Katsuhiro Ôtomo‘s landmark manga series Akira was adapted into a feature-length anime film in 1988 and directed by Ôtomo himself. Akira had a huge impact on me when it was shown on the UK’s Channel 4 sometime in the early 1990s. I’d never seen anything quite like it and it opened my eyes to the world of anime films that were slowly being released in the UK, including the likes of Ninja Scroll, Ghost in the Shell and the great work of Hayao Miyazaki and his Studio Ghibli.
The film was recently released on blu-ray and the lossless Japanese soundtrack is astonishingly good. There’s still talk of a live-action remake which fills me, and countless other fans of the anime, with great dread. I really hope it doesn’t happen!
This is an incredibly scarce B0 poster that was printed to promote a 2001 DVD release of the film in Japan. It features an illustration of Tetsuo from towards the end of the film by Otomo himself. It was designed by Toshiaki Uesugi, a graphic designer and musician who has regularly collaborated with Otomo, and who is also known as Mach55Go! for his musical work. Uesugi’s official site is here and is significantly out of date, but this page features a list of his work, which includes other Otomo collaborations as well as his work on anime like Cowboy Bebop and Macross.
This page has links to a lot of his work, including the items created for this DVD release, which featured the box packaging as well as a number of posters of different sizes. If you click through to the page for this poster (and select the small ‘next’ button) it takes you to a page with a picture of six copies of it on display in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Metro station and says that any copies that ended up in collectors’ hands were stolen from stations. It also says Otomo himself has 5 copies in his possession. A B1 portrait poster was apparently printed and featured just the left-hand side of the artwork. This collector site says that it’s thought that only 100 copies of the B0 were printed.
During a 2014 trip to Japan I was lucky enough to be able to visit an exhibition that was dedicated to Otomo’s poster design and I first saw this poster there (here’s a picture). I assumed I would never get the chance to add it to the collection but almost a year later the poster appeared on Yahoo auctions Japan and I was lucky to win the auction with the help of a Japanese friend. The white sticker on the bottom right corner was placed there in 2001 by the company that controls advertising on the Tokyo Metro and details when it should be taken down from display.
During a 2012 visit to Tokyo I went to a retrospective exhibition of Otomo’s work called Genga (a Japanese animation term for keyframes, literally ‘original pictures’), which featured hundreds of pieces of his artwork and the original hand-drawn pages for the Akira manga. I was also able to wear Kaneda’s jacket and sit on the legendary red bike!
I also have two Japanese B2 posters for the film; style A and style B, the Japanese B1 poster, as well as the American one sheet, and ace illustrator Tyler Stout’s take on the film.