From talking to other people who have seen the movie and know more than me about Japanese history, I know that Akira references the nuclear bombing of Japan during WW2. And as I watched the movie, I could see that. The theme of a power growing until it can’t be controlled anymore represents both the history of nuclear proliferation and the nature of the chain reaction that makes a fission bomb explode.
Interestingly, though, that’s not what grabbed me when I was watching the movie. Instead, I saw similarities to a phenomenon that features heavily in the first arc of Hyouka and the second half of Sakamichi no Apollon: Anti-military and anti-authority protests in general, and the 1960s student protest movement in particular. Jin-Roh and Zankyou no Terror also explore similar themes.
Watching Akira and thinking about the 25-year gap between it(32 years if counting from when the manga started) and Zankyou no Terror made me realise that this seems to be an issue and a theme that isn’t just near and dear to many authors, writers and directors due to historical reasons, it’s important because it’s still relevant to them. And, judging by the protests against revisions of certain security bills just two weeks ago, they’re not alone in feeling that way. As a person who lives in a country that is trying to move away from its past as quickly as possible, the fact that that movement is still relevant both fascinates and moves me. And when I eventually watch Akira again, I’m going to remember that.