Tiny background detail in ‘80s manga masterpiece getting new attention decades later.

When Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe showed up at the closing ceremony of the 2016 Olympics for the baton to be passed from Rio de Janeiro to Tokyo, he was dressed as Nintendo’s Super Mario. However, a lot of fans of Japanese pop culture have a different franchise in mind when they think of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games: Akira.

In the world of the landmark science fiction manga, which started publication in 1982 and was adapted into an anime movie in 1988, Tokyo, or Neo-Tokyo, as the city has been renamed, is getting ready to host the 2020 Olympic Games. The coincidence of this playing out in real life has led to some cross promotion between the real-life games and Akira, but now fans have dug up a pair of other parallels.

The first actually comes from a tweet sent by Kouta Hirano, creator of manga series Hellsing and Drifters last July, during the Hong Kong street protests. Hirano spotted a protester in a photo holding a round street sign in his hand like a shield/battering apparatus, and said it reminded him of the scenes of makeshift weaponry from Akira.

But there’s another, eerier similarity with real life events in the manga scene above, which wasn’t spotted until just a few days ago by Japanese Twitter user @pcworks_kidd.

In the top right corner of the scene there’re several columns of Japanese text, which look to be a public posting on the streets of Neo-Tokyo. Portions of the passage are cut off, but what can be read in the section boxed in red in @pcworks_kidd’s tweet starts with

“World Health Organization’s response to infectious disease outbreak criticized.”

At the time of the manga’s creation, this was probably meant to be just another piece of incidental information letting the reader know how harsh the story’s world is. But flash forward to the real 2020, and Japan is indeed dealing with the coronavirus crisis, with new cases of infection still being discovered and the first death caused by the disease inside Japan occurring last week.

@pcworks_kidd’s tweet has drawn reactions including:

“The only explanation is that Akira was written by Nostradamus.”
“Or maybe a time traveler.”
“Can [Akira creator] Katsuhiro Otomo see the future?”
“Akira is basically a prophecy now.”
“So does this mean if we go back and read Akira, we’ll know how to handle the coronavirus outbreak?”

The coincidence is especially surprising because while Akira was an extremely respected influential series, it’s not a particularly large body of work, at least by manga/anime standards, Sure, a sci-fi story with a leisurely, meandering narrative will have to fill space with enough wild guesses as to what the future holds that at least some of them will turn out close to the mark. Akira, though, has just 120 comic chapters and a single 124-minute movie, so it’s a little unnerving to see it making accurate predictionslike it’s The Simpsons.

Source: Twitter/@pcworks_kidd via Jin
Top image: Twitter/@pcworks_kidd
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