Big explosions! Motorcycles! Clown gangs! Drugs that give you telepathic powers! Children with old-people faces!
Akira is a bizarro cult classic through and through. It’s a six-volume manga series and anime film. If you read comics, I highly recommend the manga. If you watch cartoons, check out the anime.
It’s about this teenager, Kaneda, and his motorcycle gang, as they tear their way through the post-apocalyptic city of Neo-Tokyo and discover a strange conspiracy concealed within the remains of old Tokyo. The military have in their possession a group of young children with telepathic powers that are dangerously destructive. After an accident, gang member Tetsuo finds himself undergoing tests and force-fed drugs and developing telepathic powers of his own.
What results is a complex battle between motorcycle gangs, military, strange cults, and telepathic street children. The military is trying to control their child-weapons, Kaneda is trying to control Tetsuo, and Tetsuo is trying to control and increase his powers. Underneath all that, there is another child hidden away by the military, the cause of the destruction of Tokyo – Akira.
It is complete chaos as Tetsuo’s power spirals out of control and threatens to destroy the city again, and everyone else, fighting each other, trying to stop him by whatever means necessary. The manga goes into incredible depth, plotting out the stories of all the different factions at work, where the anime focuses more on the relationship between Kaneda and Tetsuo, but either way it’s raw and chaotic. It’s a cyberpunk masterpiece.
The characters are desperate, angry, and aggressive. The art style is cool, with that distinct ’80s/early ’90s feel you get with things like Dragonball/Dragonball Z and Ghost in the Shell. The story, however, is in a class of its own. It’s got the cult feel of the Warriors, but with powerful political and social complexities that are terribly frightening when read within the context of a culture that, less than half a century prior, fell under attack by atomic bomb.
You can enjoy the film for the action-packed thrill ride that it is, but if you want to read more into the apocalypse/post-apocalypse representations, there’s that too. On a side note, if you want to read more about that aspect of Akira, I wrote an essay about it a few years ago for uni. The point is that if you haven’t seen it/read it, you should. Right now.
S. T. Cartledge comes from the fabled Land Down Under. His first book, House Hunter, was published in 2012’s New Bizarro Author Series. He enjoys making potatoes act out his fantasies.
By Sam Reeve
Shintaro Kago is an ero-guro manga artist. For those unfamiliar with the term, it’s basically a style that plays around with the grotesque (in the malformed, bizarre sense) and eroticism. I feel like my description may not be doing it justice, so go right ahead and click that link.
Kago, a Tokyo native, has been a major contributor in the area of scatological manga. In an interview with Vice ge admitted that though he draws a lot of messed up sexual acts, he really doesn’t have an interest in pursuing those things in real life.
I’m a much bigger fan of his satirical, brightly coloured work, but I’ve also included stuff from some of his mangas. Enjoy!
by Karl Fischer
Over the years, I’ve tried to get my peers into manga and I often run up against the same critique: “It just doesn’t interest me.” What I think they mean to say is that they’re not interested in saccharine love triangles with bubble-breasted schoolgirls fighting tentacle demons from Beyond the Veil. Fair enough. My go-to cure for that stereotype is artist-writer Tsutomu Nihei.
You may have seen this image in an internet meme, such as Bears with Guns. Thing is, it’s not photoshopped, it’s lifted directly from Biomega, a six volume sci-fi/horror set one thousand years into the future. It’s the story of a mysterious virus called the NS5, which can turn humans into mindless, biomechanical drones (read: cyborg zombies) and of the warring mega-corporations that are attempting to either stop or propagate the virus. It’s one half cyberpunk, one half zombie apocalypse, ultraviolent, and grittier than a gravel yard in hell.
One thing that sets Nihei’s work apart from other manga is the focus on physical space. Nihei originally studied to be an architect and it’s an aspect that comes shining through in his art.
Between lightning fast action scenes, the reader’s POV will zoom out to encompass vast and intimately detailed spaces. Characters go zipping along on roads that span the sea, plummet down buildings that reach thousands of stories, and fight in rooms that could house cathedrals.
By the second half of the series, events are taking place on an interstellar object that’s nearly 5,000,000,000km in length. The story is intensely visual, forgoing dialogue in favor of movement almost every chance it gets. Everything has a sense of grandeur, and yet, is mercilessly bleak. The pace only increases by leaps and bounds.
When the dust has settled, there’s something disquieting about Biomega. Our main protagonists are biomechanical androids fighting viciously on humanity’s behalf. One gets the impression that they do this only because they were designed to. Technology has outstripped its creators, in true cyberpunk fashion, yet that technology never “rebels.” In Nihei’s conception, our most powerful weapons will serve us faithfully and eternally, even as we drag one another screaming into the Void.
By Sam Reeve
I thought Uzumaki would be perfect for Halloween’s Japanese Horror Month entry. It has a perfect blend of truly bizarre horror and comical carnivalesque visuals and sounds which, to me, are what make up Halloween.
Uzumaki (aka Spiral) is connected to other films from Japanese Horror Month in a couple different ways: One of the screen writers also worked on the screenplay for Tokyo Gore Police, and Uzumaki is based on a manga by the amazing Junji Ito, whose work also inspired Kakashi (and numerous other horror shows and films).
Here’s the basic plot:
The story concerns the inhabitants of the small Japanese town of Kurôzu-cho that seems to be cursed by supernatural events surrounding spirals. Many people become obsessed or paranoid about spiral shapes, which starts resulting in several gruesome deaths. Eventually people start transforming into something other than human, such as snails and twisted forms.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: First, it’s very bizarre, not your average horror in any sense. The visuals are great, sometimes genuinely creepy, other times pretty funny. Second, the story isn’t bad. I have no idea what the manga is like, so I can’t compare, but I liked what the film did. Uzumaki is definitely something I could see myself viewing a few more times.
Below you can find a low-qualitycopy of Uzumaki on Youtube, with English subtitles. If you can find this film elsewhere, I highly recommend it (I was too lazy).
By Sam Reeve
Today’s feature is something that really annoyed me from the first episode, but could appeal to some of you, so I’m going to share it anyway and hope that I’m the sole person who got grumpy after watching it. Highschool of the Dead, like so much anime, was originally a manga series. It tells of a small group of high school students trying to survive the recent zombie outbreak.
I’m going to smoosh my WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT and WHAT DIDN’T WORK sections all into one, mostly because I was so disappointed by this show that I have little to be said for the former. I thought, hey, zombies attacking kids, sounds fun! The first seconds of the show jumped right into it, showing the crazies zombies chasing them down. Awesome. We’re off to a great start.
I’ll start with what I did like, which was how the zombies were portrayed: They were fast, vicious and just as they should be. That wasn’t enough to make this show in any way frightening though.
Unfortunately this show was (maybe) created by and (definitely) for the bracket of folks who probably masturbate to hentai and also happen to like stuff with zombies in it. Not sure what I’m talking about? Well, to make a short rant longer, almost every scene, if not every fucking shot, contained tits that made Pam Anderson’s’ look like golf balls, or school girls’ exposed panties. Even when a girl would fight off a zombie, half of the focus would be up the skirt. Ugh.
In researching further, I found out there’s a term for this kind of anime. It’s called ecchi, and it basically means it’s got a lot of innuendos and sexual content thrown in. I wish I had known this prior to watching.
Now I said this before, but I’ll say it again: I’ve never been into anime. That means I really don’t watch it and can’t say whether something is par for the course or not. It could very well be that insane amounts of tits and ass are what makes anime anime, so if I’m just being an ignorant straight female, forgive me, but this thinly veiled porn for pre-adolescents was still not great.
The art seemed standard, nothing special and nothing I would really want to call art, and unfortunately there was too much relationship drama for my liking.
For those wanting some pure zombie action, for the sake of all that is Romero, please steer clear.
For those hoping to ring in Halloween with a half-boner in hand, please enjoy and may Toxie bless your existence, because the world would be pretty boring if we were all the same.