With the one-day-only cinematic re-release of Akira fast approaching (September 21st, for those who weren’t aware) I got thinking about what it was that made the classic Manga movie by Katsuhiro Otomo the great cult classic that it became. It was arguably the film that exposed the world to anime, and if it wasn’t that, then it was most certainly the one that made people pay attention.
The cyberpunk theme, the post-nuclear setting, the random scenes of hyper-violence and the story that I still don’t fully understand, even now. It was unlike anything the Western world was use to.
It’s easily one of my favourite movies, but before it was that, it was a long-running Manga, like, really long-running.
So with Akira being back in the public consciousness, and no I’m not referring to the Bollywood crime-thriller releasing this month (which bizarrely uses the Manga movie’s text font)it feels appropriate to discuss what the long-rumoured (and not to mention long-troubled) live-action remake would need to be/do in order to avoid offending fans of the classic Manga.
Let’s kick things off with the setting;
If this film is set anywhere other than the post world war 3 ‘Neo Tokyo’ of the Manga and anime adaptations then it would be doing a disservice to both the source material and the fans. Rumours circulated a few years back that the Hollywood adaptation could be moved to an American city, but I just can’t see what benefit that would be.
The hyper-realised backdrop of Tokyo; a place that even back in the eighties was already a futuristic looking metropolis, mixed with the decaying ruins left over from the nuclear explosion thirty years earlier made this place as much of a character as anyone else in the story, uprooting it just wouldn’t make sense, and would cause any relevance and poignancy the story had to be lost. After all, Japan itself is a country that has seen first hand the devastating effects of nuclear war.
The characters in Akira have always been the stars of the show, with Kaneda and Tetsuo being the two main players. One thing that would be interesting to see in a remake would be an expansion on their backstory, as while their friendship is merely implied in the anime movie due to a limited runtime, the Manga explored this much further and so there is a well of source material that could be used to make their eventual face-offs seem more dramatic.
Whilst on the subject of characters, casting would obviously be pretty key. Whilst there is very little noise about who may be in the running to play the leads, early rumours circulated at one point, suggesting that Keanu Reeves was in consideration to play Kaneda, and while I don’t necessarily have anything against him, I can’t really picture Reeves playing a Japanese teenager. I think the best thing that could be done is finding some unknown or rising Japanese stars in their late teens or early twenties, and giving them a chance to embody these characters and really bring them to life.
Another rumour that was floating around is that Akira would be split into two or three films; something that could really go either way.
On the one hand, it would allow for a more accurate portrayal of the source material, seeing as there is a pretty serious amount of comic book to be used. But on the other it never fills me with confidence knowing that I’m about to go watch a film that will only be part of the story. Granted it worked for Lord of the Rings, but it certainly didn’t for The Hobbit, nor did it work for The Matrix.
I guess it all hangs on the strength of the production itself (if/when it ever actually starts) and the faithfulness of the prospective filmmakers to the original material. I for one would be perfectly content with a single three hour movie, so long as it incorporates enough of ehat made the original such a classic whilst incorporating some lesser known aspects and arcs from the comics.
Will this movie be made?
Should it be made?
Will it suck?
I guess at this point it’s pretty difficult to say, but I’ll certainly be interested to find out!