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Yes, The American 'Akira' Movie is Happening

By Kayleigh Donaldson | Film | April 2, 2019 |

By Kayleigh Donaldson | Film | April 2, 2019 |


Katsuhiro Otomo’s manga Akira is, by this point in time, the stuff of legends. Thousands of pages dedicated to telling the story of a post-apocalyptic Neo-Tokyo where teenage biker gangs find themselves embroiled in political turmoil and telekenetic wars, the manga is generally considered to be one of the medium’s true masterpieces. The anime adaptation, also directed by Otomo, is a greatly condensed version of the manga but it’s still a stellar cinematic achievement and one whose influence can be felt throughout Hollywood to this day. It’s kind of a minor miracle that nobody has tried to remake the movie yet. One has been talked about for years and came close to happening in 2011 but never did. Well, miracles can be broken because yes, it’s happening and yes, Leonardo DiCaprio is producing it.

Variety reported that Akira, produced by DiCaprio for Warner Bros., was the biggest recipient of recent tax credits from the California Film Commission, accounting for $18.5m of their offerings this year. The project, according to the report, will film in the state over 71 days.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film will be directed by none other than perennial Pajiba fave Taika Waititi. In a 2018 interview with Dazed, as noted by, Waititi confirmed his early attachment to the project’s development, saying, ‘I haven’t really started to get my head around it yet. What I wanted to do was an adaptation of the books, ‘cos a lot of people are like, ‘Don’t touch that film!’ and I’m like, ‘I’m not remaking the film, I want to go back to the book.’ A lot of the people freaking out haven’t even read the books, and there are six gigantic books to go through. It’s so rich.’

So we’re all super apprehensive about this, right? Akira is a stone cold classic that shouldn’t be meddled with but it’s also distinctly Japanese. It’s the story of a disenfranchised youth living in the literal and metaphorical ruins of a Tokyo ravaged by the mistakes of generations past and a tangled socio-political warfare that’s left them furious beyond recognition. It’s one of the defining works of post-war Japan in that regard. Sure, there’s probably a way to make that more American — neglected urban communities left to rot by governments that destroyed them in the first place wouldn’t be out of place in that setting — but didn’t we all learn our lessons with Ghost in the Shell and Death Note? Robbing such deftly layered work of its cultural specificity in an attempt to be ‘universal’ (read: white) isn’t impossible but it’s boring as all hell at best. Akira is too good and too important a piece of work to be reduced to ‘cool biker kids with X-Men powers’. Also, just from a branding POV, I’m surprised they didn’t push this into production sooner so they could release it in time for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

So, since this film is inevitable, who do you want to see star in it? Let us know in the comments and feel free to endlessly scream ‘TETSUOOOOOOOOO’ and ‘KANEDAAAAAAAA’ at us while you’re at it.

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Kayleigh is a features writer for Pajiba. You can follow her on Twitter or listen to her podcast, The Hollywood Read.

Header Image Source: Toho