by Chris MaGee
Katsuhiro Otomo -- the name is synonymous with modern Japanese pop culture. His epic sci-fi manga-turned-anime film "Akira" almost single-handedly introduced Japanese animation to the world in 1988, defining the futuristic aesthetic of cyberpunk fiction and Hollywood blockbusters like "The Matrix". Despite his less than stellar animated follow-up, 2004's "Steamboy", Katsuhiro Otomo's place as a master of contemporary Japanese animation and manga remains intact; so when word comes down that the now 57-year-old artist and director is planning a new manga series, well, anime, manga and J-film fans get very, very excited.
Word started breaking about Otomo's new series after Shinchosha's Geijutsu Shincho magazine hit newsstands in Japan both with a newly drawn, one-off short manga story titled "DJ Teck no Morning Attack" (his first manga since 2006), but also an interview with Otomo in which he discussed a new short animated film he is producing tilted "Hi-no-Youjin (Combustible)"... and a coy little statement about a new manga series he was working on for ""a certain shonen magazine."
What could this new series be? Which "shonen magazine" was Otomo referring to? And would this new series further expand on Otomo's groundbreaking futuristic "Akira"? It turns out that the latter is not the case... not at all. Just recently Anime News Network came forward with details on Otomo's upcoming manga series, an ambitious venture that the artist plans to draw entirely on his own, and without any assistants or staff.
Instead of taking us boldly into the future, Otomo has opted instead to go back in time to the Meiji Era (1868-1912), a time that saw Japan emerge from 260 years of self-imposed isolation and begin a rapid push towards modernization to come up to speed with Western powers. Not the futuristic dreamworld that most of us are used to from Otomo, but a world in which Japan was stridently looking towards the future. Otomo said he had spent the last four years doing research in Kyoto for this new series, as well as reading books by Hirotaka Ichiyanagi and Mizuki Kondo such as "One Hundred Stories Set in the Bakumatsu and Meiji Eras". Finally, Otomo has revealed that this new series will appear in the pages of Shonen Sunday Magazine. No word yet on when this new manga adventure will begin, but seeing that fans have waited for years for this, we're sure they can wait just a little longer.
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