Many view Akira as one of the the most groundbreaking films in the entire catalog of Japanese animation. This was a film that here in the west opened our eyes to technical expertise and visual eye candy that we thought was only possible in terms of the impossible. Many see it as a badass action film. Many others see it as a reflection on power and control in society. Many others see it as a gateway, a sign post, that once crossed you can’t go back. All so true, but this is also a story of a troubled young man who took his personal hatred so far that it literally destroyed the world.
Anger, resentment, pain… feelings of inadequacy, fear… putting up a front, a wall, a shield… depression, anxiety?… No one is born this way, but for many of us we learn this sort of behavior and adopt it as our reality. I find it scary how accurate Akira is to our current reality. Akira was set in 2019, I am currently writing in 2020. Tokyo was to hold the Olympic Games in both realities… ironic? The streets are full of rioting. Police are not afraid to open fire and behave in a militaristic manner. Science and technology are puppets of the government, medical industry and large scale business. Complications over the ideal blessings seems to be the products of these institutions. We have an overload of control which for someone who are not on top of any hierarchy, be it a job, social position, in a gang, etc. can make you feel left out.
Enter Tetsuo Shima, the runt so to speak in Kaneda’s bike gang. He is the one who always has to catch up, find a way to be recognized and situate himself into his peer group. Just who would have thought he had dormant psychokinetic powers after being taken by the military during a bike accident? Little Tetsuo not sure how to control himself ends up taking revenge on everything around him, which in turn begins to break down his body. This is true for us as well, though not on the scale of this anime. It is a metaphor for how we end up destroying ourselves and the world around us as well all because we can’t control our anger. Yet Tetsuo was not born this way, many of us are not, but we end up holding onto some type of anger that eventually begins to show itself in the body. At least we can counteract this if we catch it early and have awareness to our inherited patterns and emotions.
I shifted my frame of reference about Akira and Tetsuo as a character after rewatching Harmagedon recently. Harmagedon was a film that Akira’s creator Katsuhiro Otomo worked on. He did the character designs. The main character of Jo Azuma has his issues with anger, but is surrounded by like minded people who channel his inner demons, and inherent psychic abilities, towards constructive means… that being fighting the outer demon. Tetsuo is not so lucky and tragically loses himself and all of Tokyo in the process. It is in the end Tetsuo does see his mistakes, but it is too late. His sacrifice does lead him to peace, but also death. I am not sure Otomo borrowed ideas from Harmegedon for Akira, but the similar theme, with a different outcome, cannot be denied.
I too suffer with issues of internalized anger, resentment and insecurity. I also know what its like when your body tells you that you need to calm down, transmute the feelings and build a new foundation to stand on. The past can often haunt you and even though it may not be one’s fault, it is I who keep those feelings alive. Thankfully things can reverse, without scientific explanation, but it takes work to recapture joy in the moment. I doubt many of the people I have hurt in some form, angered, or frustrated, or who have hurt me, or caused me to continue certain emotional patterns for too long are not reading this, but in any case all I can say is I am sorry. I am only human and can make mistakes, but I don’t need to feel that I am a mistake.