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's works.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 Streamline Pictures 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 Spoilers 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.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.
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.
AmbiguouslyGayngster: Kaisuke is a short biker punk who tosses rival gang members twice his size through restaurant windows and dodges Kill Sat beams on his motorcycle. He's also one of the less scruffy-looking characters, has no girlfriend, and seems to be very concerned about the lives of his fellow Capsules. In both manga and anime, he actually glomps Kaneda upon learning he's still alive before Kei can get her hug in.
Animal Motifs: Mr. Nezu (Japanese for "rat"), a small, greedy, cowardly man with big teeth.
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.
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. Honorable mention goes to the leader of the Clown Gang who apparently has a motorcycle with cruise control and auto-steering.
In the movie, anyway. In the manga the one riding his bike without hands is Tetsuo, and he's using his psychic powers to steer it.
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.
Commented upon 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."
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.
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.
Motifs: 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.
No Communities Were Harmed: "Neo" Tokyo. Except for the fact that in order to build "Neo" Tokyo, original Tokyo must be obliterated. And oh, how it is.
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.
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.
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.
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 Glomp: Kaneda gets a big ol' glomp from Kaisuke when the latter sees that he's alive.
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
Acting for Two: The Streamline dub had many of its voice actors taking on multiple roles. Barbara Goodson was the voice of Takashi and Kaori, Bob Bergen was both Masaru and Kaisuke, and Tony Pope was Talking to Himself in several scenes as Yamagata, Colonel Shikishima and Nezu.
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.
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.
Combining Mecha: The psychic kids' giant killer toys are actually constructed from lots of normal-sized toys.
Cyberpunk Is Techno: Next to Ghost in the Shell, quite possibly one of the biggest-ever aversions of this trope. While a few pieces contain synths and a techno-ish sound, most consist of traditional percussion instruments and prayer-like chanting. The soundtrack was composed by the musical collective Geinoh Yamashirogumi who has a repertoire of this style of music (though not just this style of music).
Taken together with Ghost in the Shell it might be better to say that Japanese Cyberpunk Is Creepy Shinto Music.
Dead All Along: Tetsuo digs up Akira's cryogenic capsule only to find out that he's nothing but preserved organs.
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 the new Akira. And she has a man's voice... And then she's killed...
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.
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.
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.
Newsreader:(over clips of protestors being beaten by police officers amidst burning vehicles) A skirmish has broken out between student protestors and riot police. There appear to be some casualties. Next! Happy Cartoon Dog: Woof! (a cheery and bright-colored dog food commercial plays)
And then a juxtaposition back to the two snarling and vicious looking police dogs chasing the rebel down the street.
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.
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.
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.
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)
A Child Shall Lead Them: After Neo-Tokyo is destroyed in the second awakening, Akira is dubbed Emperor and becomes the nominal ruler of half of the city. It's actually his 15-year-old "Prime Minister", Tetsuo who calls the shots.
Action Survivor: Kaisuke lacks the fighting skill and grit of most other characters, but is one of the few characters to survive the entire story.
America Saves the Day: Averted. The Americans dispatch spies and watch the situation closely but spend most of the manga too afraid to act against Akira. When they finally do, their actions are either fruitless or actively harmful to the citizens of Neo-Tokyo.
Angst Nuke: Happens several times. In book three, Akira's traumatized reaction to the death of Takashi sets off a massive explosion of psychic energy that levels most of the city. Later, Tetsuo rises into the sky and supernovas after enduring painful withdrawal from power-inhibiting drugs, signifying that he has awakened. May or may not have been the nature of Akira's first awakening which destroyed old Tokyo, as the circumstances were never fully explained.
Flashback: It's really scarce in the manga, as the characters are physically subjected to intentional in-universe flashbacks (such as Kaneda witnessing his own first encounter with Tetsuo, and being forced to make psyonic jumps at various points of the story which are actually lampshaded earlier, both after being absorbed by the Black Domes); curiously enough, these are not there for the convenience of storytelling. Arguably, one of the only true flashbacks is Ryu's reminiscing about his friend's early death when descending to Akira's cryogenic holdout.
Another flashback is presented after the moment the first Black Dome occurs (decades before the main story) showing the surviving Espers coming out of the mud from the crater.
For Science!: The Juvenile-A team study the events in Neo Tokyo mostly out of scientific curiosity.
From Bad to Worse: Happens to the citizens of Neo Tokyo in pretty much all of the second half of the manga after Akira destroys most of Neo Tokyo. By the end of the manga, things are only looking up slightly, the general attitude being that the survivors know how much worse it could really be (and on the whole they're better people and a bunch of jerks get what they deserve).
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.
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.
Infant Immortality: Averted during the attack on Miyako's Temple, when one of Tetsuo's followers shoots a young boy trying to protect his mother.
There are also numerous children's skeletons in the ruins of Neo-Tokyo.
The Starscream: Tetsuo's Aide, who stages a coup toward the end of the story. Justified due to Tetsuo's Ax-Crazy-ness.
Mugging the Monster: A newly empowered Tetsuo is cornered by members of a rival motorcycle gang just after escaping from the hospital.
Must Have Nicotine: The Colonel uses cigarettes to bribe a scientist suffering from nicotine withdrawal into working for him.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Tetsuo seeks the advice of Lady Miyako, who tells him that his destiny is to become as powerful as Akira. She says that in order to do this he must stop taking the pills that awaken psychic potential and inhibit its growth. Her plan is to use Tetsuo's power to check Akira. He takes her advice to heart. What she didn't tell him was that if he quit taking the drugs and pushed himself too hard, he could lose control of it, putting himself and the rest of the world in danger. When Tetsuo learns this the hard way, he's justifiably angry at the set-up and calls her out on it.
Kaneda and Kai borrow a couple of motorcycles from Joker; then, Tetsuo blows up a big chunk of the moon and a tidal wave floods the underground where Kaneda and his scouting party are. Kaneda has to return the motorcycles to Joker with a severe case of saltwater damage. Joker, predictably is not to happy about the state of his machines.
Nothing Is the Same Anymore: The second half of the story. Ignoring the numerous changes in the individual characters, the conflict has become a post-apocalyptic showdown between the followers of Lady Miyako and Akira. Also of note is foreign involvement.
Occupiers Out of Our Country: Soldiers of the Great Akira Empire resist foreign intervention so effectively that they turn half of Neo-Tokyo into a hermit kingdom. Later, after the final showdown between the Akira Empire and Miyako's forces, Kaneda and his fellow survivors gather under the banner of the newly-formed Great Tokyo Empire and chase off UN peacekeepers as a threat to their country's sovereignty.
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.
Pietà Plagiarism: Tetsuo carried Kaori's lifeless body around after she's shot to death.
Practical Currency: A tavern serving the local refugee population takes things like batteries as currency.
Progressive Era Montage: The spread in the last two pages of the manga provides a remarkable example that can only be done in the medium of comics. Kaneda and his motorcycle gang ride through the ruined streets of Tokyo toward the horizon, and as the reader's eyes move upward on the page, the buildings metaphorically rebuild themselves until, at the top of the page, the future city in the distance has become even greater than before.
Psycho Serum: A drug that either kills or awakens psychic powers, but also holds them back from developing too far, as Miyako reveals to Tetsuo. He quits them.
Kaneda after the timeskip. He is assumed to be dead after falling into Akira's psychic blast at the end of volume 3, but at the end of volume 4 he is transported back along with various other buildings that had fallen into the blast as well.
Also happens to Tetsuo in Volume 3. 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.
Resist The Beast: Tetsuo attempts to get his painfully mutating body under his control again. When it doesn't work, he tells Kaori to run as far as she can.
Wham Episode: Volume 3 ends with Akira destroying Neo-Tokyo the same way as the original thirty years before.
What Happened to the Mouse?: In the first volume of the manga, Nurse Hoken tells Kaneda she might be pregnant, and then is never seen again. It's possible (if not probable) she was killed at the end of Volume 3, but it's never specified.