〈 CHARACTER INFO 〉
CHARACTER NAME: Tetsuo Shima
CHARACTER AGE: 15
SERIES: Akira (Movie version)
CHRONOLOGY: Just after he escapes from the hospital the first time and collapses - has powers, but has no idea about them. Before he snaps.
CLASS: In canon, Anti-Hero or Mass-Murdering Psychopath depending on when - out of canon, too much of a wildcard to say.
BACKGROUND: Teenage rebellion.
It's so common a trope it's practically assumed all teenagers will do it. First, they're mild mannered or quiet, and then suddenly they're racing around as bosozoku/motorcycle gangs, taking mind-altering substances, raging at nothing in particular, fighting anything they can, gaining incredible psychic powers and going on huge murderous rampages to become virtually unstoppable and uncontrollable because you're not the boss of me and don't tell me what to do.
That last bit, not so common.
But that's basically the entire plot of Akira, as far as Tetsuo's concerned.
Technically, the story begins way back at the apocalyptic events that devastated the world, destabilized everything and caused disenfranchised youths to form biker gangs, deal drugs and fight each other in the charming police-state city of Neo Tokyo. There's government conspiracies and underground projects to try to develop psychic abilities in humans - namely, children - in order to weaponize their talents or 'unlock the next stage', depending on who you ask.
Back in 1988, Tokyo was destroyed by a massive burst of energy analogous to a nuclear bomb. It laid absolute waste to the city and a good deal of the surrounding area, and the resulting fallout started World War III.
In actuality, the government started a project trying to unlock the psychic potential of people. They started with children, giving them numbers instead of names, and dubbed their secret research The Project.
The Project was one of those things that sounds good on paper, but in actuality, is doomed to fail spectacularly. Apparently, giving people rampant psychic powers doesn't mean you can control them or what happens. One of them, Akira, had no limits on his growth or abilities, and ended up causing the explosion that destroyed Tokyo.
In short, everything is wrong. Let's focus one of the members of a bike gang who probably automatically fail history.
Tetsuo Shima was left behind at a daycare by his parents at an early age and spent much of his childhood in an orphanage. Kaneda befriended him and defended him from bullies - while appreciated, it didn't give him any power back over his life. The chance to prove himself came when he was offered a spot in the Capsules, Kaneda's gang. Here he constantly took risks, going to greater and greater lengths to try to prove himself stronger than the others. Prove that he was capable of handling anything. Prove that being the smallest didn't mean he was the weakest.
He was good, sure, but he wasn't the best - he couldn't quite perfect Kaneda's method of cornering, for instance - and it almost killed him. Chasing down a member of the Clown gang alone and ahead of his group, Tetsuo nearly ran into Takashi, a Esper/psychic child or "that freak with blue skin" depending on who you ask. Takashi destroyed Tetsuo's bike and severely injured Tetsuo in an attempt to save himself and ran away as Kaneda and the others drove up. Tetsuo manages to point out his attacker to Kaneda as the rest of the gang ride up, and passes out shortly afterwards as the military come to reclaim Takashi.
Maybe it'd have been better for everyone if he'd died at the accident instead of just being hospitalized.
The researchers on the project notice that Tetsuo exhibits some odd brain patterns, and suspect it might be direct exposure to Takashi's power that unlocked them. Without Tetsuo's knowledge or permission, they take him for experimentation, doing endless tests and not quite sanctioned surgical procedures on him while he's mostly unconscious. During this, he hears Akira's name in his head.
He's prescribed strong mind-altering drugs to take, and told he has to stay in the hospital. Tetsuo, however, senses something very wrong is going on and escapes at the first opportunity - he shows up later at his girlfriend Kaori's dorm to propose the idea of running away.
The next day, the two of them sneak out to steal Kaneda's bike while the others are in class. They don't end up getting very far; due to having a very weird/fancy bike model, Tetsuo's unclear on how to operate it and only figures it out after the bike stalls. Before he can get it working again, they're attacked by members of the same bike gang he was attacking earlier, seeking revenge.
The two of them don't stand a chance; Kaori's attacked first, and as Tetsuo runs to her, he's also taken down. As Kaori's assaulted and a Clown threatens to burn Kaneda's bike, Kaneda and the others show up and assist.
Furious, Tetsuo takes his anger out on the nearest available target: a member of the Clowns that Kaneda took down. If not for Kaneda's intervention, Tetsuo would have killed him then and there; as it was, he turned on Kaneda, screaming at him to leave him alone and stop telling him what to do.
That was the last normal thing he ever did.
A sudden stabbing pain in his head almost dropped him; he visibly staggered, clutching his head as Akira started talking to him again. He suffered multiple hallucinations in rapid succession, horrifying images coupled with searing pain. All the while, he shoved away his friends, trying to walk away and not making much sense - screaming things like "I don't know who that is".
Shortly afterwards, he collapsed, and the government swooped in again to seize him and drag him back to the hospital.
That's the canon point I'm taking him from; but as a note, immediately afterwards:
Tetsuo suffers horribly. To say he's constantly tortured is possibly an understatement; almost all scenes we see of him in the hospital are of him writhing around in bed, clutching his head, screaming. Things break around him - and at one point, he moves a glass of water into his hand without reaching out for it.
Then the kids come back into the picture. They invade his mind, making him see marching toys, and then huge nightmare versions of said toys coming to try to kill him. He's only able to make it stop by accidentally stepping on and breaking his glass from earlier; the kids stop their assault and withdraw at the sight of blood, repulsed.
He starts a campaign to hunt down and get those kids, taking out anyone and anything that gets in his way. This ends up with a pretty decent death toll of security guards that got in his way, which gets more escalation of force on him, which he responds by attacking even harder than before. Kaneda shows up to rescue him at around either the best or worst possible time to show up.
Not wanting Kaneda to come to his rescue again and riding on a power high, Tetsuo taunts him before continuing what he was doing, ending up catching Kaneda in the crossfire.
He later kills Yamagata, another member of the Capsules, because of a perceived slight, and the bartender because he got in between Tetsuo and drugs that might have helped kill a little of the pain in his head, charging money Tetsuo probably just didn't have.
This game of death tag continues with Kaneda and Tetsuo trying to kill each other until that one scene Akira is famous for happens.
Tetsuo Shima didn't start off evil. He didn't start off great, none of the Capsules did, but he started off seeming normal enough for a member of said biker gang. Quieter than most - when he wasn't screaming defiance at something, he spoke softer than the others did and was somewhat introverted. A lot more reckless daredevil than most; he rode like a demon and never gave up the chase, no matter what the circumstances were. Maybe a little more ruthless, more willing to kill - but considering the kind of people he rode with, it's hard to tell.
And true, part of this was due to the fact that his best friend/idol/older brother figure led the Capsules.
Kaneda's the closest thing he has to family - love or hate, sometimes both. Tetsuo constantly competes with him to see who's the fastest, or the best. When they were kids, Kaneda offered him friendship and protection when everyone at the home beat him up and took his toy - and Tetsuo was initially grateful. But over time he developed an inferiority complex about the fact it was always Kaneda who came to the rescue. Always Kaneda he compared himself to (and while he'd fantasize being in Kaneda's place, he never believed he could). Always Kaneda who could do something that Tetsuo felt he could too, if just given the chance. He could take care of himself - just watch. As he put it, he wouldn't always be on the receiving end.
When all's said and done, at the end it's Kaneda he ends up turning to for help, because there's a large part of him that honestly believes Kaneda can fix and do anything.
Tetsuo seemed content to follow along, not challenging or even questioning Kaneda much - and if he did, only as muttered comments here and there. Instead he did absolutely everything to pull ahead, spurred on by deep insecurity that translated to constantly pushing himself and the limits to try to prove he was just as good as the others. And beneath that, a fear that if he didn't prove himself enough, he'd be left behind - just like his parents left him. Maybe if he won enough, he wouldn't ever have to be scared anymore.
In Tetsuo's mind he is the perpetual underdog, angry about his situation and perceived weakness, and angry at his own fear and inability to do something about it. This began to build into resentment that fed a relentless determination to never give up and never let anything get in-between him and his goals. It wouldn't matter if he got beaten up or taken down; he'd get back up and he'd keep going until he won.
Most people have an innate sense, a little voice of reason in the back of their minds that says when to pull back on the proverbial or literal throttle. If Tetsuo has one, he resolutely ignores it. To add to this, he's got a childish naïveté that limits him from being able to see the bigger picture of anything. He lives only in the moment, reacting only to the immediate situation.
In short, Tetsuo doesn't think about the cost of winning. To him, winning and losing is all there is - the world is just that black and white. He doesn't even think ahead about consequences of killing someone; he lets his impulses and complexes rule his actions. He's still just a kid - and it shows. He's even visibly driven to angry tears as a last resort reaction.
Tetsuo isn't stupid. He's not book-smart or even generally educated, but if he ever stops to think for five seconds before doing something, he can usually figure out things by feel fairly quickly. Things like, say, how to use rapidly developing powers, take down a satellite, and even fashion a working robotic arm. He has a decent head for mechanics in general, capable of figuring out the specs of Kaneda's motorbike just by messing with it.
It's the whole 'stop to think about it' part that's the problem.
Tetsuo is fully capable of forming close, genuine relationships with others: he had a steady girlfriend that genuinely cared about him, and that he genuinely cared about. He had friends concerned about his well-being enough to keep trying to hunt him down. When he and Kaori were attacked by the Clowns, his first instinct was to run to her side when she got hit instead of turning to fight or flee. And Yamagata didn't believe it was him when he murdered the barkeeper at Harukiya and showed no concern about Kaneda whatsoever. Tetsuo was someone who'd go after anyone who went after any of his friends, no matter what.
If Takashi and the experiments hadn't happened, he might have turned out just slightly south of normal.
All powers stated are canon. There are some more in canon he displays, but I am limiting it to this. Sometimes, he has pretty good control over his abilities. Other times and arguably more often, things just happen. Tetsuo's powers grow rampantly throughout the movie; with a cutoff, he'd have these abilities available:
Levitation and manipulation of objects; this can include self-levitation in a passable imitation of limited flight. He can do things from moving water glasses to shattering windows subconsciously, and more impressive things if he focuses. His maximum limit would be being able to move something like a small car.
2. Energy Manipulation:
He can project a sphere of pure force outwards, damaging anything (except himself) within its radius. This doesn't generally extend much more than about five or ten feet from him in any direction.
Alternately, can be used to repel incoming attacks/projectiles and protect himself from incoming harm - but it has limited duration; he can only keep it up as long as he can concentrate on it, and like all the rest of his powers, depends entirely on his own energy. He can couple this with telekinesis - to throw something back that he's slowed enough, for instance.
Related to the force sphere is channeling energy into a single attack in a straight line, causing damage to anything that gets in its path. Think of this as a concussive shockwave; it goes at a fast, but set speed wherever Tetsuo initially directs it and has limited effective range before it's burned enough energy to be harmless (fifteen-twenty feet, maybe?). It's a great way to cause collateral damage such as tearing up sidewalks and severely annoying best friends.
Tetsuo in canon never really demonstrates reaching out to contact someone mentally - instead, he is extremely receptive to stray thoughts, sometimes gleaning bits of information or locations. He's susceptible to other strong telepaths and has no protection over his own mind.
With training, he might be able to hone this into a skill rather than a passive (read: maddening for either him or those around him) feature, but until and unless that happens it remains random happenstance - and largely only when regarding other psychics. Either way, I'll have set up a permissions post for it.
〈 CHARACTER SAMPLES 〉
COMMUNITY POST (VOICE) SAMPLE:
LOGS POST (PROSE) SAMPLE:
Tetsuo didn't remember much. Maybe that wasn't exactly right; he remembered everything he was supposed to well enough. The accident, running away... his head hurting. It had felt like his head was being shredded by something, over and over and over. And there was a voice, and then... and then...?
Slowly, Tetsuo realized he was actually awake only as he automatically started to sit up. He regretted it almost immediately as a sharp migraine returned in full force, stabbing through his eyes. Moving had been a mistake.
He stayed still for a while, hands clutched to his head, trying to piece together the events of the past twenty-four hours into a reliable narrative and failing miserably.
There'd been the edge of so much more just past his awareness. It taunted him with a voice that he didn't remember hearing, things that he didn't remember happening. That voice- who was that? Tetsuo squeezed his eyes shut and groaned, digging his fingers sharply into his temple, but the pressure only made it worse.
Just a dream. All of this had to be just a dream.
He rubbed at his face, then stopped when he caught sight of something on his wrist. "Wha-"
It looked like something projected onto his skin from behind, except it stayed put when he waved his arm. More like a tattoo, then, except he was pretty sure tattoos shouldn't glow. Tetsuo turned his wrist slowly, too confused to do much else.
Was this real? Was this another hallucination? The distinction between them shouldn't seem that blurry. Dreams were obviously dreams once you woke up. Here, though, he'd been sure he'd woken up several times in a row before he woke up here, and now his arm refused to stop glowing at him. He didn't even know where he was - the best estimate he could work out was some room, somewhere. Probably back at that damn hospital.
Had he even left? Had that happened?
Tetsuo let his hand drop, trying to ignore the fact that it was one of the few things he could see in the room. It was then that Tetsuo realized that there was someone staring expectantly at him for an answer to something. He muttered something noncommittal back, hoping she'd go away. Why didn't she get it through her head that he just didn't care about what she was going on about? He had more important things on his mind - like what was happening to it.
Not like anyone was gonna tell him. Oh, no, why would they ever fill him in? Whatever it was these people did, they didn't do helpful. They were all orders - swallow this, do that, lie here, hold out your arm, trust us.
Tetsuo hazarded a glance down. Even without holding his arm out directly in front of his face, he could make out the edges of half of the tattoo. He glared at it and thrust his hand in a pocket, trying to not think about it.
At some point he'd started moving again; he was too wrapped up in his own head to even notice things were happening outside of it. Lost somewhere between confusion, a dawning apprehension and irritation, he followed the woman, partly because she was the one thing he was certain had to be real.
He hadn't noticed at first, but she was talking and he could clearly tell what she was saying. Which meant that the voice had stopped. Not just died down, but actually stopped. He didn't have that feeling now that something was right there, just inches away from where he could grasp it anymore. The headache throbbed steadily on, but for the time being he felt alone in his head.
By the time they reached someone official-looking, Tetsuo had improved enough to look almost okay. He didn't say much. For the most part, he kept his head down, looking to the side instead of making eye contact, and acted generally as any Capsule member would if his wrist wasn't glowing.
Or maybe it really wasn't. Now that he'd had a moment to orient himself, he could find out that just like the other half-remembered hallucinations it never was happening to begin with.
So why was he hesitant to check?
A large downside to his abilities is that he's maladapted to controlling any of them. He's not quite stable and his abilities cause him quite a bit of pain - ranging anywhere from headaches to complete incapacitation or worse if not treated. There's ways to ameliorate or help this (such as extremely dangerous medication in canon), which he will probably have to end up getting a prescription for or find an alternative.
Tetsuo has a ridiculous range of abilities in both the OVA and the manga - limits means he won't have access to other displayed abilities such as telekinetic shield against environmental hazards (poison/space/extreme temperatures), teleportation, extreme healing abilities, technopathy.... Anyway, on a brighter note, with limits in place that one scene in the end is extremely unlikely to happen.