The movie consists of 2,212 shots and 160,000 single pictures, 2-3 times more than usual, using 327 different colors (another record in animation film), 50 of which were exclusively created for the film. The reason for this statistic is that most of the movie takes place at night, a setting that is traditionally avoided by animators because of the increased color requirements.
This was one of the first Japanese anime films to have the character's voices recorded before they were animated. While this is the typical practice in U.S. animation, in Japan the animation is generally produced first.
Originally released in the U.S. by Streamline Pictures in 1990. A decade later, Pioneer Entertainment (now Geneon Entertainment) obtained the license to AKIRA and spent roughly $1 million in restoring the film's audio and video quality, as well as recording an all-new, more accurate English dub.
Computer-generated imagery was used in the film, primarily to animate the pattern indicator used by Doctor Onishi, but it was additionally used to plot the paths of falling objects, model parallax effects on backgrounds, and tweak lighting and lens flares.
Katsuhiro Ôtomo originally created the AKIRA manga as an homage to manga artist Mitsuteru Yokoyama, who created Tetsujin nijûhachi-go (1963) (Tetsujin 28). Both AKIRA and Tetsujin 28 have a main character named Shotaro Kaneda and Akira's no. 28 designation compares with the robot's no.28 designation.
Katsuhiro Ôtomo did not intend to adapt the series outside of the manga. However, he became 'very intrigued' when the offer to develop his work for the screen was put before him. He agreed to an anime film adaptation of the series on the grounds that he retained creative control of the project - this insistence was based on his experiences working on Harmagedon: Genma taisen (1983).
The movie is also notable for being one of the few animated movies to be released by The Criterion Collection (specifically, it was given a laserdisc release in 1993), along with Watership Down (1978) and Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009).
The Akira Committee was the name given to a partnership of several major Japanese entertainment companies brought together to realize production of an Akira film. The group's assembly was necessitated by the unconventionally high budget of around ¥1,100,000,000, intended to achieve the desired epic standard equal to Otomo's over 2,000 page manga tale. The committee consisted of publisher Kodansha Ltd., Mainichi Broadcasting System, Inc., Bandai Co., Ltd., Hakuhodo Incorporated, distributor Toho Co., Ltd., Laserdisc Corporation and Sumitomo Corporation who all forwarded money and promotion towards the movie. The animation for the movie was provided for by animation producers, Tokyo Movie Shinsha Co., Ltd.
The 1940s-style song heard following the terrorist bombing is "Tokyo Shoe Shine Boy", released in 1951 by jazz singer Teruko Akatsuki. The song was not included in either the Japanese or American releases of the soundtrack; however, it had previously appeared on the release of the soundtrack from MASH (1970).
Because Madman Entertainment Pty. Ltd. licensed Akira through Manga Entertainment rather than Pioneer/Geneon, the Australian DVD release of Akira has both the original Streamline dub (which Manga has the license to) and Pioneer/Geneon's new English dub.
The film has aired three times in on the Sci-Fi channel in North America: The original Streamline Pictures dub aired in the mid 90's and the re-dubbed Pioneer version aired on December 7th 2013 and on December 20th 2014.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
If you look carefully during the scene where Tetsuo first begins to hallucinate you can see a series of events that happen later in the movie like Tetsuo's rampage on the city, his fight with Kaneda, Tetsuo's mutation, Kaori's death, and his flashbacks to when he first met Kaneda.