It is 31 years after a devastating blast destroyed Tokyo. Uninhabited and uninhabitable, gang warfare and terror tactics rule the ruins of the city.
Survivors were forced to create a makeshift island in Tokyo Bay, on which to build Neo Tokyo.
It's a nightmarish, dog eat dog society, where each citizen is suffering the traumatic, psychological aftermath of World War III.
In addition, no-one is really sure of the long-lasting effects of close radiation on their minds, bodies and abilities.
Enter Tetsuo Shima. He's riding his motorbike through the squalid streets, when it suddenly explodes beneath him. He is injured, but worst still is the knowing what caused it. A psychic child, using the power of his mind, willed it to happen.
Moreover, the shock seems to have awoken similar latent skills of his own.
This should give him an edge, in a city where only the strong survive, but that is counting out Tetsuo's own mental state. His inferiority complex and nerves have always placed him in the shadows of his own street gang. (Everyone is a member of one of those. The alternative is to have no protection at all.) The leader, Shotaro Kaneda, will not take kindly to anyone able to challenge his authority.
If that wasn't bad enough, then what about the struggling, besieged government officials? They also want to mobilize every advantage they can wrangle, in vain attempts to restore law and order over their city. Someone with telekinesis will be instantly targeted and drafted into service, whether they want to or not.