While the weekend was all about the announcement that Tokyo would host the Olympic Games in 2020 — the city’s second bid and ultimately its second time to host — some netizens and keen-eyed manga fans have been noting an interesting parallel to the situation today and one that was predicted in the Eighties.

Okay, so we were hardly jumping with joy over the prospects of the Olympics — and not least for the government’s hypocrisy (Abe flies off to South America and promises to clean up Fukushima — now finally taking responsibility for a disaster 2.5 years ago and only because it might affect Tokyo’s prospects?!).

This is the Reuters photo that everyone has been posting.

tokyo olympics 2020 abe reuters

But it’s happened so we need to move on. We’ll be interested to see how much the municipal government tries to “clean up” the city — there are rumors that the days of convenience store pornography magazines may be limited — or how much talent goes into the design side of things. And then there’s the whole opening ceremony to think about. Will mascots like Funassyi be making an appearance? Or just AKB48? With this kind of boondoggle, the actual sports runs a not-so close second.

Regardless, it has now come to people’s attention, belatedly, that the manga AKIRA was already ahead of the curve.

akira anime

In the Katsuhiro Otomo comic series (1982-1990) and the subsequent film in 1988 — the film which basically launched Japanese anime on the international circuit — the setting is Tokyo in 2019 on the verge of an Olympic Games.

Of course, the Tokyo in the film is very much not Abe’s Utsukushii Kuni Nippon (Japan, the Beautiful Country). It is a dystopia of motorcycle gangs and is suffering from the fallout of radiation from another war, leading to monstrous mutations (an ironic reference to the “glorious” 1964 Games when Hiroshima had been banished from the memory but was actually less than twenty years old). What has usually been seen as a very Eighties cyberpunk vision might not be too far from the truth.

akira anime tokyo olympics

With Fukushima still pumping out radiated water into the oceans and the authorities talking about building an ice wall (WTF?!) to contain the fiasco, AKIRA is starting to sound very prophetic — and the new Olympics’ optimistic slogan “Discover Tomorrow” might just be a very bittersweet ideal indeed…


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  • Vanihm September 9, 2013

    Well, you’re twisting history a bit to suit your case here – the mutations in Akira are result of genetic engineering, not radiation. And there was (and is) no residual radiation in Hiroshima in 1964 as the bomb was airburst, sucking the fallout into the stratosphere.

  • Japan Trends (Post author) September 9, 2013


    Yes, you’re right about the genetic mutation — but the “sense” of radiation and post-war destruction is there, which is everyone’s main point. (Actually, we were essentially just paraphrasing a lot of the other comments and parallels exploding on the Japanese internet right now.) As for Hiroshima — we were talking about legacy, not residual radiation.