The most horrifying moment in this film is not the explosion of an innocent girl exposed to extreme pressure, nor is it a dead body floating in a river of sewage, nor is it the bloating of a teenager into a hideous giant—it is the uncovering of the fragmentation of the world and the fragmentation of the human being. Through the entire movie the main characters search for someone or something named “Akira”; the word is little more than a convenient McGuffin until one of the youths in the plot discovers a batch of frozen orange tanks buried at the heart of a giant refrigerator which had been hidden underneath a new Olympic stadium—always a symbol of modernity, growth, and progress. Inside the orange tanks are mere bodyparts: a brain, a spine, various organs, all labeled “Akira”. Here is your human being! Everyone in the film was searching for humanity, although none of them realized it until they found that a person is no more than the sum of his bodyparts.
The harshest and most obvious aspect of modernity is its fragmentation, the endless division and sub-division of the world around us and our inability to grasp the entirety as a whole. “Borges” does glimpse it once in The Aleph but has now almost completely forgotten what he saw and would be unable to describe such a thing as the world even if he were able to see it again. The search is hopeless, pointless, and ultimately destructive because true knowledge is powerlessness. An awareness of everything past, present, and future would reduce a man to a vegetable, or, in Akira’s case, a few orange tanks full of what are in essence vegetables: what reason is there to act when you have already seen every mote of your destiny, and the consequences of even your most insignificant actions, down to the ten thousandth generation?