It looks like it will still be a while before we see Warner Bros.’s live-action adaptation of the hit manga/anime Akira, but director Taika Waititi says that he is still working on the project.
“I haven’t really started to get my head around it yet,” he said, noting that the manga has “six massive volumes” of story to get through. “It’s so rich.”
He makes it clear here, as in other interviews, that he intends his movie to be a new adaptation based on the manga, rather than simply be a remake of the 1988 animated film.
“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.’” He did note that the anime was one of his favorite films, however, saying that it “changed my life” when he saw it at age 13.
Akira is set in a dystopian “Neo-Tokyo” in the year 2019, and includes supernatural elements as well as political intrigue and social commentary. The main plot involves the leader of a teenage biker gang, Shōtarō Kaneda, trying to rescue his best friend, Tetsuo Shima, after the latter develops psychic powers and is taken by the government. Things get complicated, and incredibly violent, from there.
The film had to streamline a lot of elements to fit so much story into a two-hour story—heck, the titular Akira winds up being little more than a cameo. In any event, the movie was a major success in the West, and helped herald the popularity of anime outside of Japan.
Various directors have been attached to the new adaptation, but Waititi seems like he plans to stay. After his success with Thor: Ragnarok, Warner Bros. no doubt wants to keep this rising star, who has also had success with smaller projects like the coming-of-age story Boy and the vampiric horror-comedy What We Do in the Shadows.
For those wondering, Waititi has said that he plans to hire Asian actors for the film. Several recent live-action anime adaptations like Ghost in the Shell and Netflix’s Death Note have been criticized for casting mostly Caucasians for roles that were originally Japanese, with controversy contributing to poor sales.