A billboard shows the countdown of the days before the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Next to it, a graffiti: “Cancel them”. Nowadays almost real, this scene has further reinforced the fascination exerted by Akira, the cult manga from which it came.
Created by Katsuhiro Otomo, Akira was first published in series in Japan between 1982 and 1990. Rich in several thousand plates, the work was condensed in 1988 in an animated film (anime) of the same name, which has given it world fame.
The action takes place in 2019 in a sinister megalopolis called “Neo-Tokyo”, built near the old capital, wiped off the map by a mysterious explosion in December 1982 which started the Third World War.
The story revolves around Tetsuo, member of a gang of young thugs idle on a motorcycle, whose life will change when he becomes aware of his ultra-powerful psychic powers, also coveted by the army.
“The universe of Akira can be summed up in one word: cyberpunk. A futuristic world, with advanced technology, but with a huge gap between the rich and the “low people”, “comments Matthieu Pinon, French manga and Japanese animation specialist interviewed by hooly News.
Without being a central element, the Olympic Games are mentioned several times in this resolutely “anti-system” work, and present astonishing similarities with the real Olympics of Tokyo 2020, today postponed to 2021.
– Disturbing coincidences –
Not only were the Olympics in Akira also to be held in Tokyo in 2020, but “the story is developing in a way suggesting that their cancellation or postponement seems inevitable,” observes Kaichiro Morikawa, specialist in Japanese pop culture at Meiji University. in Tokyo.
The Japanese government has dubbed Tokyo 2020 the “Reconstruction Games”, to testify to the return to the fore of the country after the tragedy of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, which also caused the nuclear disaster in Fukushima.
However, in Akira also, “we can imagine that the Olympic Games aim (for the authorities, note) to find a kind of greatness after the destruction,” said the specialist in comics Patrick Gaumer, interviewed by hooly News.
The Olympic stadium in fiction is thus built on the site of the devastated “old city” of Tokyo, near the crater left by the mysterious cataclysm of 1982, a transparent allusion to the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, points out again Mr. Gaumer.
But in recent weeks, it is mainly the image of the countdown to the Olympic Games with the protest message “Cancel them” which has become viral on social networks, as the coronavirus pandemic made the probability more improbable every day holding of the “real” Olympics of Tokyo-2020, until forcing their postponement.
– Back to the future –
Another striking resonance with current events: in the original edition of the manga in Japanese, a double page transition between two volumes presents false press articles in the background. “WHO criticizes the measures taken against the virus”, headlines one of them …
However, this detail being outside the plot, “it should be seen as an element adding to the atmosphere, nothing more,” says Pinon.
Akira, prophetic work? In reality, it is “rather a reinterpretation of the recent past” of Japan, that of the post-war period, “projected into a near fictional future”, decrypts researcher Kaichiro Morikawa.
The highlights of this era, in which the author Katsuhiro Otomo (born in 1954) grew up, are here mixed up: the Tokyo Olympics-1964, which marked the revival of the country after the Second World War and the trauma of the atomic bombs, but also “the student and union riots of 1968, the authoritarianism of the government of the time, the frenzied urbanism of Tokyo”, lists Matthieu Pinon.
Regarding Akira’s curious correspondence with the current setbacks of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, “all I can say is that such a coincidence adds a strange feeling of reality to the reading or viewing of this which was already a masterpiece, “concludes Morikawa.