Although Warner Bros. acquired the rights for a live-action version of legendary anime and manga Akira more than a decade ago, the studio has yet to produce even a minute of its promised version of the psychic cyberpunk epic.
Recently, the project has been hit hard by a fan backlash to alleged deviations from the source material, such as moving the setting to New York. The reaction has also been less than positive to rumors of changing the ethnicities (but not the names, curiously) of Akira’s originally entirely Japanese cast. With Zac Efron, James Franco, Justin Timberlake, Joaquin Phoenix, Keanu Reeves, and Gary Oldman all at some point rumored to be attached to the film, I was starting to feel a little left out, as I suspected I might be the last non-Japanese guy not being offered a chance to portray motorcycle gang leader Kaneda or his mentally unstable pal Tetsuo.
But while Warner Bros.’ Akira looks to be stalled for the foreseeable future, a group of Canadian fans has out together a trailer showing what they’d like a live-action version of the anime to look like.
The creators, who collectively refer to themselves as The Akira Project, took their vision to crowdfunding site IndieGoGo two years ago, initially hoping to raise $7,500. The group secured less than half of that, and while it’s been a long time coming, their finished footage looks amazing considering the lack of big-budget funding.
Not counting credits, the trailer clocks in at just under three and a half minutes, but still manages to hit a phenomenal number of beats from Katsuhiro Otomo’s original work. Let’s run through them.
First, it’s set in Japan.
▼ Satellite map of Tokyo Bay
▼ Neo Tokyo, looking a lot like it did in the 1988 animated film
Kaneda is Asian, as in the original, with a penchant for drugs so strong that it dictates his wardrobe.
The design of his iconic bike is spot-on. The tail-light even produces the same streaming effect from the anime.
The Akira Group’s trailer isn’t 100 percent faithful, though, as there are a couple of deviations. Tetsuo is Caucasian, for one thing. Also, the time the story takes place has been shifted from 2019 to 2030, although this makes sense as we can’t see Tokyo suddenly turning into a dystopia in the next half-decade.
It’s hard to dwell on these quibbles, though, when the trailer is giving fans so much of what they fondly remember from Akira, including dudes in a ruined city firing giant rifles…
…dudes in space firing giant lasers…
…stuff blowing up in flames…
…and finally, stuff blowing up inside a giant black dome thingy.
Director Nguyen-Anh Nguyen says the group has no plans to pursue the copyright holder’s blessing to produce a longer version of this brief teaser. Still, for the time being, it’s nice to know that the only existing live-action version of Akira respects the original so much.
Video, images: YouTube