Akira – Americanization

Manga is a Japanese word meaning “comics” and “cartooning.” It is a type of comic either made in Japan or by a Japanese artist. The style was developed in Japan in the late 19th century; influenced by earlier Japanese art, manga can cover all book genres and is read by varying audiences. Typically, manga is read backwards to an American (right to left), but some are westernized in order to be more appealing to non-manga readers.

In class, we read Akira, a Japanese manga series created by Katsuhiro Otomo, taking place in Neo-Tokyo. Originally, it was published as a

Katsuhiro Otomo
Katsuhiro Otomo

serial in Young Magazine from 1982 until 1990 and then was collected into 6 volumes. The book we read in class was volume 1 of Akira. It was a reprinted, colorized, and translated version of the manga that was initially produced in Japan. Many Japanese comics are redone to appeal to an American audience, but these reprints still keep features of their Japanese counterparts, such as maintaining the backwards reading style. In this version of Akira, it was redone so that many people probably have a hard time telling it was ever originally Japanese. The art style is similar enough to some of the American style comics that one

Japanese poster
Japanese poster

could have a hard time seeing it to be manga without any prior knowledge. What changes a manga that was originally adapted to one culture to another in order to reach a different reader base? At what point does the story change too much, separating it from its original meaning?

Pronunciation will always change person to person, but overall there are accepted ways of saying certain things. In Japan, Akira is pronounced with a hard A, because that is how the sound is usually said in Japanese (AH-ki-ra). In America, many people pronounce Akira with a soft A (uh-KI-ra), changing the location of the emphasis. Even when corrected, many people still choose to pronounce it in the English way. Does it

American Volume 1
American Volume 1

ever become disrespectful to pronounce the name in the English way versus the Japanese way? There will always be differences in cultures in terms of art and language but is there a way we can avoid changing aspects of art and respect the original artist’s intent?

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