Akira is a 1988 animated film by Katsuhiro Otomo. Based on his comic of the same name, Akira takes place in Neo-Tokyo and tells the story of Kaneda and Tetsuo set over a world of mass turmoil.
The film opens with what looks like a large nuclear explosion leveling Tokyo on July 16, 1988, triggering World War III. The film jumps 31 years later to Neo-Tokyo, a metropolis built within Tokyo Bay on an artificial Island. We're introduced to Shotaro Kaneda the leader of a youth motorcycle gang, The Capsules. Kaneda's friend Yamagata informs him that their rival gang, the clowns have started to move. Kaneda and the rest of the gang initiate a battle against the clowns. While that is going on a second group is trying to get a small boy safely through a large political riot.
After the person leading the boy is shot, a nearby building collapses and the boy vanishes into thin air. Tetsuo, Kaneda's best friend goes off ahead of the group and attacks a lone clown. Imediately after he almost hits the boy from earlier but his motorcycle explodes before he can. Right when Kaneda and the others reach Tetsuo, the military arrives and arrests them. They take the boy back with them as well as Tetsuo and the injured clown. Kaneda and the rest of his gang members are taken in for questioning. While there he tries to flirt wit ha member of the resistance, Kei. Eventually Kaneda, Kei and the others are released.
The movie cuts to a lab where Tetsuo is being examined after his interacton with the boy, who we now know is named Takashi. Colonel Shikishima the head of the military project is informed by Doctor Onishi that Tetsuo has immense Psychic Potential, that on the level of the titular Akira. Because of one of Kiyoko, another psychic, had a projection of the return of Akira and the destruction of Neo-Tokyo, the Colonel orders the doctor to kill Tetsuo should he approach Akira level power.
Tetsuo escapes the facility and meets his girlfriend Kaori. The next day the two steal Kaneda's motorcycle while he and the rest of the Capsules are in class. Whiel driving away the pair is assaulted by a group of clowns. Kaneda, Yamagata and the rest arrive quickly defeating the goons. While recovering, Tetsuo experiences crippling headaches and hallucinations. Doctor Onishi orders his pickup and a government van intercepts the group and takes Tetsuo back to the lab. Later that night while he is out with his friends, Kaneda witnesses a terrorist bombing. Imediately after the bombing, Kaneda sees Kei running away. Kaneda follows her and helps her evade arrest and return to the terrorists' hideout. There, he explains his relation to Tetsuo and offers to help them infiltrate the hospital holding Tetsuo.
The three espers - Takashi, Kiyoko, and Masaru - attack Tetsuo that night before his powers have a chance to develop to far. Afterward Tetsuo goes on a rampage through the facility killing dozens of guards. While this is happening Kei, Kaneda and the other Terrorists infiltrate the facility. After being attacked by guards, Kaneda and Kei arrive at the "baby room" along with the Colonel. However they are too late, Tetsuo has found out where Akira is being kept. Tetsuo warps away heading towards the Olympic Stadium under which Akira is being kept. Kaneda and Kei are captured by the military. Kiyoko, using Kei as a medium, explains to Kaneda that Tetsuo must be stopped. She then frees them from their ce ll. Tetsuo then returns to the Capsules regular hangout and Kills Yamagata and proceeds to head toward the stadium. In the process Tetsuo's actions against the military units sent to stop him, coupled with the military coup already in effect, sparks a large scale riot. When Tetsuo arrives at the stadium he is greated by Kei who is being used as a medium for the espers to fight.
After defeating Kei, Tetsuo drags Akira's Cryogenic chamber to the surface. When opened Tetsuo discovers that it contains Akiras organs preserved in jars. The Colonel explains that after destroying Tokyo, Akira was dissected and studied. Kaneda arrives at the site and attacks Tetsuo using a laser rifle he stole from a dead soldier. The two's fight is interrupted by the Colonel's use of an orbital laser. The laser manages to cut off Tetsuo's right arm. In response to this, Tetsuo flies into orbit and attacks the Laser bringing it down. After the fight,Tetsuo uses his powers to build a new arm out of scrap metal and heads into the stadium for the night.
Kaori finds her way to the stadium and tries to calm a greatly distressed Tetsuo. The colonel arrives and pleads with Tetsuo to return to the lab where they can help him to relieve the pain caused by his powers. Tetsuo declines and attacks the Colonel, but stops after the colonel retaliates. At this point Kaneda arrives along with the espers; however, Tetsuo loses control of his powers causing him to trasform into a massive blob that crushes Kaori. The espers realize that there is only one way to stop Tetsuo, call forth Akira. The three concentrate their powers and bring forth Akira's spirit still housed in his body parts. Akira's awakening causes a large explosion absorbing Tetsuo and Kaneda. The espers transport the colonel to safety and decide to use their combined powers to rescue Kaneda from the inside of the explosion. Inside the blast, Kaneda witnesses both Tetsuo's and the Espers memories. Kaneda is removed from the blast and the espers tell him that Akira is taking Tetsuo away. After the blast Kaneda wakes up and rejoins Kei and his friend Kai who then proceed to ride of into the remains of the city. The film ends with a picture of a big bang and Tetsuo provides the final line of the film, "I am Tetsuo."
The setting of the film is a degrading dystopia, all the classic Cyberpunk elements are present. Neo-Tokyo is filled with overpopulation, political strife, youth gangs and oppressive control. However while a traditional cyberpunk work through and through, Akira gives us the view of both sides of the conflict. Our main characters Kaneda and Tetsuo are disaffected youths, while on the other hand the story also follows Colonel Shikishima; the leader of the Military arm of Neo-Tokyo. From these two angles we get a much more complete view of Neo-tokyo.
Many Cyberpunk works feature hackers as protagonists, Akira one the other hand does not. However, while not hackers, Kaneda and Tetsuo are both delinquents and follow the traditional outcast role of the protagonist of Cyberpunk. On the other hand Akria also has hints of proto-Post-Cyberpunk in that the Colonel is just as much of a protagonist as Tetsuo and Kaneda.
Akira takes a show, don't tell approach to story telling. Many parts of it are completely silent, most famously the opening scene, to increase the tension. The score is largely classical, at times the vocal sections of the score reflect the on screen action. For example near the end of the film when Tetsuo and Kaneda are fighting, the vocals and drum beat provide a feeling of labored breathing giving the fight more impact on the audience.
Unlike many Cyberpunk works, Akira deals with themes of Power. Personal power and corruption as well as the driving forces in a person (the "Will to Power"). These themes are presented in numerous ways. One example is Tetsuo's use of his Psychic abilities as they mature and develop as well as his subsequent lose of control. Another example is the Colonel. Unlike Tetsuo, the Colonel starts in a position of immense power only to have it slowly slip away as he attempts to hold on to it. Tetsuo is also depicted as having an inferiority complex. When his powers unlock he starts using them to lash out and to assert that he isn't a weakling that relies on Kaneda's help.
The characters of Colonel Shikishima and Kaneda add to the film a juxtaposition of ideals and methods thanks to the differing natures of their characters. While both are leaders, one of the military and the other of a bike gang, they both are relatively similar in their drive throughout the movie; but they both have differing ways of going about these goals. Admittedly the scope of their reasons for doing so are different, the end results are the same.
The film references a number of historical attitudes and settings in creating its world. The Post World War II economic revival of Japan as well as the attitude towards Nuclear War play a large part in setting up the world. By referencing these events and ideas, Neo-Tokyo is grounded into reality and adds to the other worldliness of it at the same time.
Akira article at Wikipedi
Akira at the Internet Movie Database