Akira (designated No. 28) is the titular major supporting character of the original manga. A former member of the Espers, he is a powerful psychic child whose importance drives the plot.
Akira is a young boy with small eyes and short, black hair where the fringes cover his eyebrows completely. When he first appeared, Akira wore short-sleeved, hospital scrubs with closed-toe slippers worn by medical patients. Unlike the Espers, due to thirty years of cryogenic sleep, Akira is, physically, still as young as he was the day the original Tokyo was destroyed, though, chronically, he is in his late 40's.
During his brief adventures in Neo-Tokyo, Akira wore a polo shirt, pants, and shoes. But after Neo-Tokyo's destruction in Book 3, he later becomes the "ruler" of the Great Tokyo Empire, during which he wore a shoulder cape with a triangular collar and a neck brooch, a pair of white gloves, shin-high white socks, trouser shorts, a militaristic tunic with a belt around his waist, a sash draped over his left shoulder and children's dress shoes with flaps. He frequently carried a scepter, typically associated with royalty even though he is really a figurehead.
On the cover of the manga's fourth book, Akira is depicted wearing an elaborate, ceremonial military uniform that consists of a dark blue, double-breasted tunic with a white collar and red neck brooch embroidered with medals, yellow shoulder epaulets, and a yellow aiguillette (an ornamental braided cord) hanging from his right shoulder; a green-white sash draped over his left shoulder with his waist belt sharing the same colors; knee-high white socks with yellow borders; a pair of dark blue shoes with white flaps and light blue belts; a pair of white gloves; and an extremely long, bright red half-shoulder cape that is draped over both his throne and the stairs leading up to it. In the manga, he is seen wearing this outfit during special ceremonies.
Akira is, figuratively, an empty shell of his former self; his psychic powers have increased to the point where they have destroyed his personality. He almost never speaks himself or reacts to external stimuli, making him vulnerable to the manipulations of other characters, who either seek to destroy him or take control of his abilities, mainly Tetsuo. Even after he is assigned to Kaori, who treats him with love, Akira never reacts to her presence.
However, he does show signs of emotion; when Takashi is killed by Nezu in Book 3, Akira feels his friend's pain and destroys Neo-Tokyo in a rage, and is later found crying over Takashi's death at the end of the book. After he is psychically connected to Tetsuo while the latter is in a mutated form, he starts expressing signs of pain as he is experiencing Tetsuo's injuries. In Book 6, Akira's former personality is inadvertently restored after Ryu shoots him to prevent another psychic explosion. This allows Akira to fully recognize the Espers when they go to his side, and he happily complies with their request to use his powers to defeat Tetsuo.
During Kiyoko's psychic conversations with Kaneda, Akira can be seen conversing with Takashi and Masaru as the boys go to retrieve her. Kiyoko implies that Akira was unconsciously trying to alter the course of human evolution with his abilities because he saw everyone as his friend and tried to awaken psychic powers in them, including Tetsuo.
Akira was most likely an orphan born between the late 1970's and early 1980's. He along with a group of forty children were acquired by the government of the original Tokyo. At the time the Japanese government had created a parapsychology project which delved into research on psychic development, presumably for militaristic and political purposes. The children were subjected to horrendous experiments in hopes they'll develop psychic powers that the government can control. Out of the original forty, six children died of brain injuries. Despite the terrible living conditions, the children's psychic powers allowed them to form deep, long-lasting friendship that surpassed all physical and psychological boundaries.
While living as a test subject, Akira befriended many children, among them Kiyoko, Masaru, and Takashi. However, Akira quickly grew too powerful to be controlled by the government, and one day he unleashed a psychic explosion that obliterated the original Tokyo and accidentally killed many of his friends in the destruction. The abrupt occurrence of the psychic explosion was mistaken by Japan to be an unprovoked nuclear attack by a foreign country, starting World War III.
After the survivors founded Neo-Tokyo, Akira was put in a Cryogenic Containment Unit and buried deep underneath the Neo-Tokyo Olympic Stadium, both to prevent another psychic explosion and to hide the results of their clandestine project. Akira's surviving friends, now referred to as the "Espers", were put in prolonged isolation and fed drugs that suppressed their psychic powers but also caused premature aging and crippling physical handicaps.
Akira is first mentioned by Kiyoko, a bedridden female Esper gifted with precognitive powers. In one of the rare moments where she was awake, she told Colonel Shikishima about a vision she had about Akira waking up in the near future. The Colonel demanded more information about Akira's second awakening, Kiyoko fell asleep right after.
Akira is mentioned again during a conversation between the Espers about Tetsuo's psychic awakening. They are concerned that Tetsuo will eventually grow powerful enough to defeat Akira, and fear that if Tetsuo successfully defeats Akira, nothing, even the Espers, will stand in his way. Kiyoko has also received a vision in that both Akira and Tetsuo will be involved in Neo-Tokyo's destruction. To prevent the vision from coming true, the Espers conspire to protect Akira by killing Tetsuo, possessing Kei and using her as their weapon.
Unfortunately, the Colonel's intervention and external circumstances beyond their control causes the Espers' assassination plot to fail. Their activities lead an angry Tetsuo to the Nursery, where he attacks the Colonel and tries to kill the Espers, but Dr. Onishii distracts the teenager by revealing Akira's current whereabouts. Kaneda and Kei, who were led to the Nursery through Kiyoko's telepathic guidance, find Tetsuo but both fail to kill him.
Soon after he was awoken from cryogenic sleep by Tetsuo, Akira finds himself targeted by various parties. The Colonel seeks to retrieve Akira with the aid of the Espers, who are excited at the prospect of reuniting with an old friend. Nezu, the leader of an anti-government resistance wants Akira's power to gain political affluence for himself. Lady Miyako wants to keep Akira away from the government, and at first sends Sakaki, one of her disciples, to retrieve him.
Akira ends up with a fifth party - Kaneda, Kei, and Chiyoko - who end up caught in the middle of the wild goose chase. While he is sleeping, Sakaki takes him with her, inciting the trio to chase her. After a run-in with government soldiers, Sakaki is knocked out, allowing Kaneda, Kei, and Chiyoko to get back Akira.
Kei contacts Nezu to transport Akira in a safe place, and are taken onto a boat manned by one of Nezu's henchmen. Nezu betrays the group by sneaking Akira onto his personal helicopter and has his henchman kill Kaneda, Kei, and Chiyoko to get rid of them. Fortunately they manage to escape unharmed, and once they are back on land, they invade Nezu's estate where Akira is being held. Kaneda finds Akira sleeping in one of the rooms and tries to sneak him out, but discovers the main doors locked. When they are caught by one of Nezu's guards, Kei and Chiyoko come to their rescue, shooting the doors open and defeating Nezu's men. They leave with Akira, unaware they are being followed by Sakaki, who is now aided by her fellow psychic disciples Mozu and Miki.
Sakaki, Mozu, and Miki catch Kaneda, Akira, Chiyoko, and Kei in a civilian suburb. Their brief scuffle is interrupted by the arrival of the Colonel and the Espers, who arrive in a military helicopter. Sakaki, Mozu, and Miki use this distraction to take Akira away, but while Sakaki manages to get away, Mozu and Miki are incapacitated by Chiyoko and Kaneda.
Sakaki and Akira encounter Nezu, who has now betrayed Lady Miyako. Nezu orders his henchmen to kill Sakaki and retrieve Akira. Miki, who happened to be nearby, intervenes and uses her psychic powers to kill several of Nezu's men, allowing Sakaki and Akira to get away. But during the fight, Miki is hit by Nezu and gunned down.
Akira is later taken to a dumpster and hidden there to keep him away from Nezu, with Sakaki promising to come back for the boy. Unfortunately, before she could do so, Akira is found by Ryu, a member of Nezu's anti-government resistance group who has grown suspicious of his leader. Nezu finds Ryu and, mistaking him as one of Miyako's followers, tries to shoot him. Ryu shoots back, injuring Nezu, and flees with Akira. They take a shortcut through a narrow alley to avoid being seen, but end up in the waterway, where Sakaki finds them.
Sakaki incapacitates Ryu and tries to take Akira with her, but she is found by Kaneda, Kei, and Chiyoko find her, alerted by Ryu's gunfire. Although Kaneda manages to defeat Sakaki, Sakaki uses her powers as a distraction and retrieves Akira, only to run into the Colonel, who has his soldiers surround everyone to prevent escape. Sakaki sees Takashi who killed her friend Mozu and briefly leaves Akira's side to try kill the boy Esper in revenge, but the presence of the Colonel's men forces her to flee. The Colonel's men open fire at her and she is severely wounded.
As Kaneda, his friends, and Ryu are being arrested, the Espers who accompanied the Colonel see Akira and telepathically call him to them. Takashi, who is very happy to see his old friend again, reintroduces Akira to Kiyoko and Masaru. Unfortunately, the Espers' joyful reunion is cut short by Nezu, who tries to kill Akira to prevent anyone from using him but ends up killing Takashi instead. The Espers, who share a psychic link, all "feel" Takashi's death. Akira, who is connected to the Espers, is so traumatized that, despite Kiyoko's pleas, he triggers a psychic explosion out of grief and rage, destroying Neo-Tokyo.
Later, Tetsuo finds Akira as the boy mourns Takashi's death. Together they teleport away to an unknown location.
Akira's psychic destruction of Neo-Tokyo in Book 3 turned it into an apocalyptic wasteland, with every man, woman, and child struggling to survive. This caused two main factions to rise - Lady Miyako and her followers, and the Great Tokyo Empire. Akira later became associated with the latter, serving as its Emperor, but he is actually just a figurehead. Tetsuo, the Empire's "Prime Minister", is the real ruler.
During Tetsuo's stay at Miyako's temple, Miyako tells the history behind Akira and the Espers, and their association with the government's secret parapsychology project.
To Be Added...
At some point, Akira forged a mental link with Tetsuo. During Tetsuo's battle with Lady Miyako and her followers, the psychic link forced Akira to share his pain as Tetsuo mutated and came under fire by the psychic monks who were loyal to Lady Miyako.
While in sync with each other, Akira and Tetsuo tried creating a combined psychic explosion that would've torn the Earth apart had Ryu not intervened. Ryu shot Akira to stop the boy from destroying everything, which caught the attention of the remaining Espers Kiyoko and Masaru as they were still linked to him. Wanting to help their old friend, Kiyoko and Masaru secretly teleport to Akira's side while Miyako and her followers are busy fighting Tetsuo.
With his personality fully restored, a dying Akira is able to recognize Kiyoko and Masaru, and even calls them both by name. He is shortly reunited with all of the deceased Espers, with Takashi among them, assuring Akira that they will always be together. The children ask Akira to "use the power" against Tetsuo, and he happily complies. Later, Akira creates a psychic explosion that not only cancels out Tetsuo's explosion, but absorbs him and puts Tetsuo in another universe where he can't hurt anyone anymore. In the process, Akira, Kiyoko, and Masaru are presumably absorbed as well.
Akira is last seen during a flashback that took place in the old Tokyo, playing with other psychic children in a government facility. It is implied that all of the Espers have evolved again and ascended to a higher plane of existence, including Takashi and the psychic children who died in the explosion that wiped out the original Tokyo. No longer bound by physical limitations, they exist in a state of harmony. Kiyoko also implies to Kaneda, who was caught in Akira's final psychic explosion, that Akira's vast psychic abilities caused him to see everyone as his friend, and unconsciously tried to alter the course of human evolution so more people can become psychic and he can gain more friends. Tetsuo's unexpected psychic awakening in Book 1 was the result of Akira's interference.
As Kiyoko converses with Kaneda, Akira appears with Takashi and Masaru to retrieve her. Before she leaves with the Espers, she reveals that they all saw everyone as their friends, including Tetsuo and Kaneda himself, leaving a dumbstruck Kaneda behind.
Akira has a variety of psychic powers due to being a test subject for a series of secret government ESP experiments in the 1980s, among them are telekinesis, telepathy, and teleportation. All of them have developed their potential to where they became almost god-like - even a simple act of using them is capable of causing massive destruction on a large scale. Akira, presumably, had lost control over his powers once, in both the film and the manga, destroying the original and Neo-Tokyo accidentally, but in the end, he seemingly gained control over them.