Sunday Page: Rune Ryberg su “Akira” di Katsuhiro Otomo

Every week on “Sunday Page” an author has to choose a single page from a comic book. It could be for sentimental reasons o for a particular technical achievement. The conversation could lose itself in the open water of the comic book world but it will always start with the questione: «If you had to choose a page from a comic book you love, what would you choose and why?»

This Sunday I’m out with Rune Ryberg, a danish animator who debuted last year with Gigant, a fantasy-comedy about a guy who attempts to free his girlfriend from the stomach of a thousand-eyed monster.


That was so difficult since there are so many great ones to pick from so when picking one, I feel bad for not picking all the other. Also, I don’t have a specific single favourite, because it constantly change. Sometimes David B. takes up a lot of my attention and a couple of weeks later, I am very opsessed with the work of Blutch (which I most recently discovered). But for my pick, I reckon I’ll have to go with AKIRA by Katsuhiro Otomo, it might be an easy and obvious choice but what the hell, his work is just so awesome and solid. He’s a comic book god and AKIRA had a major impact on me when I was a kid so the whole thing means a lot to me.

Even to pick a single page from Akira is difficult cause it’s really all good, but I’ll pick page 85 from the first book showing a hectic action scene where the main characters have just met each other while being chased by the military.

Neat choice. Any technical aspect you would like to talk about (composition-wise)? Also, this is the adapted version for the western reading order, right?

Yes, this is the adapted version. I’ve seen a couple of pages and I’m not sure if I like it or not. The coloring is nicely done but it sort of become something else, perhaps too nice and less gritty. This original black and white with it’s zip-a-tones is just so well done, it works perfectly and fit’s the story and feel very well. I honestly don’t see a reason to color it, In my opinion it loses more than it gains. The first couple of pages in the original book is colored, I don’t know if Otomo painted those himself and if he would have liked for the entire book to be colored if only it could have been economically affordable, I can only guess. But great work is often done out of basic limitation and this is probably the case.

Do you prefer Akira in colors or in b/w?

Funny you should mention that cause I recently discovered there’s a colored version out there and apparently it’s been very well recieved. People seem to like it a lot.

The colorist of Akira for the international version was Steve Oliff, a pioneer of digital coloring and Akira was one of the first comic book to be colored with computers. I guess coloring the book was too time consuming for Otomo. But he did color some pages to give Oliff a feeling of the book. Like, this one is by Otomo.

Oh that’s great! Thanks a lot for that image, that explains a lot. I like the note at the bottom, that is very comforting since I believe that to be true and I try not to think too much when I work. That handpainted panel looks cool by the way. Nice flat colors with a bit of texture and a cool slightly synthetic feel about the yellow and green in the background. I like it. But I do like the clarity and simplicity of the B/W original.

What about this particular page?

This page demonstrates Otomo’s use of panels and movement in action sequences, something he does really well. You feel the the tension, suspence and pace. The direction of movement and general energy and this page also boasts a lot of humor. It’s crazy, desperate and wild. In action scenes, Otomo is using theses dynamic panels with non liniar gutter lines. It adds to the action and frames the content of the panel well. It’s, well, dynamic (duh) and it stress you as a reader so you feel the story more than just reading and viewing it but it doesn’t obstruct the reading experience which is the case of many other comic books that make use of dynamic panels. I also really like how wide some of these panels are. Add’s a lot of speed. I’m generally not a big fan of dynamic panels, it’s often used in irrelevant situations confusing me as a reader and I start to think about why the hell this panel is so oddly shaped and as a result, I’m alienated from the story. Dynamic panels should be used sparse and cleverly and only where it serves a purpose to the content.

When you were a kid, how did you reacted to the drawing style? Because when I first read I remember that I had a really hard time trying to sort out Kaneda from Kaisuke (and I managed to do that only because Kaisuke had a different hair cut). But I was probabily a dumb kid.

Yeah, I thought about that too that some characters were very similar looking especially Kaneda and Kaisuke but then there’s the hair style which distinct them and somehow it felt kinda awesome that I had to stay focused and engaged in the story in order to keep track. Akira was an eye opener for me, I had been growing up with european comics like TinTin, Lucky Luke and Asterix where characters are very easy to tell from each other, then Akira enters and I discover that comics can be so much more. It just hit something I didn’t even knew I was crawing for. I was hooked. It was brutal and fun, realistic and cartoony at the same time. A very good subtle mixture. I also love how the characters change outfit throughout, it’s a little detail that makes the story and universe very real. Solid work.