Sunday, May 26, 2013

G-Shock #22 & #23: AKIRA 30th Anniversary

Akira (アキラ) is a Manga created by Katsuhiro Otomo in 1982. Manga is a typical Japanese style comic, or better, graphic novel. Otomo developed already a strong in interest for movies while he was at high school. During that time he often made a 3 hour trip by train to Sendai to see a movies in cinemas. In 1973, after finishing high school, he did what many wanted to do in that time, to earn fame and fortune. He moved to Tokyo in the hope to become a manga artist. His first series of short action comics appeared in October 1973. He moved to a new developed part, outside of central Tokyo. The residents of this new suburb was a mix of all kind of people, from low-yakuza, bartenders to young couples with babies. This strange mix of people as well the new suburban feel as well influences abroad, like the cityscape of New York inspired him in his first works, resulting in a warm and realistic atmosphere.
Katsuhiro Otomo (Photo by Anime Vice)
In 1980 Otomo released the first Domu manga. The Domu series became very popular. On December 6, 1982 the first of his Akira series manga was released. This series made him an instant manga superstar. Meanwhile he did also some work for anime, Japanese animated movies (in Japan actually all animated movies, Japanese and overseas, are called anime). In 1988 the anime “Akira” was released. At that time, with 10 billion yen ($11,000,000) production costs, it was the most expensive anime ever made. Akira was the first anime which made it outside Japan in small art house cinemas, developing it to a huge cult film hit. It paved the way for the popularity of Japanese animated movies outside Japan.
The text says: "Daikaku Akira". It probably means "Waking for the resurrection of Akira"
Akira is a cyber-punk story about a group of school drop-out’s in 2019’s Neo Tokyo. Tokyo was destroyed by a new kind of bomb in July 1988. The group are not only school drop-outs, but are also a motorbikers (bōzōzoku) gang, the Capsules. The Capsules are at war with another bōzōzoku gang, the “Clowns”. The main characters of the gang are Kaneda, the leader of the gang and Tetsuo his best friend. During a fight with the Clowns, Tetsuo get’s injured and taken away to a secret laboratory complex. Here he learns to develop enormous supernatural powers. With the growth of his psychic powers, his friendship with Kaneda declines rapidly. With the help of Kei, a revolutionary girl, and three “Espers”, Kaneda tries to free Tetsuo from the secret laboratories. The Espers, a.k.a. numbers. This were children who survived the bomb destroying Tokyo. They still look like children, but with an older face. They were acquaintances of Akira. They possess also psychic powers. Akira had god like psychic powers. It was his powers that lead to the destruction of Tokyo in 1988. Pieces of Akira were stored in a deep underground bunker complex at almost absolute zero (0 Kelvin). The bunker is located under the new build Neo-Tokyo Olympic Stadium. The movie ends when Akira merges into Tetsuo causing a major explosion, destroying Neo-Tokyo. The Espers sacrifice themselves into the explosion to rescue Kaneda, who survives in the end with Kei and another member of the Capsules.
In December 2012 Bandai, the Japanese toy and video company specialized in movie and television series merchandising, announces to release two G-Shock collaboration models to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Akira. Bandai Visuals was the production company of the Akira anime in 1988. Note that in Japan the brand name Bandai is a synonym for good quality, maybe comparable with THX as a high quality standard for sound. It was designed by Mash•Room Co Ltd under the supervision of Katsuhiro Otomo for more than one year. Mash•Room is Otomo’s color design company for jewelry and clothing and merchandise. Only 1000 pieces were made of each model. This watch was sold via Bandai’s on-line store LaLaBit Market. The pre-order started at December 12, the release was planned for April 30 (Queen’s Day in my country, so not hard to forget). Besides these watches, Mash•Room designed also 2 leather jackets and a cap for Akira’s 30th anniversary. Specially the Kaneda jacket, like in the movie with the big Capsules logo, is very cool.

Please do not put it in the place where the hand of the infant can reach this plastic bag.
There is a risk of choking and infant wear.
I love these Japanese stamps. This is the signature of "Otomo Katsuhiro"
Although, at that time, I had not seen the Akira movie or manga, I was already pretty much drawn into these great designs. A friend told me Akira was an essential have in your movie collection, so I ordered the DVD. I have to admit I had to look look the movie several times to get all the details and I probably missed a few here and there. A lot of the details you can find back on the Akira G-Shocks.
健康優良不良少年 = "Good for Health, Bad for Education (Bad Boy)"
正(金田 正太郎  = SHO (Kaneda Shōtarō) 
Kaneda's school pass and driver's license. The barcode on the strap is the driver's license number.
10th anniversary memorial 
17th arrondissement of NEO-Tokyo, B1
Let’s go into details of these watches. First the Kenada model. It’s a bright red DW-6900FS model. If you look close, you even see it has a sparking glossy finish. The long strap shows the Capsule’s moto: “Good for Health, Bad for Education”. It is also written in Japanese as 健康優良不良少年. The bar code on the short strap got me puzzled for a while. It becomes clear if you watch closely in the scene where the Capsules are at the police station for interrogation. The police officer is holding Kaneda’s school pass and driver’s license. The number and bar code are from the driver’s licence. On top of the display you find 正 written. It means SHO. Sho is short for Shōtarō Kaneda, Kaneda’s full name. In Japan it is usual to mention the surname before the first name. There is a lot Japanese writing engraved on the back plate. Only part in English is “ADULTS ONLY”. The text is name and address of the Capsules hang out, the Harukiya Bar, based in a cellar of a building.
西暦 :the Christian era (A.D.)
弐千壱拾九年 :2019 YEAR
春木屋 :a store called "HARUKIYA" (Haruki shop)
壱拾周年謹製:10th anniversary - carefully made
ネオ東京17区東 B1:NEO-Tokyo 17-ku Higashi (EAST) 
Although in the movie this bar is not visited a lot, the Capsules hang out there often in the Manga. As cool extra, there is a huge capsule in the backlight, the name and logo of Kaneda’s biker’s gang. I think this was that extra little bit that made me decide to order this model.
The second model is the Neo-Tokyo model. It’s a matte white DW-5600VT model with a lot of red details. The red brown ring with some stripes make you almost believe the display is exploding! The large strap refers to both the destruction of Tokyo in 1988 as the destruction of Neo-Tokyo in 2019. The number 28 refers to Akira’s designated experiment number. The short strap has Japanese writing on it. It says: 大東京帝国, which means Large Tokyo Imperial (Tokyo is the residence of the Japanese Emperor). This probably refers to the resurrection of Akira, who will instantly become the next emperor.
Akira appears two times very briefly in the visions of Tetsuo.
I am not sure why the display says A.D. 2020, but since the watches are designed under supervision of mr Katsuhiro Otomo himself, I guess it might refer to the resurrection of a new Neo-Tokyo after the destruction 2019 or something that is not in the movie but present in the manga. The red/brown ring and the display are a great contrast to the white resin. It reminds me again that the human eye’s resolution is so much higher than a good digital camera. That’s why on some of my Neo-Tokyo photo’s can’t view the resin well, or when you can, the display looks dark. It looks so much better in the flesh. When you activate the EL backlight, AKIRA pops up in the background.
Both watches are equipped with the newest modules. The DW-5600VT version has the 3229 module, the DW-6900FS has the 3230 module. Although the watches are totally different in shape, the functions are practically the same. The DW-5600 and DW-6900 are the basic G-Shock models. They both have an Alarm Mode, a 24 hour Countdown Timer and a 24 hour Stopwatch. The Alarm is normally set to a Daily Alarm, but it can also be set to a Date Alarm. By leaving one of the digits blank, you can create a Monthly- or a 1-Month Alarm. The Countdown Timer can be set to Auto Repeat. As an extra it is possible to activate a Flash Alarm. If activated the EL blinks up briefly whenever an Alarm sounds. The updated module has a pre-programmed calendar, programmed until December 31, 2099.
Some of the peolpe who helped me with this article also included their wristshots. Above and below are mine.
Above and below: Wristshot by Feisar (12 hour setting)
Above and below: Wristshots by Kumazo-san
These watches are about the best collaboration models I know of, but were not easy to obtain. They could only be pre-ordered by LaLaBit Market in Japan, one watch per person and they were not exact cheap. The price of the watches was ¥19800 each, including tax, but exclusive shipping within Japan. The total price for the watches shipped to The Netherlands me was around ¥45000 plus the unavoidable €30.- tax. The Euro was quite weak against a strong yen in December. This means the total price came around a hefty €230.- per watch! I considered these watches my delayed Christmas present, as I paid it partially from my Christmas bonus. But it’s all worth it, I think. The package, the tin and the watches themselves breath Akira on every square millimeter. They are not just a basic G-Shock with a little different print of the strap. It’s clear Mash•Room had done a lot of design to make this collaboration look the way it looks now. With a lot of Akira fans in Japan and around the world, these G-Shocks might become a wanted objects soon.
While I normally know my way around in finding info, I have fired a lot of questions to some of my friends. So a big thanks to Kumazo-san, Seiya-san, Tsuneo-san, Feisar and Debrah for helping me realizing this article. THANKS guys! I couldn't have done this without you.