Sun. Jun 23rd, 2024

Akira’s Influence in the Cyberpunk Genre

Akira‘s iconic and influential work in the anime and manga medium has served as a source of inspiration for many works of art in the cyberpunk genre. An engaging story requires a villain of equal strength. Driven by the power of Akira, Tetsuo Shima becomes an example of the dire consequences when psychokinetic abilities akin to a god fall into the wrong hands. While Tetsuo undoubtedly becomes the driving force behind many antagonists in Akira, it is essential to mention Akira itself. The film and manga present it in different ways and include additional characters not featured in the film due to its extensive content.In the story, we only get a little information about Tetsuo’s past before gaining his powers. Like most characters in the tale, what we know is that Tetsuo is an orphan who grew up with Kaneda. However, further revelations occur in the story when Tetsuo experiences flashes of memories after coming into contact with Akira’s mind. As the story progresses, we get some glimpses showing Tetsuo’s memories experienced by Shoutarou Kaneda when Tetsuo absorbs him. These flashes of memories reveal that Tetsuo’s relationship with Kaneda began when he moved into their neighborhood. His parents abandoned him at an age when he could comprehend the separation.

Tetsuo Shima: The Villain’s Journey

Apart from these brief glimpses of Tetsuo’s childhood, we know little about who he was before gaining his powers. Soon after his introduction, he undergoes an injury. After he gains his powers, the rest of the story revolves around Tetsuo. The portrayal of Tetsuo’s background is similar to the film but emphasizes the bond between Kaneda and Tetsuo. In several scenes, Kaneda talks about their intense relationship formed when they grew up in an orphanage. Mostly towards the end of the story, the film also presents some flashes of memories.

Enigmatic Past

Despite the limited information about Tetsuo’s past, it remains impactful and vital. His abandonment experiences and the memories surrounding it show that he has yearned for love and recognition since a young age. It impacts his personality, and he becomes envious of others. As they grow up, Tetsuo’s feelings towards Kaneda combine with developing affection for someone who cares about him and a desire to be like Kaneda himself. However, his troubled childhood left a lasting impact on him, leading him to become a rebellious teenager. Tetsuo develops an inferiority complex living in Kaneda’s shadow and feeling jealous of the qualities he lacks. After he returns from the hospital, the story delves into the adverse effects of Tetsuo’s childhood, leading to events in the story. His deep-seated envy of Kaneda comes to the surface, and Tetsuo displays a desire to compete and defeat Kaneda before the accident. However, he becomes more reckless after being injured, engaging in violent behavior, almost killing members of rival gangs, and becoming angry with Kaneda, refusing to take orders from him.

Relationship with Kaori and Drug Addiction

In the film, the relationship between Kaori, who becomes his girlfriend, and Tetsuo is depicted as loving and pure. However, the relationship takes a more disturbing turn in the manga. Nevertheless, Kaori serves as a calming influence on Tetsuo’s emotions and insecurities, making his character more humane.

After being taken back to the laboratory, researchers discover that Tetsuo’s powers are growing more robust due to his previously consumed drugs. It causes unbearable headaches, and to alleviate the pain, Tetsuo consumes more drugs, further enhancing his powers. However, it also drives him into a destructive pursuit of relief. The situation is similar in the film but is explored in more detail in the manga. It reveals the extent of Tetsuo’s struggle with his extraordinary powers and drug addiction. Tetsuo’s powers grow stronger as he continues to misuse them and becomes dependent on drugs to cure his headaches.

Path to Power and Tyranny

In the film, the lack of adequate education and pre-existing criminal tendencies make it difficult for him to control his extraordinary powers, leading him back to a path of crime. His newfound invulnerability gives him the courage to become an influential figure in a world where he was once in the shadows. Tetsuo injects a mix of drugs into his bloodstream to alleviate the headaches and overwhelming power within him. As a symbol of the damage his powers have on his body, this causes frequent changes in his appearance. Although his appearance changes in the film, it is not as extreme as the manga depicts.

At this stage of the story, Tetsuo is an uneducated and unruly individual. He still displays the behaviors and attitudes of a boy his age. His personality is filled with jealousy, anger, and anxiety. He often exhibits sadistic tendencies towards those he wants to control. When offered training by the government and exposed to Akira’s immense power, Tetsuo’s actions turn destructive and cause chaos in New Tokyo.

While Akira becomes a catalyst for many tragic events in the story, he is not purely evil. The chaos and destruction he causes are a result of manipulation by others. On the other hand, Tetsuo willingly commits immoral and heinous acts of his own accord. When he encounters Akira, he seems like a shell of his former self.

Confrontation with Akira

In 1992, witnessing Takashi’s death caused Tetsuo’s extraordinary powers to explode, destroying Neo-Tokyo. Unknowingly, Tetsuo is responsible for the devastation as he releases Akira’s power. Now, Tetsuo uses Akira to establish a new world order in his name. He holds the lives of thousands of people in his hands, ruling over them as a sadistic and sexually deviant tyrant. Behind the facade of salvation and benevolence, Tetsuo conceals his thirst for pleasure and power. This aspect is absent in the film, which focuses only on Tetsuo’s efforts to seek greater power and the loss of life caused by it.

In the manga, Kaori makes her entrance at this juncture. Initially, she is compelled to become Tetsuo’s sexual captive, but to everyone’s surprise, she connects with him. Strengthened by personal and horrifying hallucinations experienced after touching Akira’s mind, their relationship becomes a foothold and a place of protection for Tetsuo’s suppressed emotional insecurities. It provides him with closeness beyond his subordinates. Afraid of the visions he sees during the hallucinations, Tetsuo seeks out Miyako, who reveals that he can fully unlock his potential by abstaining from drugs and embracing the pain. Although Tetsuo initially struggles, he succeeds and undergoes a divine experience, being reborn. Empowered by Akira’s power, he appears more controlled and calmer than before, seemingly rejecting his path of villainy.

However, this change in Tetsuo only lasts for a while. When he boards an American warship containing doctors worldwide, he almost kills them with his power. It shows that he has not learned anything from his previous experiences. He remains blinded by his thirst for dominance and power. Tetsuo realizes he is just a tiny influence of uncontrollable universal power. However, this knowledge only strengthens his resolve to enforce his cruel will on the inhabitants of the shattered Neo-Tokyo, rather than deterring him from abusing his god-like powers.

He strives to surpass his past, giving up drug use and fully embracing his position as the ruler of his new kingdom. However, creating rules based on fear rather than salvation and compassion proves to be a messy tactic. As a result, his powers begin to accelerate the degeneration of his weak body, which is already on the verge of self-destruction. As Tetsuo tries to ascend to the pinnacle of the world he has created, his insatiable desires and ego turn against him significantly. His body starts to change, unable to handle the immense energy he possesses, resembling an older man. When he attacks the American fleet, his body undergoes extreme suffering, causing him to revert to a primitive form of uncontrollable energy. However, Kei arrives just in time and saves him from this state.

Redemption and Ambiguity

The physical form of Tetsuo undergoes a ghost-like transformation after witnessing Takashi’s death. This change resembles that of an esper due to his heavy abuse of powers in a short period. After the battle, he mourns the departure of Kaori, the only person with whom he felt an emotional connection during his pursuit of absolute power. It leads him to visit Akira’s confinement, and regret becomes evident in Tetsuo for the first time. Initially stubborn and arrogant, he eventually reverts to his past self and pleads with Kaneda to save him from his current state as death approaches.

A similar situation leads to inevitable destruction in the manga and the film. However, there are differences in the outcome. In the manga, Tetsuo grieves for Kaori and returns to Akira’s prison, where a deep bond forms between Tetsuo and Akira, affecting them both. Empowered by Akira’s extraordinary energy, Tetsuo becomes chaotic and uncontrollable. Without his own will, Akira reacts to Tetsuo’s psychic power, triggering a transformation that almost results in releasing Akira’s power, potentially destroying Neo-Tokyo and the world. Ryuusaku intervenes at the right moment, shooting Akira and triggering a shockwave that opens Akira’s subconscious, halting the destructive process. In both the manga and the film, the story ends with Akira using his power to stop Tetsuo, leading to the end of both of them and the espers.

Conclusion: Tetsuo’s Complex Character

Overall, it is evident that Tetsuo finds redemption and forgiveness for his actions, being accepted into an afterlife where he joins other children who experienced a similar fate. Throughout his story, Tetsuo is a troubled youth who grew up abandoned and scorned in a post-war world of difficulties. He lives in Kaneda’s shadow, profoundly loving and envying his friend as he longs to be recognized and respected as a leader. These feelings of inferiority drive his desire to fulfill these wishes. When he gains extraordinary psychokinetic powers, he engages in brutal actions influenced by drugs, terrorizing Neo-Tokyo in his quest for power and control. Unfortunately, his unconscious actions lead to the destruction of Neo-Tokyo. He becomes a tyrant in the new nation he forms, constantly pursuing his lust for power. Tetsuo’s insatiable thirst for power drives him to consume drugs to alleviate the never-ending pain, leading him to misuse and kill others along his journey.

Some believe that Tetsuo is destined to follow this path, as predicted by Miyako and Kiyoko. Nevertheless, the ambiguity surrounding their foresight and their attempts to prevent him while steering him away from malevolence demonstrate that many of Tetsuo’s actions stem from his personal decisions. He can potentially use his power for good, but ultimately, he becomes obsessed. Although he never sought this power and was manipulated by the government to control him by any means necessary, Tetsuo knowingly makes poor choices in pursuing greater power, driven by greed and pleasure. Despite appearing redeemed in the end, Tetsuo recklessly endangers or destroys the lives of millions of people due to his overflowing megalomania, greed, and merciless cruelty, all of which are indicative of his evil traits.


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