Neo-Tokyo, 2019. Delinquent bikers are on the rampage and the city is beset with terrorist atrocities, revolutionaries, the army and the government. Lurking somewhere within this urban warzone is a strange messianic creature named Akira.
Katsuhiro Otomo's ingenious Akira begins as it means to go on - with a nuclear explosion that devastates Tokyo. It ends with pretty much the same, augmented by the sort of bio-organic body transmutation that would have David Cronenberg reaching for the anaesthetic and self-piercing kit.
In between these mind-blowing bookends is a sprawling, cyber-punk epic haunted by the ghost of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and obsessed with the unchecked power of the human mind and youthful rebellion. It's also a wistful depiction of a friendship changing beyond all recognition.
It's all wrapped up in director Katsuhiro Otomoís scintillating animated visuals, with not one - not one - computer-assisted shot in sight. Make Akira live action and you'd bankrupt several small countries.
For anyone who thinks manga is all about incomprehensible storylines, naked girls with no pubic hair and a myriad of monsters that invariably turn into giant penises, this will set you straight.
Simply put, no Akira, no Matrix. It's that important.