nobly, but most in terrible, animalistic ways. Nearly all the players from the previous volume are still active with one notable exception, and with nobody to oppose him Tetsuo’s instability and cruelty grows with only his fear of Akira to hold him back. Amongst all the chaos of fights between rival groups, competition for the city’s remaining resources, and a growing concern about what is happening in Japan from the other nations of the world, we finally get some of the backstory about the Colonel’s secret project. There are revelations about how Akira came to be the terrifying force that destroyed Tokyo… and what is the secret of Lady Miyako?
Akira continues to astonish with the breadth of its ambition and the depth and complexity of Ōtomo’s massively detailed narrative. This is comics storytelling of the highest order. Onwards to Book Five.