In the year 1988, a nuclear bomb of unknown origin detonated in Tokyo. World War III broke out shortly after, and soon civilization as we knew it made a radical transformation. Thirty-one years later in 2039, a governmental project doing research on a paranormal psychic power known as “Akira” has begun to make a major breakthrough (the project began in 1988, too, if you get my drift). A young delinquent biker is infused with the power, and, well… things get pretty complicated from then on. Needless to say, all of human life lies in the balance as several forces with different agendas race to intercept Tetsuo the biker before he can do…what?
Akira Plot ( Spoiler Alert )
In Neo Tokyo, 2019, Shotaro Kaneda (Mitsuo Iwata) leads the Capsules, his bōsōzoku gang, to fight against the rival gang known as the Clowns. However, Kaneda’s best friend Tetsuo Shima (Nozomu Sasaki) is injured when he almost crashes his motorcycle into Takashi (Tatsuhiko Nakamura), a small esper. Takashi is captured by armed soldiers and Tetsuo is hospitalized. When Kaneda and his gang are interrogated, he tries to flirt with Kei (Mami Koyama), a member of a dissident underground terrorist group before being released.
Meanwhile, Colonel Shikishima (Taro Ishida) and Doctor Onishi (Mizuho Suzuki) discover that Tetsuo possesses psychic capabilities similar to Akira, a young esper who destroyed Tokyo 31 years ago. Kiyoko (Fukue Ito), another esper, has visions of Neo-Tokyo’s destruction, and the Colonel decides to kill Tetsuo. Tetsuo flees from the hospital and meets up with his girlfriend, Kaori (Yuriko Fuchizaki), and they steal Kaneda’s motorcycle. When Tetsuo and Kaori are confronted by the Clowns, Kaneda and the Capsules save them both. Tetsuo begins to suffer a psychic migraine, and Doctor Onishi has Tetsuo taken back to the hospital.
Saving Kei from being captured after a terrorist attack, Kaneda is led to the terrorists’ headquarters and cooperates with them after overhearing their plans to kill Tetsuo. Meanwhile, Takashi, Kiyoko and Masaru (Kazuhiro Kamafuji) — another Esper — unsuccessfully attempt to kill Tetsuo. Tetsuo eventually goes on a violent rampage through the hospital, intent on killing the espers. Kaneda, Kei, and the Colonel unsuccessfully try to stop Tetsuo’s rampage. Tetsuo eventually discovers that Akira is in cryonic storage below Neo-Tokyo’s new Olympic Stadium and flees again.
Kei and Kaneda are detained, but Kiyoko — using Kei as a medium — explains that Tetsuo must be stopped, and escape. Desperate to find Tetsuo, the Colonel places Neo-Tokyo under martial law. Tetsuo confronts and kills Yamagata (Masaaki Okura), a member of the Capsules. He then proceeds to destroy the city as he makes his way to the Stadium, brutally dispatching the military forces who attempt to stand in his way. Upon learning of Yamagata’s death from his friend Kai (Takeshi Kusao), Kaneda follows Tetsuo to the stadium, seeking revenge. When Tetsuo arrives at Akira’s cryonic dewar flask, he defeats Kei and exhumes the Akira vault from the ground, but discovers all that is left of Akira are glass canisters filled with his remains, his body having been subjected to numerous scientific experiments.
Kaneda confronts and unsuccessfully tries to defeat Tetsuo with an experimental laser weapon. The Colonel tries to kill Tetsuo using an orbiting space weapon, only to sever Tetsuo’s right arm. Tetsuo eventually pulls the weapon into the atmosphere and synthesizes an artificial arm from the remains while studying Akira’s organs. When Kaori arrives, Tetsuo’s psychokinetic powers have begun to cause him immense pain. The Colonel explains that the espers’ migraine-controlling drugs administered to Tetsuo are to stunt the evolution of uncontrollable abilities. Despite the Colonel’s pleas for Tetsuo to return to the hospital, Tetsuo nearly kills the Colonel, but Kaneda confronts him. Unable to control his powers, Tetsuo’s body begins to transform into a giant, shapeless mass, inadvertently killing Kaori and engulfing Kaneda.
The espers awaken Akira, who had merely grown beyond the requirement of a coherent biological form. Manifesting himself from the canisters, Akira reunites with his friends. Akira emits psychic powers, seen as a blinding ball of light that engulfs the city, which he uses to contain Tetsuo. As Akira confronts Tetsuo, the espers hurry to teleport the Colonel to safety and — over Masaru and Kiyoko’s objections —Takashi jumps into the light to rescue Kaneda. The other espers join Takashi, aware they likely will not be able to return. Kaneda experiences Tetsuo’s and the espers’ childhood memories, including how much Tetsuo trusted Kaneda as a friend and how the children were first studied before Tokyo’s destruction.
The espers remove Kaneda from the destruction and tell him that Akira will be taking Tetsuo to safety. Akira’s psychic power destroys most of Neo-Tokyo, and — after disappearing — leaves a void that is quickly filled by the ocean. Doctor Onishi is killed when his research laboratory is crushed. Kaneda awakens to discover that Kei and Kai have survived, and they drive away into the city. The Colonel walks out of the tunnel that the espers teleported him to and watches the sun rising over the destroyed city. The film ends with Tetsuo coming into full control of his powers as he initiates a Big Bang in another dimension.
The titular character. Akira was a young boy who developed transcendent psionic, god-like abilities when serving as a test subject for secret government ESP experiments in the 1980s. He subsequently lost control of this power and the ensuing blast completely annihilated Tokyo in a horrifying explosion in 1988. After the apocalyptic event, Akira was recovered and subjected to every test known to modern science, which proved unable to solve the mystery. He was dissected and placed within a cryonic chamber underneath the Neo-Tokyo Olympic Stadium.
A carefree gang leader who has a custom-modified motorcycle. Kaneda and Tetsuo have been best friends since early childhood. He is brash and not above teasing Tetsuo despite feeling affection for him as a younger brother. Upon rescuing Kei, Kaneda becomes involved in the activities of her group of anti-government guerrillas in hopes of locating Tetsuo.
Voiced by Johnny Yong Bosch (English), Clarke Cam (English), Mitsuo Iwata (Japanese).
Kaneda’s best friend since preschool and the second principal subject of the story’s theme. Tetuso is shown as a black sheep in the gang that he is part of and quietly suffers from a deeply rooted inferiority complex. Tetsuo admires Kaneda yet at the same time strongly resents his own reliance upon him. After his psychokinetic abilities manifest, Tetsuo quickly becomes Kaneda’s nemesis; he desires Kaneda’s motorcycle (a symbol of status and power) and seeks to prove himself supremely powerful, without need of protection. Eventually, his power overwhelms him.
Voiced by Joshua Seth (English), Nozomu Sasaki (Japanese).
A young revolutionary whom Kaneda meets and becomes enamored with on his quest to find Tetsuo. She is a member of an anti-government faction that Ryusaku and Nezu are also involved in. Although she does not possess preternatural abilities, Kei is manipulated by the Espers as a type of medium on several occasions.
Voiced by Wendee Lee (English), Mami Koyama (Japanese)
The current head of the ongoing government project which was responsible for inadvertently unleashing Akira’s power thirty years earlier. Appearing tough and ruthless, he is nevertheless pragmatic enough to recognize the danger Tetsuo’s fledgling powers pose and cares genuinely for the three Espers under his supervision. Amongst the other government figures depicted in the film, he is shown to be the most principled, eschewing the corruption and hedonism that typifies Neo-Tokyo, adhering instead to a strict code of soldierly honour.
Voiced by Jamieson Price (English), Taro Ishida (Japanese)
The Espers Masaru, Takashi and Kiyoko
Akira’s fellow psychic test subjects. They exhibit a variety of paranormal powers which they use to influence the course of events to the best of their ability. While individually of lesser strength than Akira or Tetsuo, their combined effort proves decisive in the story’s final confrontation. Physically, they resemble children with wrinkled faces, white hair and blue-green skin.
A government mole for the resistance movement, and member of Neo-Tokyo’s parliamentary executive council. Responsible for Takashi’s abduction by the resistance and supplying intelligence to the underground, he is nevertheless corrupt and unprincipled, and quickly turns against his erstwhile revolutionary allies in a fit of paranoia during the Colonel’s coup.
One of the most prominent members of Kaneda’s gang. He often chides Tetsuo playfully, resulting in his death when Tetsuo’s powers begin to emerge.
Voiced by Michael Lindsay (English)
Another member of Kaneda’s gang, Kai plays a minor supporting role in the eventual battle against Tetsuo. He is close friends with Yamagata and they remain together when the gang breaks up, being one of the only members to survive.
Voiced by Matt Mercer (English), Takeshi Kusao (Japanese)
Tetsuo’s girlfriend. She stands by Tetsuo even though he treats her rather harshly in the hopes of appearing tough to his friends. When Tetsuo begins his rampage through Neo-Tokyo, she follows him, and when his powers manifest and cause his body to warp and expand to grotesque proportions, she is engulfed in his flesh and crushed by his organs.
Voiced by Michelle Ruff (English), Yuriko Fuchizaki (Japanese)