Katsuhiro Otomo ( born April 14, 1954) is a Japanese manga artist, screenwriter and film director. He is best known as the creator of the manga Akira and its animated film adaptation. He was decorated a Chevalier of the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2005, promoted to Officier of the order in 2014, became the fourth manga artist ever inducted into the American Eisner Award Hall of Fame in 2012, and was awarded the Purple Medal of Honor from the Japanese government in 2013. Otomo later received the Winsor McCay Award at the 41st Annie Awards in 2014 and the 2016 Grand Prix de la ville d’Angoulême, the first manga artist to receive the award.
Katsuhiro Otomo was born in Tome, Miyagi Prefecture and grew up in Tome-gun. 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 1973 he graduated high school and left Miyagi, heading to Tokyo with the hopes of becoming a manga artist. On October 4, 1973, he published his first work, a manga adaptation of Prosper Merimee’s short novel Mateo Falcone, titled A Gun Report.
In 1979, after writing multiple short-stories for the magazine Action, Otomo created his first science-fiction work, titled Fireball. Although the manga was never completed, it is regarded as a milestone in Otomo’s career as it contained many of the same themes he would explore in his later, more successful manga such as Dōmu. Dōmu began serialization in January 1980 and ran for two years until completed. In 1983, it was published in book form and would win the Nihon SF Taisho Award, the Japanese equivalent to the Nebula Award.
In 1982, 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 2000 pages of artwork. In 1987, Otomo continued working in anime, directing an animated work for the first time: a segment, which he also wrote the screenplay and drew animation for, in the anthology feature Neo Tokyo. He followed this up with two segments in another anthology, Robot Carnival.
While the serialization of Akira was taking place, Otomo decided to animate it into a feature film, although the comic was yet to be finished. In 1988, the animated film Akira was released. In 1990, Otomo did a brief interview with MTV for a general segment on the Japanese manga scene at the time.
Otomo has recently worked extensively with noted studio Sunrise. The studio has animated and produced his recent projects, including the 2004 feature film Steamboy, 2006’s Freedom Project and his latest project, SOS! Tokyo Metro Explorers: The Next, released in 2007.
Reports have suggested that Otomo will be the executive producer of the live action adaptation of his manga series Akira.
In a 2012 interview, Otomo said he will start a new manga series, set during Japan’s Meiji period (late 1800s early 1900s). It will be his first long-form work since Akira.
In 2013, Otomo released his newest film in over 9 years since Steamboy, called Short Peace, an anthology consisting on 4 shorts: His own short based on one of his stories called Combustible, a tragic love story set in the Edo period, Tsukumo, directed by Shuhei Morita in which everyday tools metamorphose into supernatural things, Gambo, directed by Hiroaki Ando, which features a battle between an oni goblin and a polar bear, and Buki yo Saraba directed by Hajime Katoki, depicting a battle in a ruined Tokyo. Combustible won the Grand Prize of the Cultural Affairs Agency’s Japan Media Arts Festival Animation awards in 2012, and it was shortlisted for the 2013 Best Animated Short at the 85th Academy Awards, but it failed to get nominated. Tsukumo, under the title Possessions, would become nominated for the 2014 Best Animated Short at the 86th Academy Awards.
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