For decades, enthusiasts sitting at the intersection of motorcycles and anime have been obsessed with one red bike. In the animated film Akira, Shotaro Kaneda blasts through a future cyberpunk Neo-Tokyo on a red motorcycle. The bike, which looks unlike anything you’ll find in the real world, is not just a famed piece of Japanese media, but a dream of motorcyclists all over the world. Now, I have some good news. Viladecans, Spain-based design studio Bel & Bel will build you a working real-life version of the famed bike from Akira.
Before I continue, I should note that this is hardly the first real-life replica of this motorcycle. Many crafty Akira fans have made their own interpretations of the motorcycle. Some look more faithful to the animated version than others. One particularly good replica is this motorcycle constructed by Shinji Tejima. It took Tejima seven years and the equivalent of $121,400 to bring anime into real life, and the motorcycle was so impressive that Akira‘s creator, Katsuhiro Ôtomo, considered it the only officially recognized replica. Tejima’s attention to detail was incredible and included everything from a screen-accurate round key and a digital dashboard.
But here’s the thing, you can’t buy the motorcycle built by Tejima. Most of the fans who built their own Akira motorcycles did it just once. So, while building a replica of Kenada’s machine had been done before, offering copies for sale as Bel & Bel is doing has not, and a limited number of people with the equivalent of $26,300 in their pocket will be able to get a pretty good Akira motorcycle replica without having to build it themselves.
To understand why this is such a cool deal, we should talk about the manga and the animated film of the same name. Akira first hit shelves in 1982 as a six-volume manga created by Japanese artist Katsuhiro Ôtomo. The manga sold until 1990, and Akira hit the big screen as an anime in 1988. Most people know Akira from from that massively influential film, which is also what made this motorcycle famous.
Akira was published in Kodansha’s Weekly Young Magazine, the same publication that would host Initial D beginning in 1995. The publishing house gives this description for the first couple of volumes in the series:
In 1982, Kodansha published the first chapter of Akira, a dystopian saga set in Neo-Tokyo, a city recovering from thermonuclear attack where the streets have been ceded to motorcycle gangs and the rich and powerful run dangerous experiments on destructive, supernatural powers that they cannot control.
Welcome to Neo-Tokyo, built on the ashes of a Tokyo annihilated by a blast of unknown origin that triggered World War III. The lives of two streetwise teenage friends, Tetsuo and Kaneda, change forever when paranormal abilities begin to waken in Tetsuo, making him a target for a shadowy agency that will stop at nothing to prevent another catastrophe like the one that leveled Tokyo. At the core of the agency’s motivation is a raw, all-consuming fear of an unthinkable, monstrous power known only as Akira.
The film adaptation, also the work of Ôtomo, was inspired by the manga but has its own plot. In the synopsis from the Akira DVD press release, you can see how Ôtomo modified elements from the manga for the screen:
Neo-Tokyo has risen from the ashes of World War III to become a dark and dangerous megalopolis infested with gangs and terrorists. The government seethes with corruption and only maintains a token control over the powerful military that prevents total chaos and hides the secrets of the past. Childhood friends Tetsuo and Kaneda plunge into Neo-Tokyo’s darkest secret when their motorcycle gang encounters a military operation to retrieve an escaped experimental subject. Tetsuo, captured by the military, is subjected to experiments that make him a powerful psychic, but unfortunately for Neo-Tokyo, Testuo’s powers rage out of control and he lashes out at the world that has oppressed him. Nothing can stop the destructive forces that Tetsuo wields except possibly the last boy to destroy Tokyo – Akira!
Ôtomo was born in 1954 in Tohoku in northern Japan. In an interview with Forbes, Ôtomo stated that since he lived in a rural area, he spent much of his childhood reading manga. Ôtomo was also inspired to draw his own manga in his spare time. His initial inspirations were the works of Tetsuwan Atom and Tetsujin 28-go. Eventually, Ôtomo started taking manga seriously and he read Shotaro Ishinomori’s How to Draw Manga to get better at the craft. Ôtomo moved to Tokyo after high school and soon found himself making manga professionally.
That was in 1973, when, as Ôtomo says, the science-fiction space was under-represented in manga. Instead, most manga were either sports-related or had adult themes. Ôtomo’s first published work was A Gun Report, an adaptation of the short story Mateo Falcone. By 1979, Ôtomo began to focus on the under-explored territory of sci-fi. Ôtomo’s first science-fiction manga was Fireball, and after seeing The Exorcist, he started adding horror elements to those sci-fi pages.
According to Forbes, one important moment in Ôtomo’s career was the 1980 release of Dōmu. Back then, there was a part of Tokyo that was notorious for people jumping off of apartment blocks. Ôtomo baked that horror plus a kid with extrasensory powers into Dōmu, creating an award-winning piece of manga. Themes like those would appear in later works, including Akira.
Perhaps the most famous scene in Akira is when Kaneda slides into frame on his motorcycle. The scene is dramatic and has been replicated dozens of times in media.
If you’ve ever wondered how Ôtomo came up with Kaneda’s motorcycle, Ôtomo explains his inspiration in the Forbes interview:
“In terms of Kaneda’s bike in Akira, the initial inspiration was the lightcycles from Tron designed by Syd Mead. However, they are wide, so I halved them and used that as an initial basis.”
The legacy of Akira is perhaps too grand to put to paper. The film is credited with boosting the popularity of anime outside of Japan and to this day, the film is still lauded for its visuals and detail. Akira routinely makes best film lists and is considered to be one of the definitive Cyberpunk works. The work is also said to have at least partly inspired such famed works as Naruto, Ghost in the Shell, and Cowboy Bebop. The Matrix and Kill Bill are also said to have some Akira inspiration. So does Valve’s Half-Life video game.
While you won’t be recreating the skid scene in real life with Bel & Bel’s motorcycle, you can at least look the part.
The Bel & Bel Akira Bike
Bel & Bel is a design studio located just outside of Barcelona. Founded in 2005 by Carles Bel and Jesus Bel, the firm often takes old objects and upcycles them into new ones. Bel & Bel will take the leg shield of an old Vespa and turn it into the back of an office chair. The studio can also turn the front end of a Volkswagen New Beetle into a sofa.
The firm also made what it calls the Monowheel Z-One, a single wheel scooter with the look of a Vespa. The best part? If you fork over enough cash, Bel & Bel will make one of its wacky creations just for you.
In 2019, Bel & Bel started making pretty accurate replicas of motorcycles from anime. Bel & Bel replicated Lunch’s monowheel from Dragon Ball as well Bulma’s motorcycle, Capsule No.9.
As first reported by our friends at RideApart, after the public reaction to the Dragon Ball bikes was so strong, Bel & Bel decided to push themselves by recreating the bike from Akira. The prototype motorcycle was built on the bones of a Yamaha Majesty YP 250 scooter with the swingarm of a Honda VFR 800.
Carles Bel told RideApart that while many parts were reused, more than half of the parts, including the fiberglass and carbon fiber body, were made just for the Akira bike replica. The prototype was also pretty wild in that it had both the scooter engine in the back and a 1,000-watt electric motor up front for propulsion, making for a killer AWD hybrid. Bel & Bel even went through the work to replicate the dashboard from the anime’s motorcycle.
However, the limited production model will be all-electric, featuring a 72-volt, 5,000-watt (6.7 HP) motor with regeneration capabilities and a reverse mode. This will be good for a top speed of about 75 mph. Bel & Bel’s standard battery is a low-mounted 60 Ah unit that Bel & Bel says should provide about 64 miles of range. The firm also says that charging the bike shouldn’t involve anything special, and the charge plug is located under a competition-style gas cap.
It’s unclear if the production version will be road-legal, but it’ll sport 17-inch cast-aluminum wheels with Moto GP racing tires, ABS, and LED lighting. If you’re as curious as I am, the bike has a wheelbase of 78.74 inches and an expected weight of under 375 pounds.
Of course, with specifications like those, the real-life Akira motorcycle is more about style than it is a practical form of transportation. Specifications can also change as Bel & Bel continues its development. If you want one, the price is about €24,000 (about $26,300, depending on exchange rates). Bel & Bel does not say how many of these will be made, but two are on the cooker right now. €5,000 (about $5,475, depending on exchange rates) gets your foot in the door and you can pay the remaining balance over the year as Bel & Bel constructs your motorcycle. If you want one, contact Bel & Bel through its website or Instagram.
Yes, $26,300 is a lot to spend for a motorcycle with limited actual use, but we’ve written about boutique motorcycles far more expensive than this one. For that price, you can finally live out your Akira dreams, and you don’t have to build it yourself. I have a feeling Bel & Bel won’t have a ton of trouble finding buyers.
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