The movie is one of the last animated features to use traditional cel animation exclusively and it's entirely made by hand. Its status as a landmark in animation and cultural status in Japan has made further adaptations impossible, including multiple attempts at live-action films and animated series.
The movie covers about 1/3 of the manga, excluding the urban battle for control of Akira and the aftermath following the second "Akira" event, which happens much later in the story.
Unusually for anime, the film uses the western "pre-lay" style of recording first and then animating the mouths to match. This has made convincingly dubbing it into other languages very difficult.
The movie uses a record-breaking 327 colors, 50 of which were created exclusively for the film (due to the majority of the film taking place at night, a setting animators commonly avoid due to increased color requirements).
Accidentally Correct Writing: Both film and manga depict Japan, although the country is never mentioned, getting ready to host the 2020 Summer Olympics, 25 years before the announcement was made at the 125th IOC Session in Buenos Aires, Argentina that Tokyo will indeed host the 2020 Olympics in real life.
Acting for Two: The Streamline dub of the 1988 movie 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.
Actor-Inspired Element: Considering Kai's voice actor in the Streamline dub is Jewish, it's not all that surprising to hear him directly compare the riot police descending upon the shopping center following a terrorist bombing to the Gestapo in that dub.
Development Hell: There have been several attempts to produce a live-action version by Hollywood studios, but they've never gotten beyond the pre-production stage. With all of the controversy about Western actors playing Asian roles, it's probably for the better.
The movie has two English dubs: one from 1988 and one from 2001. The 1988 dub was created by Kodansha for the film's initial US release and was distributed by Streamline Pictures, which resulted in it being referred to as the "Streamline dub", despite Streamline Pictures not actually producing it (it didn't help that many of its cast members would go on to do many dubs that Streamline did produce). The 2001 dub was done by Animaze for Pioneer's DVD release of the film and was created so the DVD would pass THX Certification. Until 2013, only the 2001 dub was distributed in the US, with the 1988 dub appearing on UK and Australian DVD releases. Both dubs would eventually appear on the 25th Anniversary Edition DVD and Blu-ray in 2013, which was distributed by Funimation. Fans tend to agree that it doesn't matter which one you prefer because they're both excellent quality.
There's also two French dubs.
In Latin America, there's four different dubs: Three of them dubbed in Mexiconote One for home video, one of the defunct Locomotion network, and another one for Netflix. The first two were dubbed in Mexico City, while the Locomotion one was done in Cuernavaca. and another one in Argentina. The Argentinian dub was used only in South America, while the Mexican ones were used in the entire region.
Spain used to have dueling dubs in the form of the one produced by Manga Films and the one by Selecta Visión. The former was poorly translated and contained changes to the original, but it had some important actors and was well acted. The second was created to correct the first and was more faithful, but it was awfully cheap and most of its voices were either miscast or badly acted. The war between both only ended when Selecta Visión redubbed it with much more money on the line and finally gave the movie a good Spanish version.
The manga has been translated and released twice into English: it was first done in the early 90s by Marvel's Epic Comics, and released the entire manga flipped and in color with the approval of Otomo, who selected the digital colorist himself. This release is notable for being revolutionary in comic book coloring in that it was the first regular series to be colored digitally. The entire manga was released across 38 comics, but the collected editions were short-lived: only 6 of the planned 9 paperbacks were released and 5 of the planned 6 hardbacks were released before the license expired. Dark Horse Comics later released the entire series in six giant books in their original black and white, but still flipped, and with a new translation. When their license expired, Kodansha Comics USA rescued the series, but simply reissued Dark Horse's editions under their brand. In 2017 Kodansha released a box set of the entire series in hardcover, unflipped for the first time.
Fountain of Expies: Tetsuo. At least half the psychotic, supernaturally powered youngsters in anime, videogames and even movies of the last 30-odd years owe something to the lovable little freak.
Freeze-Frame Bonus: A rare comic book example. When the agent is hospitalized and being debriefed, pay attention to the painting above the bed. Now look up the cover of Otomo's other work Domu. See any similarities? Domu shares themes with AKIRA and came out before he started working on the AKIRA story.
The original color English-language release of the manga from the late 80s/early 90s courtesy of Marvel isn't too hard to find... until you get to the last batch of issues that weren't included in the collected editions. #38 in particular can go for huge money on auction sites.
For US fans, the original 1988 movie dub that was distributed throughout the 1990s was impossible to find for years outside of old VHS and Laserdisc copies. note And the Australian DVD, but whatever.Funimation's 25th anniversary DVD and Blu-ray re-release, however, features both this and the 2001 dub on top of the original Japanese track, so this is no longer an issue. FUNimation themselves even said that they had not considered including that dub until someone who used to work at Intersound approached them at a convention and offered to give them its masters.
Old Shame: Not the manga or the movie, but rather, the Amiga adaptation of the movie, which is considered one of the worst games of all time. When one guy tracked down the developers to get an idea how the game turned out so awful, everyone who was willing to talk wanted to distance themselves from the game and the development company ICE Software as much as they could. When he attempted to contact the former heads of ICE Software (which had gone under not long after the AKIRA game was released), he was told rather loudly to "FUCK OFF".