A fable-turned-video-game-turned-comic is an effective re-imagining of Red Riding Hood set in feudal Japan from American McGee.
It’s often very easy to dismiss licences that are connected with video games, as they are typically less interested in storytelling than they are in selling games. Yet the comic that accompanies American McGee’s online game Akaneiro: Demon Hunters is steeped in Japanese folklore, Western fairy tales and cinematic flair. While the studio is known for its dark takes on Alice in Wonderland, Akaneiro uses Red Riding Hood for its inspiration.
In Akaneiro, we are introduced to Kani, who lives on Yomi island amongst the Auni people, although she is perpetually seen as an outsider. The Auni are a deeply spiritual people, and uneasily coexist on the island with the Akane, a warrior race who train the elite Red Hunters for the defence of their shared home. When the animalistic Yokai demons attack the Auni village, who in turn blame the Akane, Kani volunteers to join the Red Hunters in an attempt to stop a war. So she begins her trek across dangerous ground to don the red hood.
What is immediately striking about Akaneiro is the casual depth of Aclin’s world. The Auni people are largely considered to be the first to have settled Japan, but these indigenous Japanese people have only recently been recognised by their government as a distinct people. Aclin doesn’t get into the politics of this, nor does he explore the Auni’s beliefs with any depth, but their sense of history infuses everything about this book. Aclin and his co-creators have seamlessly woven the Red Riding Hood elements in without being too heavy handed.
Vasilis Lolos (Conan the Barbarian, The Pirates of Coney Island) may not be a household name yet, but he is amassing an impressive body of work. His distinctive style serves the narrative well, blending his detailed pencils on creatures and humans with some broader brush strokes of traditional Japanese art. MIchael Atiyeh’s colours deserve a large slice of credit as well, vividly distinguishing the figures Kani encounters at the initial stages of her journey. Readers will be pleased to know that an Art of Akaneiro hardcover is due out in August from Dark Horse, and fans of these interiors will do well to seek out a copy.
Akaneiro encourages us to go and play the American McGee game, and in that sense it has achieved its primary goal. Yet it does so because it creates such a rich and inviting world that one can’t help but want to explore it in more depth.
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