Adaptation Displacement: The movie is undoubtedly more well-known than the original manga, in part because the source material had a really screwed up release. Marvel Comics bought the rights to translate it/bring it over to America when the movie was released in the US in 1989, but Katsuhiro Otomo's decision to redraw the last 1/6th of the manga led to the US version seeing a massive delay in the publication of the last eight issues and by the time the last issue came out in 1995, the series was out of print as well as the trade paperbacks, of which only 10 of the proposed 13 volumes ever saw the light of day. It was not until Dark Horse Comics got the rights to the series in 2000 that the manga received wide release, in terms of availability.
Hollywood Homely: A prominent example is Kai (aka Kaisuke), the necktie-clad biker from Kaneda's gang. Like Tetsuo, he's not drawn in Mr. Fanservice fashion, but a lot of people call him the Bishōnen.
I Am Not Shazam: People who have seen covers for the movie or comic often mistake either Kaneda or Tetsuo for Akira since they are more prominent.
Also, there is a literal example in the first dubbed version of the movie. When Tetsuo hears the name Akira in his head, he shouts "I'm not Akira!". In the second dub, he says "I don't know who that is!"
And Akira's doomsday cult in the movie think he's Akira after he shows off his powers battling the army, a misconception Tetsuo is in no hurry to correct.
Jerkass Woobie: Tetsuo's had a pretty sucky life. And then he pulled all kinds of shit on others.
Tetsuo crosses it when he kills Yamagata in the film and manga; earlier on in the manga than in the film.
The executives on the council cross it when they put an investigation into Colonel Shikishima's supposed scandals over the security of Neo Tokyo. Being put under arrest only convinces Shikishima to take immediate action and execute a coup d'état before the corrupt council can do any further damage.
The Woobie: Kaori, She's one of the few characters who actually loves and cares for Tetsuo and for simply liking the guy, she was molested by a biker gang that was rivals with Tetsuo's, is constantly shown to be in a state of sadness due to all the crap that happened to Tetsuo, and is rather cruelly killed off at the end. Tetsuo himself would be here on this list too if not for his more villainous actions.
And You Thought It Would Fail: While they were both fans of the film, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas thought the film would be unmarketable in the United States. The movie became a cult hit, and its arrival in the West became one of the defining moments in leading to the growth of the anime market outside of Japan.
Despite the original release having warnings that it was not for children and the re-release being rated R, you can still find stores that put this in the "family" shelf. Other stores at least put it in the dedicated "Anime" section, leaving it to the person browsing the shelf to at least use their own discretion when searching for stuff to show their children.
The movie is sometimes cited as the one thing that first proved there was potential for animation beyond the ghetto.
Gateway Series: Towards adult-oriented anime and animation in general. Remember, the movie hit western theaters around the time that The Little Mermaid (the film that kicked off the Disney Renaissance) was first playing, so its arrival outside of Japan came at the perfect time.
Genre Turning Point: In the West, the film kicked off interest in anime for adults. Ironically, its financial failure in its home country of Japan meant that it was not only almost a Genre-Killer, but alongside Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise — which saw a similar notorious failure to live up to box office expectations — it even threatened to put the entire future of anime production in serious jeopardy.
The story is in a backdrop of the 2020 Neo-Tokyo Olympics, and Akira was apparently below the unfinished Olympic stadium. On September 9, 2013, Tokyo was selected as the host of the 2020 Summer Olympics.
In addition, the giant teddy bear and rabbit resemble Freddy and Bonnie respectively from Five Nights at Freddy's, even invading the main character's darkened room with murderous intent.
I Liked It Better When It Sucked: The first Spanish dub was based on the American Streamline dub, and it contained a number of artistic license and changes to the original material. When the movie was redubbed by Animaze in United States, so it did in Spain, but with an important difference: while the new Spanish dub was much more faithful to the original, its casting and performances were comparatively horrid. Naturally, this produced a strong backlash from the fans, who pointed it that, although the old dub was bad, it had at least some effort put and was more enjoyable. It took a third one with much more money invested to finally give AKIRA a respectable dub in Spain.
Mainstream Obscurity: The film is very iconic, but there are plenty of people who are familiar with the major scenes and the memes they've spawned (see below) but have never actually watched the movie themselves and have no idea what the plot is about.
Romantic Plot Tumor: Just narrowly averted with Kaneda and Kei's romance, because it's not really developed that much onscreen.
"Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: The 1988 dub, which was well regarded when it first came out, but is disliked by newer fans who are used to hearing the 2001 dub or original Japanese audio. Likewise, older fans who are used to the 1988 dub dislike the 2001 dub.
Signature Scene: The one scene where Kaneda stops his motorcycle. It's the single most famous scene that has been homaged countless times and will be remembered forever in pop culture. Bonus points if they use their foot as a brake.
There's also Tetsuo's mutation at the end of the movie.
They Changed It, Now It Sucks!: Many fans of the manga have this complaint because the film tries to cram the first third of the manga into a single movie (many for first two acts it has plotlines following three to four characters at a time) and doesn't use the rest due to a divergence in plot.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Kaori is Tetsuo's girlfriend and probably one of the few people who really understood/cared for him. She only gets a few lines and screen-time before being killed off unceremoniously.