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I am Tetsuo.
~ Tetsuo Shima

Tetsuo Shima is the dueteragonist-turned-main antagonist of the manga and the 1988 film Akira.

He was voiced by Nozomu Sasaki (who later voiced Kagehisa Anotsu in the 2019 remake of Blade of the Immortal) in Japanese and Joshua Seth in English.


One of the youngest members of a motorcycle gang led by his best friend, Shotaro Kaneda, he initially has problems with being seen as little more than an inexperienced "junior" member, weak and introverted. Kaneda is his lifelong best friend. He is perceived both by himself and others, somewhat, as a runt, though this is not necessarily a correct assessment of his character. His misdirected views and intentions constantly lead to conflict with all the other characters, and he is stubborn and naive about the consequences of his actions. He is enthusiastic and rapturous about motorbiking, but can't seem to "catch up" to his friends much of the time.

Throughout the story, he reflects more openly on feeling bossed around by others, and begins exhibiting an inferiority complex. It is only when he is injured and later incarcerated by the government that he is left helpless and on his own, and begins to take on an extremely corrupt, arrogant, and degenerate attitude, absorbed in his new powers as a result.



One night, during a gang war with the Clowns gang, Tetsuo suffers an accident after almost hitting a young boy named Takashi. While the gang was arrested, Col. Shikishima took Tetsuo to a lab. They saw during this time, that Tetsuo was beginning to have intense powers.

After Tetsuo awoke, he ran out of his hospital bed and told his girlfriend Kaori to leave town with him. They unsuccessfully stole Kaneda's motorbike and are intercepted by Clowns members. When Kaneda arrives, Tetsuo goes nuts and admits that he won't always be on the receiving end. He then suffers a breakdown and is taken away. That night, Tetsuo was attacked and tortured telepathically by the Esper children, who used models and toys to try and kill Tetsuo.

Tetsuo's power greatly overtaking him, transforming his body drastically.

He then used his new powers to kill security guards, and staff trying to keep him from the Baby Room. After a short battle, Tetsuo discovered he could also fly. At the Harukiya bar, he kills the barkeep then Yamagata. Tetsuo then began a rampage to find Akira as he kills soldiers, and destroys army vehicles. Most of the citizens of Neo-Tokyo believed Tetsuo to be Akira. Upon realizing Akira was dead, Shikishima decided to use the SOL satellite on his subject. With his right arm severed after a fight with Kaneda, Tetsuo sends the SOL out of orbit. He then retreats to the Tokyo Olympic Stadium but then begins losing his control over his powers. Eventually after Kaneda's arrival, Tetsuo mutates into a monstrous mass that kills Kaori and almost kills the colonel and Kaneda. Akira then somehow awakens thanks to the Espers and then takes Tetsuo with him. Before the credits, you can hear Tetsuo saying "I am... Tetsuo.".


In the manga, the story goes the same, until Tetsuo discovers his powers.

While riding in the ruins of old Tokyo, Tetsuo Shima, a member of the bosozoku Capsule gang led by Shotaro Kaneda, is injured when his bike explodes after the "Esper" Takashi, a psychic child with wizened features, blocks his path. This incident awakens psychic powers in Tetsuo, attracting the attention of a secret government project directed by Colonel Shikishima. These increasing powers unhinge Tetsuo's mind, exacerbating his inferiority complex about Kaneda and leading him to assume leadership of the rival Clown gang.

Eventually, Tetsuo begins to suffer from uncanny headaches that appear every time he gets a sudden burst of heightened power. After escaping the hospital, he is found by the Clowns, who happen to be his gang's rivals. He uses his growing powers to intimidate them into giving him drugs to stop his headache, but in a sudden burst of impatience and power, Tetsuo splits one of their heads open. When he gets there, he is given a highly concentrated amount of heroine that would kill a normal person. This instead results in his pain suddenly leaving, and his hair standing.

When Tetsuo and the Clowns begin a violent city-wide turf war, Kaneda instigates a counter-attack that unites all of Neo-Tokyo's biker gangs against Tetsuo. The Clowns are easily defeated, but Tetsuo is nearly invincible because of his powers. Tetsuo kills Yamagata, a high-ranking Capsule, and astonishingly survives after being shot by Kaneda. Colonel Shikishima arrives with the powerful drugs needed to suppress Tetsuo's violent headaches, extending an offer to join the project.

Tetsuo's sanity eroding.

Kaneda, Kei, and Tetsuo are taken into military custody after the climax of Volume 1. They are held in a high-security military skyscraper in Neo-Tokyo, but Kei soon escapes after becoming possessed as a medium by another Esper, Kiyoko. Kei/Kiyoko briefly does battle with Tetsuo and frees Kaneda. After rapidly healing from his wounds, Tetsuo inquires about Akira, and forces Doctor Onishi, a project scientist, to take him to the Espers' playroom.

There, a violent showdown unfolds between Tetsuo, Kaneda, Kei, and the Espers. It is during this encounter that Doctor Onishi decides to try to let Tetsuo harness Akira—the project's test subject that destroyed Tokyo—despite Tetsuo's disturbed personality. Upon learning that Akira is being stored in a cryogenic chamber beneath Neo-Tokyo's Olympic Stadium, Tetsuo escapes the skyscraper with the intent of releasing Akira.

The following day, Tetsuo enters the secret military base at the Olympic site, gruesomely killing any soldiers that get in his way. Colonel Shikishima comes to the base and tries to talk Tetsuo out of his plan; Kaneda and Kei enter the base through the sewers and witness the unfolding situation.

Tetsuo breaks open the underground cryogenic chamber and releases Akira, who turns out to be an ordinary-looking little boy. The terror of seeing Akira causes one of the Colonel's men to declare a state of emergency that causes massive panic in Neo-Tokyo. The Colonel himself tries to use a laser satellite called SOL to kill Tetsuo and Akira, but only succeeds in severing Tetsuo's arm. Tetsuo goes missing in the explosion, and Kaneda and Kei come across Akira outside of the base. Vaguely aware of who he is, they take him back into Neo-Tokyo.

Tetsuo during Akira's explosion.

In volume three, a chain of events leads to the death of Takemi and the shock and horror this causes Akira results in another psychic explosion that leaves Neo-Tokyo a mess. After the city's destruction, Tetsuo—entirely absent during the volume—meets and accosts Akira.

Some time after the events of Volume 3, an American reconnaissance team led by George Yamada covertly arrives in the ruined Neo-Tokyo. Yamada learns that the city has been divided into two factions: the cult of Lady Miyako, which provides food and medicine for the destitute refugees; and the Great Tokyo Empire, a group of zealots led by Tetsuo with Akira as a figurehead, both worshiped as deities for performing "miracles".

Tetsuo becomes heavily dependent on government-issued pills to quell his headaches. Seeking answers, he visits Lady Miyako at her temple where she gives him a comprehensive history of the government project that unleashed Akira. Miyako advises Tetsuo to quit the pills in order to become more powerful. Tetsuo begins an agonizing withdrawal. Meanwhile, Tetsuo's Aide stages an unsuccessful Empire assault on Miyako's temple. After the Colonel uses SOL to attack the Empire's army, a mysterious event opens a rift in the sky dumping massive debris from Akira's second well as Kaneda (who was thought to have died in volume 3).

After returning at the conclusion of Volume 4, Kaneda is reunited with Kei and joins Kaisuke and Joker—the former Clown leader—in planning an assault on the Great Tokyo Empire. Meanwhile, an international team of scientists meets up on an American aircraft carrier to study the recent psychic events in Neo-Tokyo, forming Project Juvenile "A". Ryu has a falling out with Yamada after learning that he plans to use biological weapons to assassinate Tetsuo and Akira; Yamada later escapes Ryu's confines and meets up with his arriving commando team. Akira and Tetsuo hold a rally at the Olympic Stadium to demonstrate their powers to the Empire faithful, which culminates with Tetsuo tearing a massive hole in the Moon's surface and encircling it with a ring of the debris.

Tetsuo fighting a possessed Kei.

Following the rally, Tetsuo's power begins to contort his physical body, causing it to absorb surrounding objects; he later learns that his abuse of his powers have caused them to expand beyond the confines of his body, giving him the ability to transmute inert matter into flesh and integrate it into his physical form. Tetsuo makes a series of visits on board the aircraft carrier to attack the scientists and do battle with American fighter jets. At one point, Tetsuo actually takes over the ship and launches a nuclear weapon over the ocean. Kei—accepting the role of a medium controlled by Lady Miyako and the Espers—arrives to battle Tetsuo. Meanwhile, Kaneda, Kai, and their small army of bikers arrive at the Olympic Stadium to begin their all-out assault on the Great Tokyo Empire.

Kaneda and his new gang continue the assault on the Stadium that started in Volume 5. Tetsuo returns from his battle with Kei and faces Yamada's team, but absorbs their biological attacks and temporarily regains control of his powers. Tetsuo kills Yamada and the commandos; he also eludes Colonel Shikishima's attempts to kill him by guiding SOL with a laser designator. Kaneda confronts Tetsuo, and the two begin an epic fight; they are joined by Kei. However, the brawl is interrupted when the American navy—horrified by Tetsuo's previous attack—tries to carpet bomb Neo-Tokyo, then gut it outright with its own laser satellite, FLOYD. Tetsuo flies into space and brings down FLOYD, causing it to crash down upon the aircraft carrier, killing the navy's fleet admiral and some of the scientists.

Tetsuo beginning his monstrous transformation.

After the battle, Tetsuo unsuccessfully tries to resurrect Kaori, a girl he had been acquainted with who was killed in the battle. He heads down to Akira's old cryogenic chamber beneath the stadium, carrying her body. Kaneda and his friends appear to fight Tetsuo once more, but his powers transform him into a monstrous mass resembling a fetus, absorbing everything near him. Tetsuo pulls the cryogenic chamber above-ground and drops it onto Lady Miyako's temple. Lady Miyako dies while defying Tetsuo, but not before guiding Kei into space to fire upon him with SOL. Kei's attack awakens Tetsuo's full powers, triggering a psionic reaction similar to Akira's.


Akira Tetsuo's End

Tetsuo's legendary end.

With the help of Kiyoko, Masaru, and a resurrected Takashi, Akira is able to cancel out Tetsuo's explosion with one of his own.

Following the climax, the United Nations sends forces to help the surviving parties of Neo-Tokyo. Kaneda and his friends confront them, declaring the city's sovereignty as the Great Tokyo Empire and warning them that Akira still lives. Kaneda and Kei meet up with Colonel Shikishima, and part ways as friends. As Kaneda and Kei ride through Neo-Tokyo, they see ghostly visions of Tetsuo and Yamagata. They also see the city shedding its ruined facade, returning to its former splendor.



  • Tetsuo inspired a character in the game The King of Fighters, that character is known as K9999. The most clear moments of inspiration are his supers, which includes a deformed arm attack, a large red sphere attack, and a move which garbs him in a red cape with similar hair to Tetsuo that then bathes the screen in white.
  • Todd Ingram of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World also seems to be inspired by Tetsuo to an extent, however, his mutations are based around vegetables as opposed to visceral.