Domu & Akira: A Psychic Journey

By Jonathan G. Rosa

In 2016, Netflix’s Sci-Fi original series, Stranger Things became a phenomenon that catapulted a mashup of genres and a homage to the 1980s lifestyle and pop culture. A terrific series centering on psychic warfare, extradimensional monsters, government conspiracies, mad experiments, childhood trauma, family and friendship dynamics, and 80s nostalgia. Stranger Things puts us on the edge for the incredible story of Eleven and her friends battling The Upside Down and the people who wants to take advantage of it. Many influences from 70s and 80s movies inspired this series; however, Akira is the sole one that greatly served as the model for this series. A terrifying and groundbreaking tale of psychic warfare that spans a longstanding voyage into the collapse of society and humanity itself. Akira is also inspired as a spiritual companion to Domu, a terrifying tale of dominance that reflects society’s fallouts.

Japanese manga artist, Katsuhiro Otomo crafted an intriguing and terrific double stand-alone mangas’ centered on psychic warfare: Domu and Akira. Domu occurs in 1978 at the Tsutsumi Public Housing Complex where its inhabitants are plagued with the deaths of 25 residents and counting which has transpired in 3 years. The man responsible is a senile old man, Chojiro Uchida who residents refer him as Old Cho. A monstrous person who seems as a defenseless individual who everyone thinks that he can’t hurt anyone. However, Chojiro doesn’t care his victims as they are brutalized to death by his wide array of psychic abilities: telekinesis, telepathy, teleportation, and hallucination. As inspectors Yamagawa and Okamura alongside detective Takayama try to establish a pattern in these killings while facing the apathy and mental illness that plagues the area as well as Old Cho’s obscuring obstacles, they receive an unlikely help. Etsuko is little girl who moves to the Tsutsumi apartments with her parents. Entering the area, she saves a toddler from falling of a building that Chojiro caused. Learning the mind of Chojiro, Etsuko makes the first confrontation to him and evades his attacks. A clash of powers between two defenseless people that society knows are put to the test, Etsuko the Alpha versus Chojiro the Omega. A great war is unleashed as the Tsutsumi Complex becomes a battlefield with the body count rising. In the end, Domu is a terrific examination of the human decline of the residents; in this case, the neighbors of the complex who gossip and strike each other without caring for help. In addition, the great strategy is the sole focus of two people (a child and an old man) who stage the battle between good and evil without the interference of governments or other strange opponents. Domu is very simple and yet is exceptional in testing the battle of the Alpha and the Omega.

Domu’s psychic warfare inspired Katsuhiro Otomo’s Magnum Opus, Akira. Akira occurs in 2019 dystopian NeoTokyo, 31 years after a calamity devastated the city. As the city is flooded with a corrupt government, revolutions, rampant crime, and extreme inequality, a new threat will soon wipe out the city as well as change the world. Bike gang friends turned rivals, Kaneda and Tetsuo met a strange boy, Takashi who has psychic abilities. Tetsuo’s contact with Takashi ignites his own psychic powers which causes several incidents his friends and everyone else. As Tetsuo is taken by the government for research and experimentation, Kaneda aids a rescue mission alongside revolutionary member Kai to save Tetsuo. Unbeknownst to everyone, Tetsuo is tormented by other psychic children: Takashi, Kyoko and Masaru who try take down Tetsuo as they warn him about his control loss of his powers. Tetsuo’s powers are increasing causing mass destruction everywhere but losing his control along the way. With the chaos consuming Neo-Tokyo, Tetsuo learns of a powerful being called Akira who caused the destruction of Tokyo in 1988; thus, Akira is the ultimate power in unlocking the secrets of human evolution as well as the secrets of the cosmos. Akira’s discovery sparks rebellions and disaster as Tetsuo and Kaneda battle to ensure the survival of Neo-Tokyo. In the end, Akira is an exploration of chaotic existentialism coupled with the social-political decline of society.
Katsuhiro Otomo’s masterpieces goes deeper into the crumbling worlds of society that surround us everywhere. Domu started the journey of power supremacy and Akira continue it by discovering its origins. They share an universe whose stories may not be related but in my theory it could be true. I theorize that Domu was the beginning of the discovery of psychic individuals in the 1970s while Akira exposed it on a macro scale with the destruction of Tokyo in the 1980s; thus, ending it in 2019. Both works changed the landscape of Anime and Science Fiction with Akira being the flagship of this trend. Akira is a great influence to western science fiction and a landmark on pop culture as well as a good social art force. The psychic journey of Domu & Akira will continue inspiring other science fiction works like Stranger Things and the upcoming ones. Thus, the journey will never end and we will keep uncovering more along the way.
Interesting Note:
My short-story, What Was Raul Dreaming? was heavenly inspired by Domu as a psychological analysis in the individual confrontation of psychic abilities

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