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 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 the first third of the manga, while simultaneously removing plotlines and incorporating plot lines from later in the manga and so on.
Being over 2000 pages in six hefty volumes, the story the original manga tells is much longer than the film, more violent, more political and more comprehensible. Critical plot developments in the film are often Late Arrival Spoilers in the manga.
A Hollywood Live Action Adaptation has long been in the works, starting in 2002 when Warner Bros. acquired the rights. Early script reviews indicate a close adherence to the manga's storyline despite the Cultural Translation, Race Lift and Dawson Casting. Cracked.com claimed to have received the actual script, which did not sit well with the fans. After being stuck in Development Hell for the longest time, it was officially greenlit by Warner Bros., with Jaume Collet-Serra as director. An all-star cast began being assembled, including at times Kristen Stewart, Gary Oldman and Helena Bonham Carter. However, this production imploded and was "shut down" in early 2012. A once-more-revised script surfaced in 2013, and Collet-Serra mentioned not long afterward that he'd been contacted about another try at the project. However, as of early 2014, the film remains in Development Hell, and in an interview with Comingsoon.net Collet-Serra offered some... interesting opinions on what he saw as the fundamental flaws and weaknesses of both Akira and Japanese fiction as a whole, garnering him considerable criticism from journalists who openly wondered why he'd spent several years of his life on a project for which he apparently felt no respect.
Not to be mistaken with Akira Ishida, Akira Toriyama (author of Dragon Ball), Akira Kurosawa (Japan's greatest film director), 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.
- Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Neo-Tokyo's sewers are spacious enough to patrol them with flying craft.
- AcCENT Upon the Wrong SylLABle: A-kira, not A-ki-ra. And Ka-ney-da, not Canada.
- 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.
- Ambiguously Gayngster: 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.
- Analog Punk: Akira takes place in 2019, yet newspapers and chunky computers without touch-screen are still in use. Considering The Tokyo Fireball likely held back a portion of technological evolution, it seems justified.
- Animal Motifs: Mr. Nezu (Japanese for "rat"), a small, greedy, cowardly man with big teeth.
- Apocalypse How: Regional catastrophe.
- Apocalypse Wow: First, the prologue that depicts the destruction of "old" Tokyo. After that, the anime and manga diverge.
- Black Comedy: From time to time...
- Body Horror: Tetsuo's horrific mutation scene. And how.
- Captain Ersatz: Tetsuo gets a nice ton of Shout-Outs 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.
- Cool Bike: Essentially every member of the biker gangs have cool bikes but special mention has to go to Kaenda's souped-up red bike that has glowing wheels. It's often displayed on merchandise. Honorable mention goes to the leader of the Clown Gang who apparently has a motorcycle with cruise control and auto-steering.
- Crapsack World: Tokyo is a nuclear wasteland with roaming biker gangs, a corrupt near-facist government, mass riots and a rebellion that isn't all that far removed from the government in terms of morality. That's just the initial setting.
- Creepy Child: Kyoko, Takashi and Masaru. Made it 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.
- Dramatic Chase Opening: The story starts with Kaneda's gang chasing the Clown Gang through Neo-Tokyo.
- 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 Backstory.
- For Science!: The reason why the government started experimenting with psychic powers in the first place.
- Friendly Target: Yamagata.
- Goal-Oriented Evolution: The movie relegates this idea to a Hand Wave.
- Government Conspiracy: The government engineers children with psychic near-godlike 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.
- Kill the Cutie: Poor, poor Takashi and Kaori...
- La Résistance: Kei and Ryu's rebellion.
- 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 1990's, 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 Brothers 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. Andrew Lazar has stated that the film is not dead and is in fact a priority project for Warner Bros. Pictures, and when it does go into production, it will be very high budgeted. Screenwriters Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby are currently working on the script. Gary Whitta has revealed that he has no idea whether they are re-working his script or starting from scratch. NY Magazine has recently stated that Warner Brothers is in negotiations with the Hughes Brothers to direct the film. On June 17, 2010, Lazar said that a new writer had been hired and that the movie was being fast tracked. He also stated that the first movie would be based on volumes 1–3 and a second movie would be based on volumes 4–6. The film is cancelled as of January 2012.
- 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.
- Meaningful Name: Nezu. It means "rat".
- Mind Over Matter: The source of Tetsuo and Akira's powers.
- Mind Screw: The story is highly disturbing with many elements left up to interpretation.
- New Neo City: Neo-Tokyo.
- 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 nut cult who attack the relief workers.
- No New Fashions in the Future: It's 2019, but the fashions of most people still look like they did in The Eighties; the girls with the 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.
- Parental Abandonment: Tetsuo; no doubt also Kaneda and the others.
- Power Glows: Anything/anyone that makes things blow up tends to glow just before it happens.
- 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 Seven Hundred Years Old: Takashi, Kiyoko and Masaru. Closer to Never Grew Up, but with shades (wrinkles?) of this.
- Say My Name: "KANEDAAAAA!" "TETSUOOOO!"
- Scenery Porn/Scenery Gorn/Technology Porn: Well, indeed.
- Schrödinger's Cast: Takashi lives in the movie, but dies 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: Kaneda's full name is the same as the Kid Hero from Gigantor.
- Smug Snake: Nezu and Tetsuo's Aide.
- Sphere of Destruction: The black dome that wipes out 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).
- The Tokyo Fireball: Provides the page image.
- 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).
- Vice City: Neo-Tokyo is filled with crime and corruption.
- Your Head Asplode: 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 antics when the latter's bike explodes. It was one of the few signs in the movie where Kei was warming up to Kaneda.
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Ending possibility.
- 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!"
- 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.
- 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).
- Dead All Along: Tetsuo digs up Akira's cryogenic capsule only to find out that he's nothing but preserved organs.
- Department of Redundancy Department:
- From the Animaze dub: "Those are army helicopters! It's the army!"
- And Kaori's "we're slowing down, we're stopping now, we've stopped." Though it is kinda cute the way she says it.
- 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 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.
- Dies Wide Open: Nezu and Ryu.
- 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.
- 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.
- Engineer Exploited For Evil: Dr. Onishi. He ignores an order to shut down his work if Tetsuo's vital signs get out of hand. Tellingly, nobody ever blames him for the outcome.
- Everything's Worse with Bears: Giant, killer teddy bears in this case... and giant, killer plush rabbits too. And killer toy cars, but we don't have a trope for that.
- 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.
- A God Am I: Akira and Tetsuo to some degree; at the end, possibly A Universe Am I.
- 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 original version went with a Hong Kong Dub, while the later dub made a valiant attempt at following the animation more closely, resulting in some slightly awkward dialogue in places.
- Names to Know in Anime:
- Mitsuo Iwata (Kaneda), Nozomu Sasaki (Tetsuo), Mami Koyama (Kei), and Yuriko Fuchizaki (Kaori).
- The first dub featured Cam Clarke (Kaneda), Steve Kramer (Roy), Barbara Goodson (Takashi/Kaori), and Bob Bergen (Masaru/Kai).
- In the more recent dub, there's also Johnny Yong Bosch (Kaneda), Wendee Lee (Kei), Michelle Ruff (Kaori), and Jamieson Price (Colonel Shikishima).
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: The film's soundtrack combines ancient Buddhist chants and instrumentals with futuristic techno. It works.
- Non-Serial Movie: A sequel was never made, even though the manga continued long after the events of the anime.
- 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.
- Oh Crap: Doctor Onishi's reaction to Akria's pattern overlapping Tetsuo's. This was especially jarring as he didn't bat an eye at the potential danger Tetsuo could pose until it was too late. Whereas with this, he is pretty much panicking. It gets Up to Eleven when he witnesses data that is showing what he claims to be the birth of the universe. Of course being too close to the blast radius of Akira's explosion kills him before he could reveal it.
- Show Within a Show example:
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!
- And then a juxtaposition back to the two snarling and vicious looking police dogs chasing the rebel down the street.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: The soundtrack, though technically it's Ominous Japanese chanting. There's some latin lyrics in "Requiem".
- Pragmatic Adaptation: Depending on who you ask, but, like the dubs, it's better you don't.
- 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.
- Recurring Riff: Tetsuo's Leitmotif begins with a few hard notes, and develops into something way more Badass.
- 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.
- Say My Name: "KANNNEEEEDDDAAA!!" and "TETTTTTSUUUUOOO!!" make up most of it, but there's plenty of name-calling in it.
- 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.
- Space Is Noisy: Averted.
- They Call Me Mister Tibbs: "That's Mister Kaneda to you, punk!"
- 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)
- 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.
- Apologetic Attacker: Takashi, as he kills Mozu in self-defense.
"I'm sorry, but you don't leave me another choice..."
- Attempted Rape: Kei is ambushed by Empire soldiers, who immediately try to rape her. Emphasis on attempted. It takes Kei and Chiyoko less than five minutes to take them out.
- Badass: Chiyoko. She uses bazooka rockets as clubs. And as bazooka rockets, of course. Without the bazooka.
- Big Good: Lady Miyako.
- Blind Seer: Miyako.
- Decompressed Comic
- Deface of the Moon: To impress his empire, Tetsuo blows a hole in the moon. The tides are affected, as in not every case of this trope.
- Determinator: Chiyoko. The lengths she goes to save the esper children...
- Divided States of America: After Tetsuo takes over Neo Tokyo, he tries to establish it as the "Great Akira Empire". At the very end, Kaneda tries to establish the city as the Great Tokyo Empire.
- Doorstopper: Six volumes the size of phone books, a collective 2182 pages.
- Elite Mooks: Tetsuo's telekinetic Mooks such as Birdman and Eggman.
- Extraordinarily Empowered Girl: Sakaki, Mozu and Miki. Later, Kei.
- Faceless Goons: The non-psychic Mooks.
- For Science!: The Juvenile-A team study the events in Neo Tokyo mostly out of scientific curiosity.
- 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.
- Genius Bruiser: Subverted with Joker. Kaneda marvels at the bikes that Joker has restored, saying that he never expected Joker to be a mechanical whiz, but Kaisuke confides that Joker had help. Though he gerry-rigs a flying platform, it spends as much time broken down as actually flying.
- Genre Shift: The second half goes from cyberpunk to post-apocalypse.
- 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.
- It Got Worse: Arguably 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).
- Jigsaw Puzzle Plot
- Kick the Dog: Tetsuo taking young and pretty girls to be his sex slaves, and encouraging them to take drugs that will most likely kill them.
- Mama Bear: Chiyoko. Start praying to God if you happen to hurt anyone in her care.
- The Man Behind the Man: Tetsuo was really the one performing Akira's "miracles".
- Mauve Shirt: George Yamada, leader of the U.S Marines sent to assassinate Tetsuo and Akira.
- Mooks: The Great Tokyo Empire.
- 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.
- Path of Inspiration: The Akira cult. It's only there so Tetsuo can rule the city.
- Pietà Plagiarism: Tetsuo carried Kaori's lifeless body around after she's shot to death.
- 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.
- Put on a Bus:
- 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.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Tetsuo's reaction when Kaori was shot by his own Mooks.
- Shout-Out: When Tetsuo attacks the moon itself, one of the citizens of the Empire screams out "Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks!", a reference to King Lear.
- Sleep Cute: Subverted. Yes, Kaori looks sweet and peaceful when she sleeps with her head on Tetsuo's lap, but then we see that Tetsuo is in extreme pain, and his arm is mutating again.
- Spider Tank: The government deploy a number of small robotic spider tanks to enforce martial law after Akira is released.
- Split-Screen Reaction
- The Starscream: Tetsuo's Aide, who stages a coup toward the end of the story. Justified due to Tetsuo's Ax Crazy-ness.
- Team Mom:
- Miyako is a quite dark example.
- Kaori tries to be one as she becomes Akira's caretaker per Tetsuo's orders.
- 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.
- Read "inflammatory and borderline racist".