Otomo, Katsuhiro 1954-

views updated

OTOMO, Katsuhiro 1954-


Born April 14, 1954, in Sannuma, Miyagi, Japan.


Agent—c/o Author Mail, Dark Horse Comics, 10956 South East Main St., Milwaukie, OR 97222.


Writer, graphic artist, comic book creator, film animator. Creator of commercial print and television advertising for clients that include Honda and Canon.


Science Fiction grand prize, Japan, 1983, for Dohmu; the Dark Horse Comics black and white edition of Akira was the winner of two Eisner Awards, for best archival collection/project, and for best U.S. edition of foreign material, both 2002.



Domu, [Japan], c. 1981, published as Domu: A Child's Dream, Dark Horse Comics (Milwaukie, OR), 1996, 2nd edition, 2001.

Akira (colorized version), Epic Comics, 1988—, (black and white version), Volumes 1-6, Dark Horse Comics (Milwaukie, OR), 2000-02.

(And director) Akira (film), Streamline (Japan), 1988.

Legend of Mother Sarah: Tunnel Town (collection), Dark Horse Comics (Milwaukie, OR), 1996.

(Animator) Spriggan (animated film), ADV Films, 1998.

Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis (animated film), TriStar Pictures, c. 2001.

Creator of series, including Jyu-sei (title means "Gun Report") Fireball, Katsuhiro Otomo's Memories, Katsuhiro Otomo's Farewell to Weapons, Akira, Domu: A Child's Dream, The Legend of Mother Sarah, The Legend of Mother Sarah: City of the Children, and The Legend of Mother Sarah: City of the Angels.


Akira was adapted for film in Japan, 1988, in DVD format, Pioneer, 1988, and again in 2001.


Writer and graphic artist Katsuhiro Otomo is best known for his manga, or Japanese comic, Akira, which was originally serialized in Japan between 1981 and 1993 and reprinted in the United States in the 1990s by Dark Horse Comics. Dark Horse later published the epic, in the original black and white, in six volumes from 2000 to 2002.

Otomo, who was born near Tokyo, had a love of American films and often traveled for hours to the nearest theater to see seventies films like Bonnie and Clyde and Easy Rider. He moved to Tokyo after graduating high school to become a comics artist. His first work, Jyu-sei, was published in 1973. It is an adaptation of Prosper Merimee's Mateo Falcone. Fire-ball, published in 1979 and a precursor to Otomo's later successes, is the story of humans against a supercomputer. Domu, was serialized from 1980 to 1982, and in 1983, the collected edition was awarded the Science Fiction grand prize, the first time the literary prize was awarded to a comic book, and this honor established Otomo as a master artist and comics writer.

The futuristic story, which was completed at more than 2,000 pages, was a monumental achievement, first as a serial in Japan, and then as a film and a multi-volume graphic novel. A Publishers Weekly contributor who reviewed the first volume wrote that it "is all action, nonstop car chases and gun fights strung together with exaggerated speed lines and lots of gigantic machinery."

Akira was released as a film in Japan in 1988 and on CAV laser disc, an early form of DVD. The film that runs more than two hours became a cult hit, both in Japan and the United States, where it continued to be a popular late-night feature on the movie circuit. The story begins in 1988 and flashes forward to 2019, when Tokyo, destroyed in World War III, has been rebuilt, but the city is now corrupt, immoral, and overrun with gangs.

Time's Jay Cocks wrote that "Tokyo is imagined down to the last noodle shop and intersection, a place of deep night and lurid neon that looks like Blade Runner on spoiled mushrooms.… Berserk graphic imagery and a tempering idealism make for a real sci-fi skull buster."

Akira was rereleased on two discs in 2001. The first disc contains the digitally restored images along with new sound, and both the original Japanese-language film, with subtitles, and an English dub. A "capsule option" feature is offered with the Japanese-language version, which appears as a floating graphic that points to translations of road signs and other words that are not part of the translated dialogue. The second disc contains a documentary on the film's production and restoration, storyboards, trailers, a glossary, and an interview with Otomo. An Entertainment Weekly writer who reviewed the DVD version wrote that "parts of Akira are as well-directed as anything you'll ever see."

Steven Aoun reviewed the DVD version for Metro, commenting that "the digital restoration and transfer bears witness to its original cinematic achievements. That's just a polite way of saying, of course, that Akira doesn't let credible characters or a focused storyline get in the way of the spectacular action and elaborate set pieces.… Themes and characters visually coalesce in a hallucinogenic revelatory encounter."

Otomo also wrote the series The Legend of Mother Sara, the first eight issues of which Dark Horse collected as The Legend of Mother Sara: Tunnel Town. The story is less violent and more of a girl's story than his previous comics. Survivors of a nuclear holocaust on earth have established colonies in space. Two factions, Epoch and Mother Earth, are at odds over a proposal to use a bomb to alter the earth's axis so that the changed climate would cover over the irradiated northern hemisphere. Sarah is separated from her children during the ensuing conflict and seeks them for years on earth, leading her to Tunnel Town, where a corrupt military has taken prisoners and uses them as slaves.

Katharine Kan reviewed The Legend of Mother Sarah in Voice of Youth Advocates, saying that "while the story contains violence, it is more upbeat with a strong heroine commitment to justice and to helping others even as she [Sarah] continues her own quest."

In Spriggan, Noah's Ark is a powerful, hi-tech alien machine that has the potential for controlling life on earth. The protagonist is Yu Ominae, a teenager who hides the fact that he is a Spriggan, a powerful cyborg who works for ARCAM, an organization that preserves and protects historical artifacts, and who in an apocalyptic showdown on Mount Ararat, confronts the leader of the rogue U.S. Machine Corps.

Otomo wrote, and Rintaro directed, Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis, based on the 1940s comic that Hollywood Reporter's David Hunter commented is "in some ways reminiscent of Fritz Lang's brilliant silent film of the same name." The main character is Tina, a robotic girl who lives in a world of futuristic modes of travel, superweapons, evil scientists, and a Japanese detective. Hunter called the film "both beautiful and distant," and "a bleak, sometimes overly familiar cautionary tale of technology run amok."



Entertainment Weekly, July 27, 2001, review of Akira (DVD), p. 51.

Hollywood Reporter, January 29, 2002, David Hunter, review of Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis, p. 20.

Metro (Australia), winter, 2003, Steven Aoun, review of Akira (DVD), p. 266.

Publishers Weekly, May 7, 2001, review of Akira: Book One, p. 227.

Time, February 1, 1993, Jay Cocks, review of Akira (DVD), p. 66.

Voice of Youth Advocates, February, 1997, Katherine Kan, review of The Legend of Mother Sarah: Tunnel Town, p. 324.*