Akira – Volume Four

Writer / Artist
Akira – Volume Four
Akira book four review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Kodansha – 978-1-93542-906-7
  • Volume No.: 4
  • Release date: 1987
  • English language release date: 2003
  • Format: Black and white / partial colour
  • UPC: 9781935429067
  • Contains adult content?: yes
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes
 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 the reunion with his fellow test subjects Kiyoko, Masaru, and Takashi triggered a titanic psychic shockwave, ripping Neo-Tokyo to shreds in a massively terrifying replay of the first cataclysm.

Katsuhiro Ōtomo’s cyberpunk SF saga has already covered 900 pages and it isn’t even close to being finished yet as the survivors of the devastation 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 and competition for the city’s remaining resources, there is a growing concern about what is happening in Japan from the other nations of the world. Ōtomo finally gives us some of the backstory of The Colonel’s project, revealing how Akira came to be the terrifying force that destroyed a vast city like Tokyo…and how does Lady Miyako fit into this picture?

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.