Is Death Stranding Hideo Kojima's Akira Adaptation?

Kojima leaves several clues hinting at a connection between Death Stranding and Akira.

2 months ago by Morgan Shaver in Feature

Hideo Kojima is an infamous name in the gaming industry; whether it’s Metal Gear Solid or Silent Hill, most gamers are familiar with Kojima’s adept storytelling prowess.

However, these gaming staples offer us only a small portion of Hideo Kojima’s creative vision. Initially attending college with the intent on becoming a filmmaker, Kojima abruptly shifted focus towards the gaming industry during his final years of schooling after discovering a passion for games.

In 1986, Kojima was hired on by Konami to be a game designer and planner. Things were rocky from the start whenafter working on assigned titles like Penguin Adventure and Antarctic AdventureKojima took a stab at creating his own game. Reportedly titled “Lost Warld” (a sign, even then, of Kojima’s love for quirky titles) Konami rejected the idea... and would continue to reject Kojima's ideas for nearly two decades.

After exactly thirty years, is Kojima finally making that one title he always wanted to make? One that may even draw on his appreciation of filmmaking?

It’s possible, with Kojima's partnership with Guillermo Del Toro and the current release date cited as releasing before the Akira live action film adaptation in 2019. Although, fans have taken to speculating over the meaning behind the addition of Akira to that announcement.

It’s no secret that Kojima’s employment at Konami was successful, but controlled. Many (if not all) of Kojima’s ideas were shot down by Konami, which built pressure and resulted in a final, tumultuous split from Konami following the rejection of Kojima’s latest vision—Silent Hills. Once Kojima officially left, all eyes turned to see what kind of game he'd make as an indie developer. 

With Kojima finally free from Konami’s leash, Death Stranding presents gamers with the ultimate question mark. What kind of game is this?

Two trailers have been released, both of which are extremely vague, though they do share common themes and imagery. The first trailer from E3 2016 opens with a quote from William Blake’s poem Auguries of Innocence, a grim piece full of judgment and warning with lines drawn between pitting the innocent against the elite.

Additionally, the trailer shows actor Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead) waking up on a beach next to an infant. On his wrist are futuristic handcuffs, and around his neck are what initially appear to be dog tags but upon closer inspection are actually 6 locks. The baby disappears and we see a stark emphasis on handprints as Norman Reedus scans the beach horizon, covered in dead sea life.

On his stomach is a surgical wound which baffles us as much as the question, whose baby is it? Furthermore, is the baby real or simply a metaphor? The beach is littered with dead animals and floating above the ocean are 5 humanoid figures. Perhaps Reedus is the 6th (to match the 6 locks)?

Yesterday, at The 2016 Game Awards, Kojima revealed the second trailer for Death Stranding that leaves us with even more questions than answers. Here, the second trailer opens in a nearly identical manner to the first.

Although, this time we see a baby doll with its left leg removed and a man who bears the likeness of Guillermo Del Toro (with identical handcuffs and an ominous forehead scar) walking forward through a ruined city cradling something in his arms. He appears panicked, as if dark forces are hot on his heels. 

On his shirt is a prominent pin with the United States on it and the word “BRIDGES” above it, suggesting that he’s part of some organization and that the game takes place in the United States. This knocks off one Akira fan theory, as Akira takes place in Neo-Tokyo during the year 2019. However, the scenery in the game and Kojima's insistence that the game will release before 2019 suggest that the game may take place during this time period.

As Del Toro’s character cowers in a tunnel a tank passes above him that vaguely resembles the tank design from Akira with armed soldiers following close behind. A foul black liquid hits his feet and causes Del Toro to attach a cable (from his stomach perhaps) to the parcel he’s been carrying, which contains the same baby that Reedus was cradling in the first trailer.

The emphasis on cables (or strands) also feels visually similar to Kaneda and his motorcycle, though it feels like a clever metaphor of all things being interconnected. 

The doll glows red as the man sets off through the tunnel, where more handprints can be seen on the walls. At the end of the tunnel are armed soldiers led by actor Mads Mikkelsen. The wires he uses to connect himself to the soldiers retract into his stomach under his suit, suggesting that perhaps Reedus’ character had a similar apparatus but it was removed from him for some reason. Or that these devices and cables are implanted in people. By whom? 

When the doll bounces against Mads Mikkelsen’s character we see the same surgical wound on the doll that Reedus had with a glowing red light emanating from within. Theories abound as to what both of these trailers could mean. On the surface, the game seems to be set in a post-apocalyptic future where humanity has poisoned the world around them.

The event looks recent, judging by the decay of the sea life, so perhaps whatever organization Del Toro’s character was part of was an organization working to save humanity prior to the fallout. He could, in fact, be one of six different protagonists (6 locks) working to protect or abduct the infant (the last non-poisoned human on earth) from the devastating effects wreaked upon the world. Capsules vs. Clowns? It's hard to tell if there's a central conflict in Death Stranding. 

Whether these poisoned humans no longer have the ability to reproduce, or if they do but their offspring will now possess the same traits the black poison has given them like those strange black cords (or psychic powers perhaps), remains to be seen.

It definitely resembles the subtle filmmaking aspects of Akira, but the plot connections are slim to none. Akira starts in 1988 with Tokyo being destroyed by a glowing psychic phenomenon, which incites World War III. The rest of the events take place in 2019.

At this point, it’s possible that Death Stranding was at least somewhat inspired by Kojima’s love of Akira. 

This makes sense, as his formative years in the game industry with Konami took place in the 80s during the time that Akira was released. Some suggest this Kojima could be pulling a bait-and-switch, and that Death Stranding may be an Akira game adaptation.

However, the trailers’ resemblance to the anime is minimal at best, suggesting that the game is either in the same universe following different storylines in the United States (unlikely), or is simply a different game entirely that borrows from Akira’s setting and themes.

Our guess is that Kojima is taking the brilliant creative vision denied to him for years and turning it into a giant tribute to some of his biggest inspirations. If not, there’s still time for him to cleverly trick fans with future trailers.

What do you think, is Death Stranding an Akira adaptation or something different?

For more on Death Stranding, be sure to check out our complete coverage of the second Death Stranding trailer, learn about rumors that suggest Death Stranding might have a female protagonist, and look back at the first Death Stranding trailer.