A Samurai Named Akira

Akira is a stoic, battle-hardened samurai in a futuristic city. He combines old and new: he carries samurai swords yet has cybernetic arms. His swords and stylized helmet are a call back to feudal Japan.

The setting that Akira lives in is a sprawling, nameless mega-city. It is a place of enormous skyscrapers that tower over the rest of the city like mountains. But also a place of cozy, traditional taverns and Shinto temples sitting in the shadow of modernity. The city is a place where the future meets the past. Shinto spirits and robots exist side-by-side. Akira, as a character, embodies this melding of old and new.

I had the idea of Akira long before I finally got around to draw him. He was always a samurai and always a loner, for different reasons. Originally, he was a robot who broke free from control and found purpose as a samurai warrior. Then, not being terribly interested in writing a robot-searches-for-freedom story since they are over done, I changed Akira into a man. Though some of the robot has still lingered.

When you first meet Akira, his face is hidden behind his golden mask and helmet. His hands are prosthetic. There is no flesh insight to let you know this person is a human or not. Almost like a machine with newfound freedom, Akira searches for his true purpose while struggling against a sense of deep ennui. Though he is the personal retainer to one of the six most powerful men in the city, Akira longs for something more meaningful to serve than the ambitions of corrupt men.

Akira’s design was always emphasized by dark colors. Black and red in particular have been prominent colors through the character’s entire development. The gray trench coat was added just because everything is cooler with trench coats. The metal gray I think fits the stoic nature of the character and contrasts nicely with the golden mask.

Above is my very first full-color sketch of Akira. Below is a better one, though I haven’t yet drawn he shadows and highlights, or the details of Akira’s mask. Still, I think it’s better than the first one.

Akira’s shoes changed from strange loafers to slim-fitting shoes reminiscent of the sandals traditionally worn by the Japanese. Also, Akira’s helmet looks so much better. It was surprisingly hard to draw, even front on, but even from the three-quarter profile view.

Akira’s name uses the kanji 明, which means “clear”, “bright”, and “tomorrow”. In a world of murky intentions, betrayals, and immorality, Akira stands out as a beacon. Not a completely innocent beacon, but at least he alone has honor and integrity.

The name Akira is a reference to the 1988 Japanese film Akira. Also, it is a reference to Akira Kurosawa, whose samurai films starring Toshiro Mifune were definitely an inspiration for the character of Akira. Lastly, Akira is just an easy name to pronounce as an English-speaker.

I’ll post updates as I complete the drawing of Akira. More pictures of Akira will come at some point in the hopefully not-too-distant future.

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