Akira (1988 film)  

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"The British Film Institute describes Akira as a vital cornerstone of the cyberpunk genre, along with Blade Runner and Neuromancer."--Sholem Stein

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Akira is a 1988 Japanese animated cyberpunk action film directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, written by Otomo and Izo Hashimoto, and featuring the voices of Mitsuo Iwata, Nozomu Sasaki, Mami Koyama and Taro Ishida. The screenplay is based on Otomo's manga Akira, focusing mainly on the first half of the story.

The film depicts a dystopian version of the city of Tokyo in the year 2019, with cyberpunk tones. The plot focuses on teenage biker Tetsuo Shima (Nozomu Sasaki) and his psychic powers, and the leader of his biker gang, Shotaro Kaneda (Mitsuo Iwata). Kaneda tries to prevent Tetsuo from releasing the imprisoned psychic Akira. While most of the character designs and settings were adapted from the original 2182-page manga epic, the restructured plot of the movie differs considerably from the print version, pruning much of the last half of the manga. The film became a hugely popular cult film and is widely considered to be a landmark in Japanese animation.


In 2019, following a world war triggered by the sudden destruction of Tokyo on July 16, 1988, Neo-Tokyo is plagued by corruption, anti-government protests, terrorism, and gang violence. During a violent protest, the hot-headed Shōtarō Kaneda leads his vigilante bōsōzoku gang, the Capsules, against the rival Clown gang. Kaneda's best friend Tetsuo Shima inadvertently crashes his motorcycle into Takashi, an ESPer who escaped from a government laboratory with the aid of a resistance organization. Assisted by fellow ESPer Masaru, Japan Self-Defense Forces Colonel Shikishima recaptures Takashi, takes Tetsuo away, and arrests the Capsules. While being interrogated by the police, Kaneda meets Kei, an activist within the resistance movement, and tricks the authorities into releasing her with his gang.

At a secret government facility, Shikishima and his head of research Doctor Ōnishi discover that Tetsuo possesses powerful psychic abilities similar to Akira, the ESPer responsible for the singularity that destroyed Tokyo in 1988. ESPer Kiyoko forewarns Shikishima of Neo-Tokyo's impending destruction, but the city council dismisses the Colonel's concerns, leading him to consider killing Tetsuo to prevent another cataclysm. Meanwhile, Tetsuo escapes from the hospital, steals Kaneda's motorcycle, and prepares to run away from Neo-Tokyo with his girlfriend Kaori, but they are ambushed by the Clowns. The Capsules save Tetsuo and Kaori, but Tetsuo begins suffering intense headaches and hallucinations and is taken back to the hospital.

After overhearing their plan to rescue Tetsuo and the other ESPers, Kaneda joins Kei's resistance cell. At the hospital, the ESPers try to kill Tetsuo via hallucinations, but the attempt is thwarted. He then searches for them in a fit of rage, easily killing any orderlies and militiamen blocking his path. The resistance group infiltrates the hospital, and Kiyoko draws Kei and Kaneda into the ESPers' futile attempts to stop Tetsuo. Kiyoko tells Tetsuo that Akira, located in cryonic storage beneath the Olympic Stadium's construction site, could help Tetsuo with his powers. After rejecting everyone around him, especially Kaneda, Tetsuo escapes the hospital and hunts for Akira.

Kei, used by Kiyoko as a medium to stop Tetsuo, breaks her and Kaneda out of military custody. Colonel Shikishima stages a coup d'état against Neo-Tokyo's government and directs all of its military forces to destroy Tetsuo at any cost. At the Capsules' former hangout Harukiya Bar, Tetsuo confronts gangmates Yamagata and Kaisuke over Kaneda's bike and kills Yamagata after his protest. Kaisuke relays the news to Kaneda, who vows to avenge his friend, while Takashi brings Kei away. Tetsuo, mistaken for Akira by cultists, rampages through Neo-Tokyo, arriving at Akira's cryogenic storage dewar under the stadium. Kei fights Tetsuo, but he defeats her and exhumes Akira, only to find that his remains have been sealed in jars for scientific research.

Kaneda confronts Tetsuo and fights him with a laser rifle but fails to stop him. The Colonel fires an orbital weapon at Tetsuo, destroying his arm, but Tetsuo destroys the weapon. The Colonel and Kaori approach the stadium, where Tetsuo, now with a robotic arm, is in great pain and losing control over his powers. Kaori attempts to restrain Tetsuo while the Colonel offers to return him to the hospital, heal his injuries, and help control his abilities, which Tetsuo refuses. Kaneda and again attacks Tetsuo who, weakened from the missing arm, mutates into a gigantic mass of flesh, engulfing Kaneda and killing Kaori. As the mass grows, the ESPers revive Akira to stop it. Akira creates a singularity, drawing Tetsuo and Kaneda into another dimension. The ESPers teleport the Colonel to a safe distance as the singularity destroys Neo-Tokyo. They agree to rescue Kaneda, knowing that they will not be able to return to this dimension as a result.

In the singularity, Kaneda experiences Tetsuo and the ESPers' childhoods, including his and Tetsuo's friendship and the ESPers' psychic training before Tokyo's destruction. The ESPers return Kaneda to Neo-Tokyo, informing him that Akira will take Tetsuo to safety and that Kei is developing psychic powers. After witnessing the birth of a universe, Doctor Ōnishi is crushed by his laboratory. After consuming most of Neo-Tokyo, the singularity disappears and water floods the crater left in its place. Kaneda, mourning the loss of Tetsuo, discovers that Kei and Kaisuke have survived, and they ride off into the ruins while the Colonel watches the sunrise. Tetsuo humbly introduces himself at another unspecified plane of life and triggers the creation of a universe, transcending the limitations of human existence.

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