- Adaptational Heroism: While he's by no means perfect in the movie either, many of Kaneda nastier traits from the manga are suspiciously absent from the movie.
- Affectionate Pickpocket
- AM/FM Characterization: In the manga, there's a scene where Kaneda sings "Starry Starry Night" to himself in the bathroom.
- Badass Biker: Stands out as this because of his Cool Bike.
- Butt Monkey: Gets the most amount of punishment while never suffering anything really irreversible.
- Badass Normal: Kaneda was taking on a fully powered Tetsuo with a laser gun and winning. He actually would've pulled off killing him, something even the entire military was failing at at that point, but the gun ran out of energy.
- Big EaterKei: "Is eating all you do?"
- Character Development: Goes from a selfish, womanizing jerk to a genuine hero who cares deeply for the woman he loves.
- Characterization Marches On: At the beginning of the manga he's a complete dick, but becomes a little more tolerable by the end.
- Chivalrous Pervert
- He's a total pervert to Kei at the start, but later grows fond of her.
- Averted big time, however, with the way he treats his first girlfriend in the manga. He doesn't really care about her much and only uses her for sex and to score drugs (she's doing some kind of internship with the school nurse) and when she tells him he may have gotten her pregnant he laughs about it.
- Determinator: Throughout the story, and especially in the final battle with Tetsuo.
- Disappeared Dad: He IS one (assuming his ex and unborn child survived the events of the manga, which is hardly a guarantee).
- Iconic Outfit: The red motorcycle jacket with the Capsules' logo on the back.
- Jerkass: He starts out as a big one, especially in the manga but matures as time goes on.
- Last Name Basis: Always goes by Kaneda.
- No One Should Survive That: Kaneda is by far the luckiest character in the story line.
- In fact, it could be argued that he didn't survive the obliteration of Neo Tokyo and only pulled through because of an odd application of the Timey-Wimey Ball.
- Pinball Protagonist: He's not exactly the biggest player on the manga, and even gets Put on a Bus after the timeskip.
- Supporting Protagonist: In the movie.
- Unscrupulous Hero: Sure, he saves Neo-Tokyo, but he's still an obnoxious delinquent.
Voiced by: Nozomu Sasaki (JP), Jan Rabson (EN, Streamline dub), Joshua Seth (EN, Animaze dub)
- Abstract Apotheosis: To some degree, by the end, Tetsuo becomes more the personification of his own power than the character he began as.
- Adaptational Heroism: While he isn't a hero by any definition in the movie either, Tetsuo is significantly more sympathetic and takes a much longer time to take a flying leap off the slippery slope than he did in the manga.
- A God Am I: To some degree.
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Implied to be Tetsuo's fate in the end of the anime film, as his enormous psychic abilities led to him being the god of a new universe.
- Artificial Limbs: He loses an arm to the Kill Sat then builds himself a robotic one out of pieces of scrap metal.
- Ax-Crazy: Moreso in the manga, where he simply kills people because he feels like it.
- Badass Cape: In both manga and the anime film.
- Beware the Superman: A fair few undertones of this, given that his extraordinary power ends up destroying the lives of nearly everyone he comes into contact with.
- Big Bad: While Tetsuo starts off just as confused as everybody else, he becomes the main antagonist eventually.
- Body Horror: One of the most iconic scenes from the anime involves this. He also suffers from this in the manga, but over a longer period of time.
- Bridal Carry: A tragic version. Tetsuo carries Kaori this way all over Neo-Tokyo after she is shot to death by his own supporters.
- Despair Event Horizon: After Kaori is killed. He goes to Akira's chamber without clear intentions, but seems to be tired of everything and loses control of his powers by the last time.
- Driven by Envy: His motivation for lashing out against everyone and even his childhood friend Kaneda.
- Eldritch Abomination: The sheer amount of Body Horror caused by his Superpower Meltdown at the end turns him into one that consumes anything it touches. The only thing that could stop him was Akira's resurrection and the subsequent birth of a new universe, which definitely adds Eldritch points.
- Empowered Badass Normal: After discovering his powers.
- Evil Albino: In the final volume Tetsuo begins to mutate but is able to pull himself together. In his reconstituted form he appears unnaturally white because he lost all pigment in his skin and hair.
- Evil Laugh: "UWAH-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAH-A-AAH"!
- Forehead of Doom: Gains a very noticeable one after he gains powerful psychic abilities.
- Freudian Excuse: Poor Tetsuo had to deal with bullies of various sorts his entire life until he discovered his powers.
- From Nobody to Nightmare: And how!
- Going Cold Turkey: Tetsuo goes through agonizing withdrawal to quit the pills the scientists gave him to keep him from losing control of the Power. He throws his stash into the sea.
- Gone Horribly Right: The military succeeded only too well in unlocking Tetsuo's powers.
- Healing Factor: To wit, Tetsuo survives multiple shootings, an overdose of medicine, an assassination attempt by Kei, his arm blown off by a Kill Sat, gassing with a specially-engineered biological weapon, and a missile landing on him. Dr. Onishi and the Colonel discuss his remarkable resilience.
- Japanese Delinquents
- Kick the Dog: Taking young and pretty girls to be his sex slaves, and encouraging them to take drugs that will most likely kill them.
- Lima Syndrome: In the manga, Tetsuo comes to feel some degree of sympathy for Kaori, even letting her take a nap with her head on his lap.
- No Sell: When a Japanese-American soldier tries assassinating him with a new experimental weapon, it not only completely fails to take out Tetsuo, but also heals him from the Superpower Meltdown he was suffering from.
- Orphan's Plot Trinket: As a child, Tetsuo has a locket with a woman's picture in it and he tells people it's a keepsake from his mother. He actually found it in the street and just pretends it's her in order to feel some connection with his parents.
- Out of the Inferno: Right before he starts fighting the military in the movie.
- Parental Abandonment: He did have parents, once upon a time, but it's implied they dumped him in an daycare orphanage and never came back for him. No wonder he became so screwed up later in life.
- Person of Mass Destruction
- Psychotic Smirk
- Put on a Bus: In the manga. After getting his arm shot off by the SOL satellite at the end of the second volume, Tetsuo flies off and is not seen again until the end of Volume 3.
- Sanity Slippage: Suffers from this as time goes on.
- Shadow Dictator: Akira is made out to be the ruler of the empire in the manga, but Tetsuo is really the one "ruling."
- Shrinking Violet: Tetsuo was very introverted as a child.
- The Sociopath: Reads like a checklist for Antisocial Personality Disorder.
- Sorcerous Overlord: Tetsuo after the third book. Just replace magic with psychic powers.
- Spikes of Villainy: Tetsuo's hair. Becomes a lot more defined when he starts using his powers.
- Superpower Meltdown
- Tank Ammo Catch: Tetsuo does this with his mind in the movie.
- Took a Level in Badass: Thanks to his newly awakened powers!
- Tragic Monster: In both continuities.
- Villainous BSOD: After Kaori is shot to death in the manga, Tetsuo goes on a massive Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
- Who's Laughing Now?: To Kaneda.
- With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Tetsuo goes crazy due to his severe inferiority complex being combined with psionic power beyond his wildest dreams.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Naturally.
- Action Girl: Shown when she fights Tetsuo.
- Character Development: Begins the manga as a hardened militant who has no problem killing to achieve her group's objectives. As the story progresses, she turns away from violence and tries to spare lives when she can.
- Extraordinarily Empowered Girl: While she shows traces of this in The Movie, it's never explained why the espers chose her out of all the other people in Neo Tokyo, The manga explains that she herself has powers; but her powers are that of a medium.
- My God, What Have I Done?: In the movie, she shoots a soldier to save Kaneda, and completely freezes up afterwards. It's implied that she's never killed before.
- Powers via Possession: By allowing the Espers to possess her, Kei is able to use all their powers.
Voiced by: Taro Ishida (JP), Tony Mozdy (EN, Streamline dub), Jamieson Price (EN, Animaze dub)
- Action Survivor: In The Movie, he is one of the only four survivors. He also survives everything in the manga, though not unscathed.
- The Atoner: In the later part of the manga, after he sees first hand what his evil plans have done to the nation he swore to protect.
- Badass Mustache
- Blood Knight: While he is the Only Sane Man of the military, Shikishima does not hesitate to enjoy a good fight, as being a soldier is the one thing he can do best.
- Colonel Badass
- Only Sane Man: The movie can give this impression of him, given that he is dealing with heavily corrupt politicians on one side and researchers who don't seem willing to balance the potential benefits of their research against the demonstrably severe risks. He's trying to run the research program while also trying to minimize the risk to the surrounding city.
- Papa Wolf: To the Espers, and also to Kaori in the movie. Because Tetsuo was advancing on her, he was the only one aside from Kaneda to score a hit with his gun.
- Took a Level in Badass: The Colonel, after the timeskip in the manga. Before, he's a very angry Elite Mook who spends his whole time shouting conflicting orders. After, he's a much more thoughtful and outright heroic character who shows that he's a very badass fighter who's not to be messed with as time goes on, leading up to him attempting to take out Tetsuo head on.
- Ambiguous Disorder: His behavior in the manga heavily resembles nonverbal autism, but it is never given an official explanation.
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence The big explosion that left that massive crater was caused by him ascending into an energy form. E=mc^2 and all that.
- Brain in a Jar: Only in the movie. And only temporarily.
- Dead All Along/Posthumous Character: By thirty years in the movie. Subsequent resurrections notwithstanding.
- Human Popsicle: In the manga, he is placed into cryogenic storage while still alive. Tetsuo later thaws him out.
- Neurodiversity Is Supernatural: In the manga, he can barely speak or do anything by himself (Kaori has to feed him), but he's still the most powerful psychic in existence. However, it was never explained whether or not he was like that before the government experimented on his brain.
- Schrödinger's Cast: Alive throughout the manga, but Dead All Along in the movie (though he gets better.)
- The Stoic/The Unfettered: Willing to stop Tetsuo in the later half of the manga by whatever means necessary. Barely emotes.
- They Would Cut You Up: In the movie they did after he died. However, he fails to stay cut up.
Kiyoko, Takashi and Masaru
Kiyoko is voiced by: Sachie Ito (JP), Melora Harte (EN, Streamline dub), Sandy Fox (EN, Animaze dub)
Takashi is voiced by: Tatsuhiko Nakamura (JP), Barbara Goodson (EN, Streamline dub), Cody MacKenzie (EN, Animaze dub)
Masaru is voiced by: Kazuhiro Kando (JP), Bob Bergen (EN, Streamline dub)
- Afraid of Blood: In the anime, the three are so terrified when Tetsuo cuts himself on a shard of glass that it foils their attempt to assassinate him.
- Apologetic Attacker: Takashi uses his Psychic Powers to pretty much blow up a girl named Mozu, but it's clear that he saw it as the only alternative and apologizes to her before and after doing so.
- Creepy Child: All three can come across as this.
- Gilded Cage: The Nursery serves as this for the Espers, possibly because they know too much about what the government intends to do with their psychic powers.
- Girlish Pigtails: Kiyoko has braids, actually. Although she is far from youthful.
- Handicapped Badass: Masaru. Taking on a teenager who is wholly more powerful than he is takes a lot of balls.
- Harmful to Minors: In both the manga and the film, Takashi watched a member of the resistance be gunned down by riot police. You can guess what happens next...
- Ill Girl: Kiyoko is bedridden and has weaker health than the others. Masaru has polio and is confined to a wheelchair.
- Mind over Matter: Takashi and Masaru's powers.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Takashi being out on the road all by himself directly led to Tetsuo's motorcycle accident, which later led to Tetsuo's psychic powers emerging and a series of events that ultimately resulted in Neo-Tokyo being utterly demolished. Thanks a lot, Takashi.
- Never Grew Up: Implied to have been a result of all the drugs they have to take. However, while they stayed children, their bodies aged prematurely, so they look unnaturally old.
- Psychic Children
- Older Than They Look: Due to the drugs and the experiments, the Espers aged prematurely, so they look like they're between their late-40's and early-50's.
- Pink Is Feminine: In the anime, Kiyoko is seen wearing pink clothes.
- Psychic Link: All three are mentally connected to Akira. When Takashi is shot in the head by Nezumi, the surviving Espers scream in pain as they felt their friend dying in front of them.
- Sacrificial Lion: Takashi, who gets shot in the head by Nezumi (who was most likely aiming for Akira instead.) And right when he had found Akira and was happily going to him! This completely causes an horrified Akira to fall in despair and fully release his powers, taking almost all of Neo Tokyo with him.
- Spared by the Adaptation: Takashi, in the movie.
- Two Guys and a Girl: But since they're children, their relationship is platonic.
- Waif Prophet: All of them, but especially Kiyoko.
Voiced by: Yuriko Fuchizaki (JP), Barbara Goodson (EN, Streamline dub), Georgette Rose (EN, Animaze dub)
- Break the Cutie: More like crush the cutie in the anime.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: In the anime. During Tetsuo's mutation he accidentally crushes her, and we see everything.
- Living Emotional Crutch: In the manga, she is Tetsuo's closest confidante and the one he turns to when he needs to be consoled. When she is shot to death in an attempted coup, Tetsuo's grief leads to his losing his grip on the power completely.
- Love Martyr
- Morality Chain: She's one of the few persons Tetsuo cares for. When she dies in the manga, he went APESHIT.
- Stockholm Syndrome: In the manga, Kaori comes to feel sympathy towards Tetsuo, despite the fact he forcibly recruited her and tried to turn her into a sex slave.
- Token Good Teammate: To the Great Tokyo Empire.
Voiced by: Koichi Kitamura (JP), Drew Thomas (EN, Streamline dub), William Frederick (EN, Animaze dub)
- A Mother To Her Followers: She deeply cares for her followers and anyone under her protection. When Sakaki is morally wounded by the Colonel's soldiers, Miyako senses her death and screams the girl's name. She grieves her loss for the rest of the manga.
- Blind Seer
- Demoted to Extra: In the film, she's a religious zealot.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: While probably coincidental, she seems to play a very similar role to Mother Abigail in The Stand.
- Then again, the book does seem to have a decent following in Japan. Naoki Urasawa is also a fan.
- Gambit Pileup: Engaged in one with the military. Basically she can't directly expose the truth about their experiments because it would cost her the cult she built around herself and they can't expose her as a fraud without publicly acknowledging their own misdeeds, all while they both try to undermine each other behind the scenes.
- God Guise/Scam Religion: A somewhat more benevolent example than most. She uses the powers she got from the government's experiments to convince people she's a Messianic Archetype in order to gain followers to help her bring down the sadistic military industrial complex that ruined her life. She does seem to genuinely care about her followers, doing all she can to help people after the city is destroyed and even seems to believe some of her own hype, as she considers her powers and those of the other psychics to be a manifestation of some greater mystical force that the military simply blundered into discovering.
- Heroic Sacrifice: She goes to battle a mutated Tetsuo with a couple of her followers so Kiyoko and Masaru can be protected, despite Tetsuo being way powerful than them.
- Letting Her Hair Down: Does this as in the last volume as she prepares to battle a mutated Tetsuo.
- Mentor Archetype: Assists Kei in honing her skills as a medium.
- Parental Favoritism: It is implied that although she loves all her followers, Sakaki has a special place in her heart. When Sakaki is killed, Miyako spends the rest of the manga grieving her death.
- Technical Pacifist: Miyako and her empowered monks try to repel an invasion of the temple by Empire soldiers non-lethally.
Sakaki, Mozu and Miki
- Aloof Dark-Haired Girl: Miki looks older than the other three girls and acts very aloof.
- Blondes Are Evil: Toyed with in regards to the blonde Mozu. She's not exactly evil, but very ruthless and attacks others without thinking of the consequences. So much that she won't stop attacking Takashi even when he tries pleading with her, causing him to release his powers and kill her in self-defense.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Sakaki goes absolutely apeshit when she sees Takashi a while after he kills Mozu in front of her.'Sakaki: "YOU KILLED MOZU! I'LL KILL YOU!"
- True Companions: They see each other as such. Miki calls out to Sakaki and Mozu when she's shot to death to cover their escape, and later Sakaki is horrified when Mozu dies.
- Undying Loyalty: The three girls are totally devoted to their leaderess, Miyako, who took them into her group and gave them something to live for.
- Adapted Out: Sadly, she does not appear at all in the movie.
- Brawn Hilda: However, she's not very ugly.
- Genre Savvy: Tells Kaneda that she thinks the food is poisoned.
- Cassandra Truth: And it is.
- Mama Bear: Never EVER touch anyone in her protectorate. Like Kei, or the psychic children
- Demoted to Extra: In The Movie, we only see him in the very beginning.
- Enemy Mine: He and Kaneda form an alliance to fight against Tetsuo's "empire."
- Heel-Face Turn: In the manga, he helps fight against Tetsuo.
- Monster Clown: Averted in the manga where he becomes pretty friendly.
- Scary Black Man: Sort of. His face is pretty Asian-looking, but he has very dark skin.
Voiced by: Hiroshi Otake (JP), Tony Mozdy (EN, Streamline dub), Ray Michaels (EN, Animaze dub)
- Meaningful Name: His name means rat in Japanese.
- The Mole: Nezu is the anti-government group's spy in the Executive Council, but he's perfectly willing to stab both sides in the back.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: In the manga. He tries to shoot and kill Akira but winds up accidentally shooting Takashi in the head, which causes Akira to have a massive Freak Out and destroy Neo Tokyo, reducing it to a post-apocalyptic wasteland ruled by two different factions.
Kaisuke / "Kai"
- Action Survivor: He manages to survive the entire manga, and in the movie, is one of the four main survivors. (The other three being Kaneda, Kei, and the Colonel)
- Adorkable: Even though he's part of a biker gang, he definitely comes across as this.
- Ambiguously Gay: There is a lot of debate on this. He certainly does seem the neatest, best-dressed of the gang, he's pretty small, he cries when he tells Kaneda that Yamagata got killed, and he's really happy when Kaneda is found alive.
Voiced by: Masaaki Ōkura (JP), Tony Mozdy (EN, Streamline dub), Michael Lindsay (EN, Animaze dub)
- Pipe Pain: Weapon of choice.
- Viking Funeral: Yamagata gets the bosozoku version of this in the animé, with Kaneda deliberately crashing his bike.Kaneda: I'm gonna send Yamagata his wheels...
- Libation for the Dead: Ryu pours out his flask for a fallen comrade at the scene of his death.
- Drowning My Sorrows: In the manga, he does this to cope with the deaths of his friends.