Akira is a Jacob and Esau story.
As far as I can tell it’s a portrait of Judaism and Christendom from the Japanese perspective with that particular Japanese fatalism mixed in. In broad strokes, here’s the plot:
- Jacob and Esau start off as friends in a hard, degenerating world.
- Esau is chad supreme, Jacob is loyal but has a pretty bad inferiority complex.
- Then Jacob has a near-death experience with a demigod and accidentally starts on a path toward becoming a god.
- His brain starts to develop new powers at an accelerated rate and he breaks out from Esau’s chadly shadow.
- He fights a few demigods and overpowers them easily, so he goes looking for the big baddie God to fight him. I.e. Akira.
- Then it turns out God died years ago, so Jacob is already the most powerful being around.
- The consolidation of his power continues accelerating until his body starts uncontrollably absorbing all physical reality around him.
- (Meanwhile Esau has become decidedly antisemitic.)
- Jacob gets in a fight with the entire world, basically wins, and then breaks away to form a new universe where he’s God. Millions die in the process (behelit alert, especially the death of Tetsuo’s poor abused girlfriend/innocence).
- This leaves Esau behind in a tattered world, but he’s too sunny and optimistic by temperament to be too broken up about it.
Please note DNA symbolism at 13 minutes and “I am Tetsuo” quote at 18:30:
There’s a double meaning to this quote. The first is a play on Yahweh (“I am myself”), indicating that Tetsuo has become God, i.e. sufficient unto himself to exist. The other meaning is that Tetsuo has finally grown up from under his big brother’s influence and become his own person, fully individuated and no longer dependent on or obsessed with Kaneda. Basically, he’s come to terms with his own history.
The appearance of telekinetic powers, etc. probably refers to the medieval Jewish eugenics program. Just a sudden massive expansion of brainpower. I’m biased toward this interpretation by the name “Akira” being the title (Google says Akira means “bright, intelligent”), so I think power and brains are being treated as interchangeable. For a summary of research into Jewish intelligence, see this video from approximately 8 minutes to 28 minutes:
Kaneda is actually a very funny, bumbling character with absurdly good fortune on his side. I think the best expression of his character is when he accidentally survives a satellite laser and decides this is a great time to hit Tetsuo with a big rock, fails, and accidentally survives another satellite laser.
“I’m fighting a god and my laser gun stopped working…better hit him with a rock instead.” I freakin’ love this guy.