- 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.
- Jerk Ass: 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)
- 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.
- Big Bad: While Tetsuo starts off just as confused as everybody else, he becomes the main antagonist eventually.
- 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.
- 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 Laugh: "UWAH-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAH-A-AAH"!
- Freudian Excuse: Poor Tetsuo had to deal with bullies of various sorts his entire life until he discovered his powers.
- 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.
- Out of the Inferno: Right before he starts fighting the military in the movie.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Powers via Possession: By allowing the Espers to possess her, Kei is able to use all their powers.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
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.
- Girlish Pigtails: Kiyoko, although she is far from youthful.
- Ill Girl: Kiyoko is bedridden and has weaker health than the others. Masaru has polio and is confined to a wheelchair.
- Never Grew Up: Implied to have been a result of all the drugs they have to take.
- 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: Although their relationship is a rather platonic friendship.
- Waif Prophet: All of them, but especially Kiyoko.
- Break the Cutie: More like crush the cutie.
- 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.
- 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.
Voiced by: Koichi Kitamura (JP), Drew Thomas (EN, Streamline dub), William Frederick (EN, Animaze dub)
- Demoted to Extra: In the film.
- 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.
- Mentor Archetype: Assists Kei in honing her skills as a medium.
Sakaki, Mozu and Miki
- 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.
- 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.
- Mama Bear: Never EVER touch anyone in her protectorate. Like Kei, or the psychic children
- 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)
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)