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.
The manga originally began publication in 1982 in Japan's Young Magazine and finally concluded in July 1990. The collected manga totaled over 2000 pages and was released in 6 volumes by Kodansha. In 1988, it was published for the first time in the U.S. by Epic Comics, a division of Marvel Comics. This colorized version ended its 38-issue run in 1995 and was also compiled in six trade paperback volumes.
Dark Horse Comics reprinted and released the trade paperbacks, this time in black and white with an entirely different translation, from 2000 to 2002.
A short story called 'Candy Flower Napalm', written by Warren Ellis and drawn by Terry Shoemaker, was published in Akira #38 of the Epic Comics' release. The story retells Lady Miyako's dream she had whilst laying in a coma. The dream is a vision of the future (told in the books, seeing as this vision occurred in the past) and shows, amongst other material, Tetsuo, the use of drugs and destruction.
- Akira, Volume 1 : Publisher: Dark Horse ISBN 1-56971-498-3 Release: December 2000
- Akira, Volume 2 : Publisher: Dark Horse ISBN 1-56971-499-1 Release: March 2001
- Akira, Volume 3 : Publisher: Dark Horse ISBN 1-56971-525-4 Release: June 2001
- Akira, Volume 4 : Publisher: Dark Horse ISBN 1-56971-526-2 Release: September 2001
- Akira, Volume 5 : Publisher: Dark Horse ISBN 1-56971-527-0 Release: December 2001
- Akira, Volume 6 : Publisher: Dark Horse ISBN 1-56971-528-9 Release: March 2002