Akira, a Japanese animated film

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Akira, a Japanese animated film, was released in 1998. The film is an anime cyberpunk film directed and written by Katsuhiro Otomo. Shotaro Kaneda, a bike gang leader whose friend Tetsuo becomes involved in a government project known as Akira, is featured in the film, set in a futuristic version of Tokyo in 2019. Kaneda sets out to rescue his friend, but he encounters politicians, anti-government activists, a strong military leader, and a group of reckless journalists along the way. The film features a diverse cast of characters who contribute to the plot's growth. A cursory inspection of the characters reveals them in a certain way, however a close examination of the characters identifies the true nature and form of the characters. This paper will try to look at the different ways in which the characters viewed and their importance towards contributing to the main story.

The film opens with a massive atomic blast that destroys the peaceful city. In a place known as neo-Tokyo, a character known as Tetsuo is introduced (4:11) whose best friend Kaneda runs a gang of bikers with the aim of defeating their rivals through force and violence. He is one of the youngest members of the motorcycle gang who initially has the problem of being seen as an inexperienced member who is weak and introverted. Tetsuo is perceived by his friends and as a rant though this is not a good assessment of his character. His rants are however seen as a defense mechanism so as to protect himself from his friends. He develops the feeling of inferiority complex since he is usually bossed around throughout the story, this is highlighted when Kaneda stops him from killing one of the riders who had begun to beat him (30:36- 32:35), this becomes one of the contributing factors that leads him to go ballistic ones he gains powers. Many people consider him as the black sheep because of his nature. Tetsuo initial character is that of a meek person who transforms a lot throughout the film.

The character of Tetsuo is metamorphosized throughout the film. He transforms physically and psychologically due to the powers that he gains. He has a struggle where at first he rejects his powers for what he knows, this is highlighted by the scene in which he goes back for Kaneda’s bike, although he has grown in power, he seems to lack control of himself in this scene ( 29: 35). The climax of the film shows Tetsuo transforming into a combination of a man and a machine, he cannot stop his growth, and he even screams out to Kaneda for help( 1:46: 38) He realizes even though he has become powerful, authority still lies with his leader. His character transforms from an insignificant kid that is bullied, who has a severe inferiority complex to a to a teenage who is insane and possess psychic powers lashing out at all the people that took him through hell. He ends up becoming a person of mass destruction where even at some point colonel shikishima refers to him as another Akira (1: 08). His physical appearance also transforms throughout the story due to the powers that he gains. Initially, he has short black hair which grows as the story continues before it is cut again, later we see that his hair becomes white because of his powers. He also loses his right arm which he later replaces with a bionic arm.

Shotaro Kaneda is a gang leader who is a friend to Tetsuo. There are people who can argue that he is possess great leadership skills because he is a gang leader, this can however be argued that he was a leader mainly because of the futuristic motorbike that he has.. Throughout the film, he is portrayed as a symbol of defiance to traditional forms of authority such as colonel shikishima. He is portrayed as a very rebellious and anarchic character. He is very egotistical which is a feature that is described by his fellow bikers and classmates because he likes showing off in everything that he does. Another caring side of Kaneda is however revelead when he does everything that he can to save his friend Tetsuo, even in the last minute when he enters the explosion trying to save him. He acts before thinking things through, which gets him in trouble several times (58:06- 1:14). He is a very brave and independent character with a heart of gold. He has a tough and cocky exterior, but beneath it, he is a caring person who looks out for the well-being of his gang members particularly Tetsuo who is his best friend. His caring trait leads him to the point of tears when one of his gang members is killed.Kaneda is a character that goes from a selfish, womanizing person to a hero who cares deeply for the woman that he likes, in the beginning he is a total jerk to kei, but later he grows fond of her.

Another important character that is a key driving force in the lives of other characters is Akira. He is a young psychic child that was recruited by their government for a secret project known as parapsychology. The project enabled Akira to develop psychic powers, during the time he befriended other children Kiyoko and Masaru who are known as the espers. His powers grew to a point where he cannot control them, and that’s why on July 16, 1988, he destroys the original Tokyo which people think is a nuclear bomb. He is recovered by scientists who want to determine the cause of his psychic growth, they dissect him, and the remains are sealed in canisters and frozen underground to prevent further growth. He later reappears when he is summoned by the espers to help control Tetsuo powers (1:49). His appearance is however in spirit form transcending human beings spirit form, using the powers that he used to destroy Tokyo he absorbs Tetsuo, containing him in a new universe. (1:50- 1:57)

Kei is a young lady who plays a key role in the resistance. She meets up with Shotaro Kaneda while he is on his quest to find Tetsuo, his friend. A member of the anti-government operation, she is very loyal to its cause. She is a very strong-willed character, and due to that, she is able to figure out that lady miyoko was used as one of the original child tests in the government psychic project. Miyoko helps her to discover that she is a conduit for the espers telepathy and as the film ends, she starts developing psychic abilities of her own. In the fil Kei's character starts as a hardened militant who will do anything even killing to achieve the groups objective, she later turns away from violence and starts sparing people lives.

The espers is a group of three children Kiyoko, Masaru and takashu who were subjects of a secret project by the government, when the city blows up due to Akira, the project was terminated and the espiers kept in captivity to avoid information from leaking. Colonel Shikishima is tasked with taking care of them. They have undergone many experiments, to prevent their powers from growing they were fed with drugs which led to physical impairments. A member of the resistance who thinks that Takashi is Akira kidnaps him, but the mission fails when he is killed. The murder causes Takashi to become traumatized causing havoc to the crowd that is gathering (9:22-12:04). He uses his powers to prevent Tetsuo from running over him which injures him severely (13:07). Colonel Masaru later finds him and take him back to the nursery. Kiyoko predicts that neo Tokyo will fall with Tetsuo and Akira involved, efforts begin to assassinate Tetsuo with the espers disguising themselves and trying to kill him in hospital, which they fail when they see blood blowing up their cover. Tetsuo becomes angry trying to kill them but is stopped by the colonel. Tetsuo later tries to kill Kaneda but is stopped by Kiyoko, he, however, manages to extract information about Akira via telepathy. The espers start using kei their powers on kei after they discover that she is a medium to prevent Tetsuo from reaching Akira. They later appear at the Olympiad stadium to contact him to help them. When Akira appears, absorbing Tetsuo through an explosion, Takashi tries to save Kaneda, where he is helped by his friends teleporting him back to Neo Tokyo. (1:50- 1:57)

Kaori is Tetsuo's girlfriend who loves him so much and even stands by him when treats her with abuse to appear strong to his friends (27: 40). Kaori follows Tetsuo through his rampage in Neo Tokyo. She appears to be a shy character who talks only to Tetsuo in the film. When Tetsuo's powers grow out of control, and he starts warping and expanding, her body is engulfed the flesh with his organs later crushing her (1: 47- 1:48) Lady miyoko appears as a religious zealot in the film.

There are also other characters that are valuable in developing the plot of the anime Akira, they include, Colonel Shikishima who is the head of the project that conducts a test on people with psychic abilities. He is not a corrupt, corrupt character in the government of neo-Tokyo that is heavily corrupted. Mr. Nezu is an undercover mole who provide information to the resistance group.

Akira is a very thrilling animation film, which through the help of its characters highlights the consequences of seeking power and knowledge on levels that border Lovecraft.

Work Cited

"Akira Movie English Dub." YouTube, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TlYZr0FNtI.

Bolton, Christopher. "From Ground Zero to Degree Zero: Akira from Origin to Oblivion." Mechademia 9.1 (2014): 295-315.

Martinez, Dolores. "Bodies of future memories: the Japanese body in science fiction anime." Contemporary Japan 27.1 (2015): 71-88.

May 04, 2022


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Anime Japanese

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