Ōtomo was born in Tome, formally called Hasana, Miyagi in Japan. As a teenager growing up in the turbulent 1960s, he was surrounded by demonstrations by both students and workers against Japan's militarist government. This period has changed Japan into what it is today a sharp contrast to the occupation era that occurred after WWII. The riots, demonstrations, and overall chaotic conditions of this time would serve as the inspiration for Akira. Ōtomo was influenced by the animation coming from Japan and America in the 1970s.