Heh, heh... what's happened to me? I must be dreaming. I feel like I can take out the world.
"NEO-TOKYO IS ABOUT TO EXPLODE"Akira
(sometimes spelled AKIRA
to differentiate between the work and the title character) is the name of a post apocalyptic sci-fi Manga
first released in 1980 and its movie adaption released in 1988. It is the most recognizable of Katsuhiro Otomo
In July of 1988 (or at 2:17 P.M. on December 6th, 1992), a mysterious black-domed explosion destroys Tokyo
and sets off World War III
. Thirty-one (or thirty-eight, depending on whether it's the manga or the film you're dealing with) years later
, the rebuilt city — now known as "Neo-Tokyo" - has fallen into decay.
Two rival biker gangs, the Capsules and the Clowns, are having a turf war one night, when one of the youngest Capsule members, Tetsuo, almost literally runs into an escaped government test subject. Moments later, the test subject is taken back into custody by the army. However, they also decide to take Tetsuo with them. He then becomes the newest test subject for the "Akira Project." But when Tetsuo's powers awaken, the combination of an inferiority complex harbored since childhood with power beyond Tetsuo's wildest dreams waste no time in driving him insane
. He escapes the lab and goes on a super-powered rampage through Neo-Tokyo, killing and destroying everything in his path. It falls to a handful of people, including Capsule leader and Tetsuo's friend Kaneda, to put a stop to the destruction.
There is an Anime
movie version and a manga version, both widely different sans the above mentioned premise and with varying reputations. The movie is primarily known for its great animation. It was one of the things that helped disprove the Animation Age Ghetto
, at least for Anime in the West. It has been dubbed twice into English — once in 1989 by an unnamed Hong Kong dubbing studio (this dub was included when the movie was released by Streamline Pictures
, leading to a misconception that they produced it themselves) and again in 2001 by Animaze via Pioneer (later known as Geneon
). It is also known for its Mind Screw
plot, as it primarily focuses on events from the first third of the manga, while simultaneously removing or incorporating plot lines from later in the manga as well as rewriting a few plot points.
Being over 2000 pages in six hefty volumes, the story the original manga tells is much longer than the film. It is more violent and focuses more on politics. Critical plot developments in the film are often Late-Arrival Spoiler
s in the manga.
A two-part Hollywood Live-Action Adaptation
had been proposed in 2002, but it spent much of that time in Development Hell
with little progress made. It was eventually cancelled in January 2012.
Meanwhile, the Akira Project
is a crowd-sourced live-action fan trailer which does justice to the source material. See the result here
Not to be mistaken with Akira Ishida
, Akira Kamiya
, Akira Toriyama
, Akira Kurosawa
, Akira Ifukube
(the guy who composed the Godzilla
theme) or Akira Yamaoka
(who composed most of the Silent Hill
games). Or Arika
, for that matter.
Oh, and it's pronounced
"AH-kee-rah", not "uh-KAI-ruh". Don't mess it up, or else
open/close all folders
- Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Neo-Tokyo's sewers are spacious enough to patrol them with flying craft.
- After the End: We start with "old" Tokyo already nuked, then Neo-Tokyo gets nuked again but the story continues anyway.
- Alternate Continuity: Though they have similar beginnings and underlying themes, the movie and the manga diverge rather early and become two different stories. Character origins, deaths, and sometimes personalities are different. And while the endings look the same, the manga implies Tetsuo is gone for good, having been consumed by Akira, while the movie leaves it open to interpretation.
- Animal Motifs: Mr. Nezu (Japanese for "rat"), a small, greedy, cowardly man with big teeth.
- Apocalypse How: Regional catastrophe.
- Apocalypse Wow: First, the prologue, and then the anime and manga diverge.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: It seems that every other character in Akira is a seasoned criminal on their own; the tamest example would be Kei, who has committed murder, trespassing, various degrees of assault and the hijacking of a moped.
- Artificial Limbs: Tetsuo's right arm.
- Asimov's Three Kinds of Science Fiction: Adventure
- Big Guy Fatality Syndrome: Yamagata
- Black Comedy: From time to time...
- Body Horror: Tetsuo's horrific mutation scene. And how.
- Bomb-Throwing Anarchists: The government resistance group seems largely concerned with attacking government installations for some reason.
- Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: Tetsuo and Kaori
- Captain Ersatz: Tetsuo gets a nice ton of shoutouts in most media. For example, Gaara and K9999 (so much so that K9999 was substituted out of continuity.)
- Clipped Wing Angel: The mutation scene at the end.
- Coming-of-Age Story:
- Cool Bike: Essentially every member of the biker gangs have cool bikes but special mention has to go to Kaneda's souped-up red bike that has glowing wheels. It's suggested he stole it. It's often displayed on merchandise, and the most iconic image that isn't Tetsuo's mutation scene.
- Crapsack World: The original Tokyo is a nuclear wasteland while the new one has roaming biker gangs, a corrupt near-facist government, food riots, and a rebellion that isn't all that far removed from the government in terms of morality. That's just the initial setting. It gets worse. In the movie, Nezu compares the city to an "overripe fruit" while the Colonel calls it "a garbage heap made up of a bunch of hedonistic fools."
- Creepy Child: Kiyoko, Takashi and Masaru. Made even creepier by their looks. Also, to some degree, Lady Miyako and her underlings Sakaki, Mozu and Miki. In the manga, Akira himself
- Cyberpunk: A Trope Codifier.
- Deadly Upgrade: Tetsuo's psychic powers.
- Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Kaneda shows no fear confronting a super-powered Tetsuo, even barking orders at him. Of course, from his point-of-view is just his own childhood friend Tetsuo.
- Dramatic Chase Opening: The story starts with Kaneda's gang chasing the Clown Gang through Neo-Tokyo.
- Dreaming of Things to Come: Kiyoko and Tetsuo both have portentious dreams about the future.
- Everything Is Better With Explosions: The movie starts with the mother of all kabooms, and it's not the last one.
- Flash Back: Tetsuo gets to experience ones from his own. Kaneda sees the Espers' points of view during the endings; this is the only real way we get their Back Story.
- Floating Timeline: The Japanese edition of the manga had the destruction of Tokyo occurred on December 6th, 1982, which happened to be the date that Akira made its debut on Young Magazine. The English editions, which began publication in 1989, moved it to 1992. The movie has it occur on July 1988, the month that the movie had its Japanese theatrical debut.
- For Science!: The reason why the government started experimenting with psychic powers in the first place. That or for war.
- Frickin' Laser Beams: The SOL and Kaneda's laser cannon.
- Friendly Target: Yamagata
- The Glomp: Kaneda gets a big ol' glomp from Kaisuke when the latter sees that he's alive.
- Goal-Oriented Evolution: The plot in a nutshell is pretty much mocking the idea: the government project is attempting to "accelerate evolution" I.E. produce humans with Psychic Powers. They have succeeded at this, but fail in giving those humans the Required Secondary Powers to keep them from ravaging their bodies or driving them insane. Natural evolution doesn't do dumb shit like that; that's why we don't have bats with super-hearing but without brains that can decipher sonar, or eagles with super-vision but no flash-dampening to prevent the light from ruining their eyes. As Kei puts it, it's as if they were trying to make amoebas with human strength, stamina and dexterity...
Kei: But amoebas don't build motorcycles or atomic bombs! They just eat up whatever gets in their way.
- Government Conspiracy: The government engineers children with near-godlike psychic powers.
- Gray and Grey Morality: Most characters are at least a little sympathetic, even though they are all violent gang members, psychotic monsters, or militants.
- Japanese Delinquents: The biker gangs.
- Kill Sat: SOL and Floyd
- Kill the Cutie: Poor, poor Takashi and Kaori...
- La Résistance: Kei and Ryu's rebellion.
- Licensed Game: An adventure game / visual novel was created in 1988 for the Famicom. It was translated by fans in April 2012.
- Lighter and Softer: The theme of a rebellious biker living in a gritty technological area who ends up in opposition to the government and military, including characters who look much like those from Akira, would be revisited in the miniseries Freedom Project.
- Live-Action Adaptation: According to Wikipedia, In the early 1990s, Kodansha Ltd. was in negotiation with Sony Pictures to produce a live-action remake of the film. Talk circulated again a decade later, but the project has yet to materialize. Rumors circulated that the project was canceled in both instances when the projected budget for the film was upwards of $300 million. Talks began again as Warner Bros. signed on to produce the movie with Stephen Norrington (writer) and Jon Peters (producer). Akira was to be developed into two live action films; the first was to be scheduled for a summer 2009 release. Warner Brothers and Appian Way planned to adapt the two movies from the manga, with each one covering three volumes. Ruairi Robinson signed on as director, Gary Whitta wrote the script and Andrew Lazar, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Jennifer Davisson were to produce the film. As recently as 2010, Lazar was still talking about getting the film out of Development Hell—but as of January 2012 the film project was cancelled.
- Loads and Loads of Characters The Movie wasn't exactly light on the amount of characters. The manga however takes the cake. Even minor movie characters have a greatly expanded role. On top of that, all are very much relevant to the overall plot and integral to how things work out.
- Meaningful Name: Nezu. It means "rat".
- Manipulative Bastard: Nezu. This is more apparent in the manga, where he betrays both Kaneda and Co., Lady Miyako, and Ryu in order to get Akira. His plans backfire quite spectacularly in both versions, with the manga version having him unsuccessfully trying to kill Akira so no-one else can use him.
- Mind over Matter: The source of Tetsuo and Akira's powers.
- Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness: World Of Phlebotinum
- The image of a capsule is repeated throughout the story. It appears on the logo on Kaneda's jacket, the name of the gang, the drugs the gang members take, the Psycho Serum Tetsuo depends on, and, in the movie, the containers that store the remains of Akira.
- The double helix shows up several times in the manga, such as when Akira forms a twisted ladder out of pieces of rubble.
- New Neo City: Neo-Tokyo.
- No FEMA Response: Justified as, by the time major humanitarian aid efforts are on their way to Neo-Tokyo, Tetsuo and his followers have already organized the survivors into a militantly isolationist cult who attack the relief workers.
- No New Fashions in the Future: It's 2019/2030, but the fashions of most people still look like they did in The Eighties; the government agents with 70's-style hair (in the first volume) and girls with legwarmers come to mind in particular. Not so bad with the business suits and military outfits, as those have been relatively unchanged, as they have been for a much larger timeframe than the gap between when Akira was made and when it takes place.
- Nostalgia Heaven: The old playground as it appears in Tetsuo's mind.
- The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Tetsuo and Kaneda develop this attitude toward each other.
- Parental Abandonment: Tetsuo; no doubt also Kaneda and the others.
- The Patient Has Left the Building: Tetsuo runs away from the secret hospital with gauze still wrapped around his head.
- Power Glows: Anything/anyone that makes things blow up tends to glow just before it happens.
- The Power of Friendship: The Numbers use it decisively during the final battle against Tetsuo by appealing to their reawakened friend, Akira, to use his power once more to create a new universe to contain Tetsuo's expanding power. Later, the children tell Kaneda that one of the perks of being a psychic is gaining a new circle of friends who understand each other perfectly, without words. They even name their former antagonist Tetsuo as one of their friends, leading one to think that this new universe will be a place of harmony.
- Pstandard Psychic Pstance: The three children more than Tetsuo or Akira.
- Psychic Powers: Akira, Tetsuo, and the three mutant children. Kei turns out to be a medium capable of channeling the powers of other psychics through her (younger and healthier) body.
- Really 700 Years Old: Takashi, Kiyoko, and Masaru. Closer to Never Grew Up, but with shades (wrinkles?) of this.
- Say My Name: "KANEDAAAAA!" "TETSUOOOO!"
- Scenery Gorn: Pos-apocalyptic hellscapes are rarely given such attention.
- Scenery Porn: Words cannot describe...
- Schrödinger's Cast: Takashi lives in the movie, but is shot to death in the manga. Meanwhile, Akira is alive in the manga but is dead in the movie (though he briefly gets better).
- Science Is Bad: If it weren't for government scientists deciding to give people psychic powers, the story would not have happened.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: The military's perception of Akira. Fairly accurate.
- Shout-Out: Shoutarou Kaneda's full name is the same as the Kid Hero from Gigantor. Gigantor itself was a secret military weapon, just like Akira and they were both number 28. In fact Otomo himself stated that Akira was essentially a retelling of Gigantor
- Smug Snake: Nezu and Tetsuo's Aide.
- Special Person, Normal Name: Akira is a very common given name in Japan.
- Sphere of Destruction: The black dome that wipes out Tokyo and Neo-Tokyo.
- Strapped to an Operating Table: All of the psychics get this treatment during their experimentations.
- Super Serum: The military uses drugs to kickstart the development of psychic powers, but they ultimately prevent the user from reaching their full potential (partly as a safety measure).
- Teens Are Monsters: Teens are depicted as volatile and dangerous, if not evil. Characters include rioting student protesters, drug-addled thugs, and terrorists. Zig-zagged in the manga in that the restlessness and energy that makes the kids so destructive also prepares them to create a new society out of the ashes of Neo-Tokyo.
- Technology Porn: More-so in the manga than the film, but slick technology plays a pretty big part of both stories.
- Terrorists Without a Cause: Kei and Ryu's organization opposes the government but that's all we're told. Just why they're opposed is never revealed.
- The Tokyo Fireball: Several times in the form of black domes.
"Tetsuo's our friend. If anyone gets to kill him, it should be us!"
- Tomboy: Kei.
- Tortured Monster: Tetsuo suffers terribly during his mutation
- Tron Lines: From the bikes.
- Twenty Minutes into the Future: It is set roughly in the early twenty-first century (it was made in 1988).
- Used Future: The decaying, rundown Neo-Tokyo.
- Vice City: Neo-Tokyo is filled with crime and corruption.
- Your Head A Splode: Generally, a lot of people.
- Zeerust: Chunky computers without touch screens are still in use in 2019. Partially justified by technology being held back by The Tokyo Fireball and subsequent conflicts. Also, no digital cameras. Ryu at one point gives Nezu a roll of film to develop.
1988 Movie Only
- Actually Pretty Funny: Kei's reaction to Kaneda and Kai's banter about the latter's bike being on fire.
- A God Am I: Akira and Tetsuo to some degree; at the end, possibly A Universe Am I.
- Air-Vent Passageway: Kaneda tries to escape custody through the ventilation duct. He doesn't get far though.
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Ending possibility.
- Adaptation Distillation: A feature length film adaptation of a 2,000-page manga. The film follows the manga fairly closely up until Tetsuo gets to Akira, then jumps right over the post-apocalyptic plot arc that took up half the manga and goes straight into Testuo losing control of his power in the finale.
- Battle Aura: Tetsuo sports a red one during his battles.
- Berserk Button: "Grrr, Don't ever call me old man you little punk! You listen here kid; I'm only 25 years old, I'm not even married yet! So watch your mouth, get out of here!"
- Blown Across the Room: Happens twice near the end when the Colonel shoots Tetsuo with a handgun and Kaneda shoots him with a laser rifle (which have no impact at all).
- Brick Joke: While Kaneda and his gang are at the police station, a fanatical member of La Résistance tries to bomb the place with a grenade. The grenade fizzles, and the resistance member gets beat up by police. After Kaneda leaves the station with Kei, the grenade goes off.
- Bullet Dodges You: Tetsuo's power renders bullets useless.
- Combining Mecha: The psychic kids' giant killer toys are actually constructed from lots of normal-sized toys.
- Dead All Along: Tetsuo digs up Akira's cryogenic capsule only to find out that he's nothing but preserved organs.
- Delayed Explosion: The dud grenade Brick Joke.
- Demoted to Extra
- Lady Miyako, a big key player in the fight against Tetsuo in the manga, gets roughly ten seconds of screen time in which she praises Tetsuo, as she believes he's the new Akira. And then she's quickly killed when Tetsuo takes out the bridge she's standing on.
- The Joker gets this as well. Though he appears in one of the film's most memorable scenes battling Kaneda and his gang, that's the only scene he appears in, whereas in the manga he becomes a fairly major character, being forced to deal with Tetsuo's antics when the latter usurps control of the Clown gang so he can get drugs and towards the end of the series becomes a valuable ally of the heroes.
- Department of Redundancy Department: From the Animaze dub: "Those are army helicopters! It's the army!"
- Dies Wide Open: Nezu and Ryu.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: A giant teddy bear with a snake arm that gushes milk? That can't mean anything.
- Due to the Dead: Kaneda ritually crashes Yamagata's bike, sending it to the afterlife after him, immediately after learning of his death at the hands of Tetsuo, in a possible Shout-Out to Stunts.
- Early-Bird Cameo: Kaori shows up along with the girls dating the rest of Kaneda's Capsule gang in this version; she and Tetsuo are already together.
- Foreshadowing: If you look carefully during the scene where Tetsuo first begins to hallucinate you can see a series of events that happen later in the movie like Tetsuo's rampage on the city, his fight with Kaneda, Tetsuo's mutation, Kaori's death, and his flashbacks to when he first met Kaneda.
- Gainax Ending: After two fairly straightforward acts of action and exposition, the finale of the film is surreal.
- Genre Shift: While the manga focused on mainly on action and political intrigue, the movie has a lot more psychological horror involved.
- Glass-Shattering Sound: The creepy child early on, in response to the death of his companion.
- Hair-Raising Hare: Giant killer plush rabbits in this case. As well as giant killer teddy bears and toy cars!
- Ironic Nursery Tune: The jingling toy bells and squeaking as the killer toys attack.
- Jaw Drop: Kaneda and the Colonel each have noticeable, drawn out ones upon witnessing Tetsuo's mutation.
- Lip Lock: The film's Mouth Flaps are unusually well animated for a Japanese cartoon, which has caused translators no shortage of grief.
- The Men in Black: Practically the quintessential definition of this trope appears briefly to intimidate the Capsules when Kaneda is being taken away a second time. Black suit, black tie, white shirt, black opaque glasses, mute, and seemingly 7 feet tall.
- Mood Whiplash
- The juxtaposition of the happy cartoon dogs with the ravenous police dogs that get shot very messily in short order.
- For a film with so much hard violence and horror, Kaneda has a surprising number of slapstick comedy bits. That is also common in the manga.
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: The film's soundtrack combines ancient Buddhist chants and instrumentals with futuristic techno.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In the end, the psychic kids summon Akira to take out Tetsuo, in the process destroying Neo-Tokyo. In the manga, Neo-Tokyo had already been destroyed by Akira at this point.
- Non-Serial Movie: A sequel was never made even though the manga continued long after the events of the anime.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Barkeeping: When Tetsuo goes to a bar after gaining his powers, the bartender is cleaning out a glass.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: There are some Latin lyrics in "Requiem".
- Ominous Pipe Organ: Requiem again.
- Overtook the Manga: The movie came out in 1988, but the manga was not finished until 1990. Although the film was mostly based on the first two parts of the manga, the film and book have very similar endings.
- Pillar of Light: The laser coming down from SOL (the Japanese orbital satellite).
- Pragmatic Adaptation: Due to the necessity of cutting down a 2,000-page manga into a feature length movie, the film cut out the whole post-apocalyptic story arc that took up about half of the manga series.
- Product Placement: Ever-present. Kaneda's motorcycle has company logos plastered all over it, including Canon, Citizen, Shoei and Arai. It also sports a US Air Force roundel.
- Real Men Wear Pink: Kaneda wears a pink polo shirt, though this wasn't quite as girly to audiences in The Eighties.
- Recurring Riff: Tetsuo's leitmotif begins with a few hard notes, and develops into something way more Badass.
- Reluctant Mad Scientist: Dr. Onishi. He ignores an order to shut down his work if Tetsuo's vital signs get out of hand. Nobody ever blames him for the outcome in the manga, but the Colonel gets angry at him in the film.
- Reveal Shot: The police station where the biker gang is being held looks like one corridor and one questioning room. As they go to leave, the camera pans out revealing that there are dozens of interrogation rooms where suspects are being questioned or beaten.
- Rocket Ride: The hovercrafts in the sewers.
- R-Rated Opening: Within the first ten minutes, we get cursing, drug references, and plenty of blood from the gangs or the rebel that gets gunned down in the opening by a handful of soldiers with machine guns. In fact, Tokyo explodes before the credits are even finished.
- Say My Name: "KANNNEEEEDDDAAA!!" and "TETTTTTSUUUUOOO!!" make up most of it, but there's plenty of name-calling in it.
- Sealed Evil In A Six Pack: The title character was dissected and placed in a series of vials. He came back in a more ethereal form.
- Sitting on the Roof: At Kaori's dorm.
- Snowy Screen of Death: The TV coverage of the military's takeover of Neo-Tokyo.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: The end credits in the 2001 edition feature the song "Tokyo Shoe Shine Boy" (briefly heard in the background during one scene in the movie) over the second portion of the end credits.
- They Call Me Mister Tibbs: "That's ''Mister'' Kaneda to you, punk!"
- Took a Level in Badass: Kei, after she was taken on by the three kids, and also Kaneda in the final confrontation with Tetsuo.
- Viewers Are Morons: Handy instant exposition by Kaisuke for those viewers who weren't really paying attention; while sitting outside the interrogation room with the gang:
Kaisuke: So, the army's working with the police... To hunt down anti-government groups, or so it seems. (beat) Yeah, that's it. (nobody responds)