akira volume 1 cover

Akira – Manga Review and Summary

Review and summary of Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo

Spoiler Free Review

Anybody who likes manga or anime has likely heard of Akira and they’ve probably seen the movie. The cult classic is a lot of Western individuals’ first exposure to anime. It’s easy to understand how this property has stood the test of time. It’s fast paced with jaw dropping visuals thanks to the revolutionary creator Katsuhiro Otomo.

The cyberpunk masterpiece has got everything a fan could want, robots, violence, crazy body horror, cyberpunk styles, apocalyptic stakes, and characters with intriguing mysteries. The manga contains all of these things and more and is a must read for any fans of the movie.

The basic premise is that Neo Tokyo is ready to host the first Olympics post World War 3. The world has taken decades to heal and is finally ready to move on. However, as with any society, there are citizens who just don’t care about any of that. Tetsuo and Kaneda are friends in a biker gang who are racing at the Olympic build site when everything changes for the chaotic.

Suddenly, they’re in a world where Tetsuo has powers, children are experimented on, a resistance is building, and something or someone named Akira is a threat that could level Earth to dust. Follow as everyone unlocks the mysteries and attempts to save the world from destruction, while also taking control of it for themselves.

Akira is a very quick read for the page length. With 6 volumes of about 400 pages each I’d say you could easily finish it in just over 6 hours. The pictures tell the story more than the dialogue and there are no excess text boxes to slow you down. So don’t let length intimidate you from starting.

Additionally, although the book was published in 1982, it mostly holds up. There are a couple of outdated sexist jokes, mostly between Kaneda and resistance leader Kei, but they can be pushed aside as “of their time.” Mostly, the manga is about the action and ultimately about the friendship between Tetsuo and Kaneda.

My biggest complaint is one that plagues manga for me, especially older books. A lot of the characters look very similar and I find it hard to keep track until I’m well into the page count. That’s a me problem, maybe you don’t have such weakness. But due to that and some intentional vagueness at the beginning I found myself confused for the first two or three volumes. I relied on the very handy summaries at the beginning of each volume to make sure I understood what was happening.

The final volume is by far the best and earns a solo 5 stars for the unexpectedly touching ending. I enjoyed seeing how the anarchy played out along the way but the ending really stuck the landing.

Any manga fans should move Akira up their read list and experience the classic for themselves.

4/5 kids who look like old people πŸ§“πŸΌπŸ§“πŸΌπŸ§“πŸΌπŸ§“πŸΌ

Takashi in Akira
Takashi in Akira

Akira Vol 1 Summary

The story of Akira begins 38 years after WW3 in the year 2030 where Neo Tokyo is preparing for the first post war Olympic games. Tetsuo and Kaneda are juvenile delinquents who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time attempting to perform an illegal street race.

A strange person named Takashi gets in their way. He’s the size of a child but looks like an old man. Due to this surprise Tetsuo crashes and ends up in the hospital while Kaneda attempts to chase him down. He encounters a pair of radicals named Ryu and Kei who are hunting something or someone named Akira.

Takashi gets away but Kaneda snags a strange pill from him before he flees. Now, the boss of Takashi is after the two delinquents because Kaneda has this pill and he wants to examine Tetsuo due to some strange brain patterns.

A prophet, Kiyoko, and another old looking child predict that Akira will awaken soon. The reader won’t know what Akira is for some time and the book is a little confusing until maybe volume 3.

Tetsuo develops crushing headaches that have a side effect of being able to explode people’s heads. Kaneda and Kei are trapped together by Takeshi’s boss, known as The Colonel. They escape but are being pursued by an entire army.

With Tetsuo’s new powers he takes control of a drug gang known as the Clowns. He requires painkillers for his headaches and this seemed like the easiest way to get a bunch of them. In order to take control he kills their leader and one of Kaneda’s friends.

Kaneda, of course, does not like this and they battle. Kaneda shoots Tetsuo and he finds and eats the strange pill thinking it’s a painkiller to help with the bullet wound.

The Colonel arrives and tells Tetsuo to come with him, refers to him as number 41.

releasing Akira
releasing Akira

Vol 2

Volume 2 picks up with The Colonel running tests on Tetsuo to determine his potential power levels. He’s also recaptured Kei but she re-escapes.

She finds Tetsuo and shoots him but he’s unphased. He then moves through walls to escape her and quickly heals from the wounds. Clearly, his powers are growing stronger quickly.

Takashi and the other old children are using mind control to get Kei to kill Tetsuo. They worry that if Tetsuo is left to reach his full potential this will be the catalyst that releases Akira and ends the world as we know it.

Tetsuo finds them and threatens to kill them if they don’t bring him to Akira. A scientist in charge of the gigantic mess of experiments and strange powers says to try and let Tetsuo control Akira. They let Akira out.

Meanwhile, everyone is chasing everyone else and everyone wants everyone dead. It moves quickly and is mostly demonstrated in the illustrations. Tetsuo is the star of the action as he murders his way to Akira.

When he finds him, just a small child looking suspiciously un-powerful, their powers resonate and they return to the surface, united. The Colonel initiates a level 7 emergency for Tokyo, this means martial law.

cyberpunk dystopia in Akira where robots will take over after humans die
the robots shall inherit the earth

Vol 3

Under martial law deadly robots roam the streets. In an attempt to keep peace the government declares that Akira died in a satellite attack and places all of the blame on The Colonel in order to remove the code 7 as quickly as possible.

More chaos occurs as the resistance is under attack by a mole sent to kill them and Akira. Then a few more children, who look like children this time, appear. These ones have not been trained by The Colonel but someone else.

The leader of the resistance has the opportunity to kill Akira but mistakenly shoots Takashi instead.

Akira fully awakens and unleashes his power. He essentially drops a nuclear bomb on Tokyo, there are many casualties.

Tetsuo kneels before Akira
Tetsuo kneels before Akira

Akira Vol 4

As is common with all villains, Akira gains a cult following who call themselves the Great Tokyo Empire. On the other side of the conflict, the eldest of the old children, Lady Miyako, has gained her own cult following due to her healing powers.

On the side of the resistance Ryu becomes a drunken mess and Kei is forced to go out on her own. Her goal is to get the old children to Lady Miyako before they can get kidnapped and brought to the Great Tokyo Empire.

Tetsuo is acting as Akira’s right hand man. He is giving those strange pills to followers in order to unlock their powers as well. However, if they don’t have dormant powers it just kills them instead. He is also having the girls brought to him as sex slaves. He will develop feelings for one of them as the book progresses.

Tetsuo pays Lady Miyako a visit and she tells him the history of the old children. She also tells him that he can only get to full power if he stops taking those pills. It will be painful.

The Great Tokyo Empire lays siege on Lady Miyako’s temple. Ryu sobers up enough to take aim at Akira but Tetsuo is gaining even more strength since he stopped taking the pills.

Kei kicks a lot of butt protecting the temple but the enemy retreats only to return with much more firepower.

Tetsuo becomes reborn and flies into the sky. Upon his return he rains destruction and lands in front of Akira a new man.

the body horror of Tetsuo
the body horror of Tetsuo

Vol 5

A coalition of obscure scholars is collected upon a military ship to discuss “Juvenile A” and what to do about this whole problem.

Kei and Kaneda are reunited and the betrayed Colonel seeks refuge at Lady Miyako’s. He intends to steal a space laser to take out Tetsuo before he can become another Akira.

Tetsuo pays visit to the scholars to show him how much they should fear him. The Great Tokyo Empire also holds an assembly to rally the followers for support. Tetsuo takes this opportunity to jump to the Moon, break off a piece, and send the tides and weather into turmoil.

Lady Miyako declares that Kei also has dormant powers and performs a purification ritual to garner her strength as a medium. Kaneda, as a sexist, doesn’t like the idea that Kei would be the hero of this story. He says that he doesn’t want her to get hurt but he really just wants to battle Tetsuo himself.

Tetsuo is becoming so powerful that his power can no longer be contained by his physical body. The body horror aspect of the book starts to come through as he begins to meld with flesh and machines around him. This gives him control over the ship’s weapon systems.

Kei uses her new powers to face off with him and survives but they’ll need all the help they can get to take him out for good.

more body horror in Akira manga
more body horror in Akira manga

Vol 6

The Great Tokyo Empire turns on Tetsuo as he becomes a monster but their bio weapons just feed the power and make him stronger. Kaneda jumps in for the kill but nothing is working and Kei can’t swoop in because the Americans have begun bombing the city to protect the rest of the world from the threat.

The military uses the space laser but doesn’t hit Tetsuo so they intend to broaden the scope and just level Neo Tokyo instead. Tetsuo jumps up to grab the satellite and aims it right at the ship.

Finally, he is unable to control his powers at all. He starts crying out for help and engulfs Kaneda. Lady Miyako and her priests attempt to destroy him while the children attempt to keep Akira from channeling Tetsuo’s leaking power.

All of the children, Kei, and Kaneda are now psychically linked. Akira and Tetsuo’s powers conglomerate and destruct. Kei and Kaneda are able to find each other within the destruction and make it out. When Kaneda was within Tetsuo he got to speak to his innermost mind and they were able to make amends. This is a very touching ending to their friendship.

The reader finally gets to see the origin of all of these powers. The scientists made the old children in an attempt to advance human evolution to its next step, clearly it failed.

The military arrives to occupy Neo Tokyo but the Great Tokyo Empire kicks them out declaring themselves as their own nation. The survivors ride motorcycles into the sunset The End.

What does Akira mean?

The name Akira means “bright, clear, or ideal” in Japanese. It has become a popular gender neutral name.

When did Akira come out?

The first appearance of the manga was originally published as a comic strip running from 1982 to 1990. The movie came out in 1988.

Does the Akira movie cover the entire manga?

No. Since the movie was made 2 years before the manga was complete it does not cover the manga faithfully. However, the creator was heavily involved with the film project.

How many pages in the Akira manga?

The entire collection is over 2,000 pages: 6 volumes of about 400 pages each.

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