Akira (1988)

Film and Plot Synopsis

Akira takes place 31 years after Tokyo’s destruction. In the rebuilt city, a young bōsōzoku gang leader named Kaneda and his friend, Tetsuo, winds up getting involved in a secret government project. When Tetsuo finds himself in a situation that spirals out of control, Kaneda tries to save him. It leads him on a journey to a group of anti-government activists, greedy politicians, irresponsible scientists, and one powerful military leader. Soon, Tetsuo’s newly discovered supernatural power leads to death, a coup d’état, and a final battle in Tokyo’s Olympiad where the government buried Akira’s secrets three decades ago.

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‘Akira’ Movie Summary

The summary below contains spoilers.
Akira (1988)Akira begins on July 16, 1988 with a singularity destroying Tokyo. We fast forward to 2019 to find the locals have rebuilt Tokyo. Now known as Neo-Tokyo, corruption, anti-government protests, terrorism, and gang violence plagues the new megapolis.

It’s during one of their protests, we meet Shōtarō Kaneda (Mitsuo Iwata/Jimmy Flinders). He’s a young, brash vigilante who leads a bōsōzoku gang against their rivals, the Clown gang. As the two groups clash, Kaneda’s best friend, Tetsuo Shima (Nozomu Sasaki/Stanley Gurd Jr.), manages to crash his motorcycle into a little boy named Takashi (No. 26) (Tatsuhiko Nakamura/Barbara Larsen). Takashi is an esper who escaped from a government laboratory with the aid of a resistance organization.

Tetsuo awakens

This accident awakens the psychic powers hidden in Tetsuo which then attracts the attention of Colonel Shikishima (Tarō Ishida/Anthony Mozdy) who leads a secret government project for espers. With the assistance of another esper named Masaru (No. 27) (Kazuhiro Kando/Bob Berger), the Colonel recaptures Takashi. Additionally, he takes Tetsuo with him, and arrests Kaneda and his gang.

While the police interrogate Kaneda, he spots a young female activist named Kei (Mami Koyama/Deanna Morris) mixed in with some others who were arrested. When the police release Kaneda and his gang, he tricks the authorities into releasing her with the gang. Unfortunately for him, she quickly ditches Kaneda to head back to her own protest group.

Elsewhere in the city, the Colonel meets with his head of research, Doctor Ōnishi (Mizuho Suzuki/Lewis Lemay). They discover that Tetsuo possesses powerful psychic abilities similar to a boy named Akira (No. 28) who was the esper responsible for Tokyo’s destruction in 1988. Takashi’s fellow esper Kiyoko (No. 25) (Sachie Ito/Marilyn Lane) then tells the Colonel her premonition of Neo-Tokyo’s impending destruction. However, after Neo-Tokyo’s corrupt parliament dismisses the Colonel’s concerns, he considers killing Tetsuo to prevent another catastrophe.

Escape from the Hospital

Meanwhile, Tetsuo escapes from the hospital, and steals Kaneda’s motorcycle. As he prepares to run away from Neo-Tokyo with his girlfriend, Kaori (Yuriko Fuchizaki/Barbara Larsen), the Clowns ambush them. However, Kaneda and the remaining gang members show up to save him. It’s during this confrontation that Tetsuo begins suffering his intense headaches and hallucinations that plague him for the rest of the film. The military shows up to return Tetsuo to the hospital.

During another protest, Kaneda spots Kei again, and he helps her when the police chase after her. When she shoots one of her pursuers dead, Kaneda helps her escape. As they flee, they run into Kei’s resistance cell. They lock Kaneda in a cell, and begin discussing their next mission; a plan to kidnap the military’s newest esper (Tetsuo). When they discover Kaneda trying to escape, and that he overheard their plans, he manages to convince them he can help retrieve Tetsuo since they are such good friends.

Back at the hospital, the espers confront Tetsuo, and he aggressively fights them off as he begins to realize his new psychokinetic powers. Unfortunately, the powers begin to make him quite egomaniacal and unstable.

The resistance infiltrates the hospital

By now, Kaneda, Kei, and a few other resistance group members infiltrate the hospital just as the Colonel and espers do their best to stop Tetsuo. Things don’t go well, and Tetsuo overpowers them all. He then leaves the hospital once he learns from Kiyoko that Akira, who is in cryonic storage beneath the Olympic Stadium construction site, can help him.

Kiyoko helps Kei and Kaneda escape military custody as she hopes she can help stop Tetsuo using Kei as a medium. When the Neo-Tokyo government orders the Colonel’s arrest, he’s forced to stage a coup d’état against them before directing all of his military to destroy Tetsuo at any cost.

Tetsuo returns to his gang’s former hangout called the Harukiya Bar in order to get some drugs to control his powers. There, he impulsively murders the bartender and destroys the bar. When his former friends, Yamagata (Masaaki Ōkura/Anthony Mozdy) and Kai (Takeshi Kusao/Bob Berger), arrive, they confront him. Tetsuo coldly kills Yamagata in front of Kai, and then leaves. Soon Kaneda and Kei arrive, and Kai tells him what happened. Kaneda vows revenge for his fallen friend.

Finding Akira

Tetsuo now rampages through Neo-Tokyo on his way to the old Olympic stadium where the government buried Akira’s cryogenic storage dewar. Kei shows up under Kiyoko’s control, and the two fight. Unfortunately for the two ladies, Tetsuo easily defeats them.

He then exhumes Akira, but finds him dead, and his remains dissected into little canisters where they are stored for future scientists to study. Kaneda shows up next, and using a laser rifle he found along his drive over, he fights it out with Tetsuo. As the two battle, the Colonel fires an orbital laser at him, but only manages to shoot off Tetsuo’s arm…tis but a scratch!

Kaori arrives at the stadium to find Tetsuo in great pain. As she tries to help him, the Colonel arrives, and offers to take him back to the hospital to heal his wounds and help control his abilities. As this goes on, Kaneda arrives to duel it out with Tetsuo once again.

With Tetsuo losing all control of his powers, he mutates into a gigantic mass which begins to consume all matter. It engulfs Kaneda and kills Kaori (she gets the short end of the stick in this whole movie). As the mass grows, the espers wake Akira to help stop it.

The last chance to stop Tetsuo

Akira reunites with his friends before creating a singularity that draws Tetsuo and Kaneda into another dimension. Kiyoko teleports the Colonel to safety as the singularity destroys Neo-Tokyo in a mirror of Tokyo’s previous destruction. The three espers then agree to rescue Kaneda, knowing that they will not be able to return to their current dimension.

In the singularity, Kaneda experiences Tetsuo’s and the espers’ childhoods. It includes Tetsuo’s first meeting of Kaneda as young boys, and also how the children were trained and altered before Tokyo’s destruction. The espers return Kaneda to his world once they inform him that Akira will take Tetsuo to safety and that Kei is developing psychic powers of her own.

The singularity disappears as water floods the city. Doctor Ōnishi’s laboratory collapses on him which crushes him to death. Kaneda soon finds that Kei and Kai have survived the destruction as well. They all drive off into the ruins while the Colonel watches the sunrise.

Elsewhere, Tetsuo introduces himself at another unspecified level of existence.

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Toho Company released Akira on July 16, 1988. Katsuhiro Ôtomo directed the film starring Mitsuo Iwata, Nozomu Sasaki, and Mami Koyama.

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