Thursday, December 3, 2015

Giving Akira some Colour

Akira is one of the most ambitious gateway Animes despite being fairly incomprehensible without being familiar with the source material.  It's been described as the Watchmen of Psychic Manga, which, like the Alan Moore work, only wound up further influencing Mangas for years to come.  For a long time, I was disappointed with Banana Fish lifting so many elements (Biker wars, balding rival, bald powerful man, coverups, mysterious drug) as well as backgrounds (warehouse & sewers), but later had to contend that it was telling a dramatically different story than the Sci-fi epic.
It's no wonder the teacher's surprised -
Kaneda's interrupting before Yamagata's got a chance to complete his sentence.
Every generation seems to want to rediscover this Manga once it falls out of circulation.  Marvel got the ball rolling under their alternative Epic license which radically colourized the lush drawings and slimmed down the speech balloons to more expectant American tastes, all claustrophobic and scrunched up.
Such a task required having clean copies of the original art, otherwise they would've had to redraw the illustrations behind the extra-large speech balloons, which took up the majority of the panels.  Such a practice would be considered heretic and practically unthinkable today, not only in terms of effort, but also in practicality and risking the ire of pissing off purists who'd insist on authenticity.  (Surprisingly enough, the flipped pages hasn't raised much ire)  But this was back when comic fans were even more notoriously finicky on subject material, and wouldn't even consider looking at a comic unless it was available in colour.  That said, Marvel's recolouring by Steve Oliff  co. was a remarkable accomplishment, paving the way for today's colourists to do the majority of their colouring via computer rather than by hand.  Apart from a few minor mistakes here and there (having one eye redder than the other), they still did an amazing effort.
In both instances, somebody's head is being covered up by celebratory dialogue.
Then once the license fell through, Dark Horse picked up the pieces, relying parts of it on the English script, and part of it on the French publication, which is why there's some unusual sound effects sprinkled here and there.  Sales were quite brisk... for awhile, then it fell out of print again.  The third volume was the most popularly outsold one, since it was basically the best in terms of escalating rising action, with multiple parties finding themselves at see-sawing advantageous positions.  Then when interest was surging again, Kodansha picked up the bill once it reverted back to their property.

The school is ruled by sadistic teachers who spend more time beating up and arguing with their students than
actually trying to teach them lessons that'll make them beneficial (
hah!) members of society.
Considering that the entirety of the school is made up of biker gangs,
there's not much room for intellectual stimulation there.
Other than these nitpicks, some long-time fans still vastly prefer the Marvel version over the faithful rereleases.  Part of this has to do with some passages done by Jo Duffy's script.
"...something illegitimate!"
I read somewhere on a now-defunct Manga blog that there was going to be an attempt to compare the two versions of Crying Freeman (a realisticly-drawn pornographic Mary Stu) between Viz and Dark Horse, but it was either abandoned or never attempted.  I hoped someone else would pick up the slack, since there was no way I was going to bother buying another copy of a story I already had, and didn't really like in the first place.  Apparently, Ryuji the Blade's dialogue was drastically toned down in the Viz version, and that's all I know.

Here's another subtle change.  Most of Yamagata's amusing mispronunciations stayed pretty much the same in both versions, save for the above, which becomes more obvious by Marvel's mandate.  In the official version, there's no allusion to Mutants, which was pretty much the standard definition of anything relating to X-men.  Kaneda's ignorant reaction is understandable, since psychic S-heroes were severely limited due to their overpoweredness, while in Manga, psychics were as common as dirt.  It's not too surprising they would be considered more familiar there than in American comics.
At first, the Colonel seems to be starting the Doctor's sentence from across the building.
In the second instance, the parallel dialogue is better displayed.
As with any fandom, opinion is relentlessly divided between which version is the superior one.  Some will find no fault between one woman named Kay and the other named Kei.  For the Anime, some will point to the voices being more authentic.  Others will prefer the older script.  Not being able to hear the difference, I can only say that I prefer the version that at least had comprehensible dialogue.
Flunkies failing to meet their superior's orders is a common theme running throughout this Manga.
We should at least have some kind of Schadenfreude from their experience.
By chance, I managed to find and keep a captioned Streamline version of Akira.  Years later, when I saw the DVD available at the library, I took it out, figuring the subtitles would be more faithful.  Instead, what I got was a rushed translation job that made an already impenetrable movie even more baffling.  The amoeba comparison metaphor was so incomprehensible I couldn't even understand what the hell they were talking about.
The Colour version involving puns (this was a boat crashing into the canal)
was probably considered a little too punny.
When Akira unleashed his terrifying power, the second half of the Manga deals with the characters coping with a dystopian world, which means they fit right in.  In one instance, the Colonel is cornered by some renegade soldiers, one of whom spouts some lines of poetic license:
Once we shoot you, how you'll cry! / You'll suffer so! / And then you'll die! / You can't escape! / Don't even try!
I don't want to break the spine of my already preciously fragile copy to scan a few identical words, so you'll have to settle for text reproduction.
Don't you scoff at me, old fart! / It's a serious threat, phrased as serious art!
You may fire at will!  Go on now, start...
But then, complications arise when one of the intended shooters winds up being a familiar face from earlier in the volume:
What is he to you?
Your old boss? / Is that true?
Then killing him should bring you fun.
Stop your stalling! Fire your gun!
As with any situation where one party has another at an overwhelming advantage with firearms, it can take ages before any side starts firing.  Five pages after cutting away elsewhere, the situation still hasn't been resolved.
Don't make a superior officer lose patience with you!
In his first appearance, Joker, leader of the Clowns had dental hygiene that were an orthopedist's nightmare.
Only after he showed up again in the fifth book by being relevant again in supplying weapons and transportation, did his teeth suddenly became uniform and squeaky clean.  This sudden change made him a honourary member of the cast (even as he was still regulated to a side character), as well as making it easier for Katsuhiro Otomo to draw him surrounded by heavily detailed buildings.  (Though he still found some compelling reason to deck him out in various facial tattoos)  One minor background difference can be seen below.
Behind one panel holding state-of-the-art weapons is a poster with cute art.
Behind the other is a dire warning for anyone lingering around to keep their mitts off.

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