Is the Tetsuo Shima, Akira T-shirt the most coveted vintage t-shirt in the world?
It should come as no surprise that we at Restore Cph love Vintage T-shirts – especially unique, rare, and iconic t-shirts. It’s not uncommon to walk in to the store and overhear someone remarking about finding a great shirt over the weekend, what their favorite t-shirt is, or having a light-hearted debate about the greatest t-shirt of all time.
While it’s impossible to decide which is the greatest t-shirt of all time – and trust us, we’ve tried – we have instead decided to do a deep dive into one of our absolute favorite Vintage Tees. (The Vintage Akira T-shirt)
AKIRA (アキラ) is a 1988 Japanese animated sci-fi action film directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, written by Otomo and Izo Hashimoto, produced by TMS Entertainment and several partnered Japanese animation/tech companies all referred as The AKIRA Committee. It is an adaption on Otomo's manga AKIRA, focusing mainly on the first half of the story.
The film depicts a dystopian version of Tokyo in the year 2019, with cyberpunk tones. The plot focuses on the relationship between Tetsuo Shima and his long-term friend Shotaro Kaneda. While a good number of the character designs and settings were adapted from the original 2182-page manga, the restructured plot of the movie differs considerably and much of it was pruned for the movie.
AKIRA became a hugely popular cult film around the world, and is widely considered to be a landmark in feature-length animation and spearheading the popularization of anime outside Japan
Unlike in the adaptation film, where Akira is a supporting character, he is a main character in the manga. Akira was a child test subject, designated number 28, who was part of a secret government parapsychology project where its members tried to research the availability of psychic powers in humans. It went horribly wrong when Akira's powers went out of control and utterly destroyed the original Tokyo in a destructive explosion
Tetsuo Shima is a member of the teenage biker gang and one of the main characters together whit his long-term friend Shotaro Kaneda. After a near-collision with Takashi and being experimented by the Japanese military government, he rapidly develops powerful, psychic abilities. Tetsuo goes on a power trip as his newfound abilities grow, eventually leading him to his own destruction.
Shotaro Kaneda is the main protagonist of the Akira film. He is the leader of The Capsules and a friend of Tetsuo.
After being cannibalized by admirers and exalted by critics for over 30 years, why does Akira stand as more than a remnants of a bygone era in Japanese manga history? Frankly, this might be the most urgent moment to watch Akira since it’s original release. Exploring oppressive governments, violent police, a rebellious-but-lost generation, and a society driven to create a perfect weapon to defend the last failed weapon, Katsuhiro Otomo says the awful part of our current circumstance out loud. Things can get worse, can get more violent, can end it absolute catastrophe. As young motorcycle gangster Kaneda races through the streets of Neo-Tokyo to save his pal Tetsuo, warped by destructive psychic powers, he beholds every kind of human failure, from slobbering misogyny to systematic fascism. Katsuhiro Otomo renders his story in a city’s glow and nightmarish surrealism. I’ve seen the movie four times, and it never ceases to amaze me how relevant this movie was and still is.
The earliest official Akira tees where made by "Weekly Young Magazine", where the cover of the Manga was printed.
But of the officially licensed ones, It is the "FASHION VICTIM" that is by far the most covede. Most of them made from 1988 to 1990 as merch for the film.
There are few so-called original "AKIRA" T-shirts, they have become quite popular among enthusiasts and collectors due to their design, they are extremely rare and are rarely traded on the open marked.
During the 1990s FASHION VICTIM have made a number of reprints
The most popular is probably the Tetsuo Shima, Akira T-shirt which is a screen printed single stitch T-shirt made between 1999-2002, depicting Tetsuo from the cover of the nr 5 manga of the Akira series.
The best way to understand pricing on Akira t-shirts is by looking at the T-shirt tag. The "Fashion Victim" products are definitely the most rare and expensive but some of the reprints have been known to go for similar or even higher prices because of the quality of the t-shirt and screen printing. These are usually printed on Screen Stars tag or Brockum Tags. Best way to ensure that a vintage Akira T-shirt is authentic, is to look at where it is being sold, Ebay and etsy are probably not the best places to look and the "GILDAN" tag is a sure tell that is is a fake.
In 2018 Supreme joined forces with the Japanese artist to create a special collection inspired by the 1982 Manga. "SUPREME" made a small collection with illustrations from Katsuhiro Otomo that had never been seen before.
Palace Skateboards Winter 2021 collection
The Palace Skateboards Winter 2021 drop was highlighted by a tee that nods to Katsuhiro Otomo’s beloved Akira manga series.
The “Robot Rory” tee features a graphic inspired by the cover of Akira Volume 5, with the character Tetsuo Shima replaced with Palace skater Rory Milanes. This tee is offered in a variety of colorways, including black, navy, grey, white, purple, and tan.
Akira In Pop Culture
If you love Akira, it's important to grasp how influential the film and manga has become in modern pop culture. From Kanye West's "Stronger" or the Wachowski siblings' The Matrix, here is a selection of the best:
'Stranger Things' character eleven pays homage to Tetsuo
One of Akira's central mysteries is the government's secretive experimentation on children, a theme referenced in other anime like Elfen Lied. The hit Netflix original series Stranger Things thrives on references to American pop culture, but a closer look reveals a few international influences as well. In the show, Eleven, a young girl with incredible psychic powers, escapes life in an experimental government facility. It's very reminiscent of Akira's Tetsuo and the Espers. Because she doesn't lash out like Tetsuo and appears utterly terrified, she also reminds Akira fans of Takashi, another experimental subject who is far more fearful than Tetsuo. While no producers have directly stated Akira influenced Stranger Things, it's hard to ignore the similar premise.
'Bartkira' is a fan-made 'simpsons'/'akira' crossover
Created by more than 500 fans from around the world, Bartkira depicts The Simpsons in the world and style of Akira. While the art style varies, the character connections are consistent, with Bart portrayed as Kaneda, Milhouse as Tetsuo, and Ralph Wiggum as Akira himself.
While the connection between the two properties sounds random, there's a thematic connection. Here's what James Harvey, the cartoonist heading the project, had to say: Both pieces depict a world of children at war with adults... Both Bart and Kaneda were avatars for [an] aggressive brand of anti-establishmentarianism - The Simpsons lampooned society with barbed wit while Kaneda's gang literally smashed it with hammers. Both pieces, then, were a massive moment of catharsis for the cultures they sprang out of.
Kanye west's 'Stronger' is a clear homage to ‘Akira'
Kanye West has always been open about his love for anime in general, and Akira specifically. He even claims Akira as one of his favorite movies of all time. The music video for "Stronger" is a direct homage to the film that includes live-action versions of many of the movie's most distinctive scenes, including the motorcycle chase sequence, Tetsuo stumbling around in the hospital, and more.
In an interview, the video's director, Hype Williams, said the following about Ye's Akira influence:
The original idea was always Kanye's. He was inspired by some Japanimation that he liked. My whole world is animation, Japanimation and science fiction, so it was something that I had a lot of experience in.
He was always inspired by Akira. There was a point where we really dove in and wound up filming parts of that movie for the video, but we decided to back off it and do something a little more abstract for the final version. So originally it went from inspired by - to us really diving into that world and giving him a piece of the story, and that kind of [transmuted] into the video that's out now.
'The Matrix' shares themes with 'akira'
While a different anime primarily influenced The Matrix, Ghost in the Shell, it also shares a lot with Akira. Both movies depict cities destroyed by warfare and people struggling with the fallout. Both films also feature children with telekinetic powers - The Matrix features Spoon Boy, while Akira spotlights Tetsuo. Finally, both movies feature a gritty, urban, cyberpunk landscape.
Akira didn't just influence Western media - it also provided a gateway anime for an entire generation of anime fans. By 1990, the movie spread to the US. Most people watched it on bootleg videocassette tapes, caught an occasional TV airing or screening, or rented it from someplace like Blockbuster (RIP). As more and more people recommended the movie to friends and traded it around college campuses, its popularity grew - and so did fans' hunger for something similar.
The film is widely considered one of the greatest anime movies of all time. For us at Restore there is no maybe it is simply "The GOAT"