While he was in high school he was fascinated with movies, often taking a three-hour train ride during school holidays just to see them. In he graduated high school and left Miyagi, heading to Tokyo with the hopes of becoming a manga artist. Career[ edit ] In , after writing multiple short-stories for the magazine Action, Otomo created his first science-fiction work, titled Fireball. In , Otomo made his anime debut, working as character designer for the animated film Harmagedon. The next year, Otomo began work on a manga which would become his most acclaimed and famous work: Akira. It took eight years to complete and would eventually culminate in pages of artwork.
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We take a closer look at some of his lesser-known works. Yeats It is July 16, A camera moves slowly over the sprawling vista of Tokyo , the city stretching as far as the eye can see in any direction. It spreads silently outwards within seconds, annihilating everything in its path in a cataclysm of light. Tokyo as we knew it is wiped off the face of the earth. Before the film, anime was huge in Japan and nowhere else.
All of that changed with the arrival of Akira, a nuclear explosion of a film that changed an industry and embedded itself in popular culture from that point onward. A terrible beauty was born. He grew up in the Tohoku , a region of Northern Japan famed for its natural beauty. Manga provided entertainment and a means of escape the giant mecha title Tetsujin go was a favourite and would later go on to be a big influence , and by the time he was in high school, Otomo was interested in the idea of becoming an artist.
If he wanted to succeed in any kind of creative endeavour, his only option was to be where the action was, which meant Tokyo, where he soon found work as an illustrator.
By the time Otomo got his start around the late s, speculative science fiction in popular manga was all but non-existent. Space operas and cutesy fare like Doraemon were big sellers, but no one appeared to be telling grittier stories that reflected real life. Otomo felt he could change this. Simultaneously, he was soaking up a diverse range of dynamic Western influences, from Deep Purple to The Exorcist a film which he says completely changed his approach to incorporating elements of horror in his storytelling and A Space Odyssey.
These influences, alongside his love for manga and anime, meant that he could begin creating something entirely new. The acclaimed horror manga tells the story of an old man and a child, both of whom possess extra-sensory powers and live in the same apartment block. As powerful as the art was the story, culminating in a spectacular climax that set the tone for what was to come.
The title was serialised over two years, became a best-seller, and won a number of awards. Otomo was a bold new creative force to be reckoned with.
A few years later, he would create his masterpiece. Akira first appeared in Japan on December 2, as a black-and-white serial in Young Magazine, one of the many popular anthologies in Japan that are as bulky as the average telephone directory.
The title would run for eight years over a staggering 2, pages drawn by Otomo himself one of his uncredited art assistants was the late, great Satoshi Kon. The results were incredible. Just as the anime adaptation blew the doors open for Japanese animation, its illustrated counterpart was instrumental in bringing sophisticated, adult manga to Western audiences. This made life a headache for animators and a logistical nightmare for producers: at the time, the film was one of the most expensive anime ever made in Japan, with over , cells of animation.
But the results spoke for themselves, and the film became a worldwide commercial smash and critical darling overnight. One of these was the dystopian saga Legend of Mother Sarah, a post-apocalyptic epic in which a formidable matriarch undertakes a perilous journey to find the children from whom she was separated. Over the last couple of years, Otomo has collected a slew of distinguished accolades. Among others, he was made a Chevalier of the French Order of Arts and Letters in , eventually being promoted to Officier of the order in He was the fourth manga artist ever inducted into the prestigious American Eisner Award Fall of Fame in In his native country, he was awarded the Purple Medal of Honor from the Japanese government in in recognition of his creative efforts.
A Terrible Beauty: The Works of Katsuhiro Otomo