While I'm not usually the type of guy to gripe about how "the book is better than the movie," I do have to say that the Akira manga series is much better than the well-known anime movie.
The Akira manga series has a much more developed storyline and themes, and its characters are more numerous in both quanity and quality. An example would be Chiyoko, Kay's aunt, who's only featured in the manga series. She's almost like a female Arnold Schwarzenegger for her toughness and is a very important character in the book. Kaneda has a much more loose moral code in the books than in the anime, as he's a more brazen womanizer and is prone to more violent acts. Tetsuo's character especially is made to be given more depth than in the anime movie, since he's made to be much slimier in the books, and is almost as sadistic and perverse as the infamous Roman emperor Caligula during the last half of the whole series. His girlfriend, Kaori, plays a much more important role in the books as well, as she's originally a street urchin who becomes Tetsuo's servant and anchor to his humanity.
Overall, because of the fact that this book series has so many more well-developed characters, certain scenes have a significantly stronger emotional impact than in the anime adaptation. There's so much more in this manga series.
I need to re-read this.
AKIRA (アキラ?) is a black and white serial manga or graphic novel by Katsuhiro Otomo. Set in a post-apocalyptic Neo-Tokyo, the work uses conventions of the cyberpunk genre to detail a saga of turmoil. Initially serialised in the pages of Young Magazine from 1982 until 1990, the work was collected in six volumes by Japanese publisher Kodansha. The work was first published in an English language version by the Marvel Comics imprint Epic Comics, one of the first manga works to be translated in its entirety. Otomo's art on the series is considered outstanding, and the work is a breakthrough for both Otomo and the manga form. An identically titled anime film adaptation was released in 1988, shortening the plot, but with its structure and scenes heavily informed by the manga and its serial origins.
The manga takes place in a vastly larger timeframe than the film and involves a far wider array of characters and subplots. Through the breadth of the work, Otomo explicates themes of social isolation, corruption and power.
Otomo's Akira projects – the manga and its film adaptation – marked his transition from a career primarily in the creation and design of printed manga to one almost exclusively in the creation, direction and design of anime motion pictures and television.