Hah! I think that title says it all doesn’t it?
For a bit of background, Akira is one of my favourite films of all time, I have a rough top 10 of all time affair, and alot of them move around, but there are two films that are definetly at the top of that table but it’s difficult to pick between them, one is Blade Runner, the other is Akira. Besides, if you didn’t know already, this blog is named after a location in both the manga and the movie, whilst my header image is taken from the movie itself.
The Manga collection is also one of my favourite books of all time. Now that thats out of the way lets get on with this.
Thank fuck the Hollywood Akira is on hold again!
There, I said it again. But why? Because quite clearly Hollywood doesn’t understand movies not of American origin and it goes all the way back to Magnificent Seven, which isn’t a bad film, but its not a patch on Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, mostly because it doesn’t really understand that films intricacies. However, it, at least, tried to be its own thing and went with a totally different name. So for a fairer comparison, look at Ghost in the Shell. Now I didn’t mind Scarlett Johansson taking on the role of Major Kusanagi, I understand the white washing criticsms but I didn’t really feel like the Kusanagi in either the original movies or the Stand Alone Complex was particularly Japanese in appearance, plus she has a cybernetic body so the original Kusanagi could have picked any physical appearance they wished. I’ve only read through the Manga on one occassion so I can’t really make comparisons there.
Onto Akira then, why am I glad its being shelved? Firstly, because it doesn’t need to be made. Go and watch Akira after reading this, it hasn’t aged at all, it still stands up today, it still feels relevant, it still blows most major animated movies, be they Ghibli, Disney Production IG, Akira stands high amongt their very best work. It. Doesn’t. Need. Remaking. Re-mastering? Maybe, I’m certainly not going to complain about Katsuhiro Otomo returning to it to do a 4k Remaster (not that I have a 4k TV and I can hardly see either of the two cinema’s in my town ever showing it). Is there stuff that can be made better? Sure, there’s loads of stuff that was important to the Manga that wasn’t in the film, mostly because Otomo hadn’t finished work on the Manga when he started and finished the movie, and I’m hoping that the new animated series he’s going to be making will address things and finally give us a completed adaptation of the Manga.
Secondly, the film would be heavily Americanised, I mean they were going to take it out of its Japan setting and set it in Neo-Manhatten. Just, No. Thats a total misunderstanding of what Akira is actually about. They’ve got the basic plot
Set in a future city environment called New Manhattan, the sci-fi epic follows the leader of a bike gang who must save his best friend, who has been experimented on by the government causing him to develop dangerous and destructive psychokinetic powers.
So, ignoring the setting, okay, thats how you’d describe Akira to someone who hadn’t seen or read it, but thats not what its actually about. The whole thing is about Japan, about its rebuild after Hiroshima and Nagasaki were rebuilt, about the American occupation and how Japanese kids were being influenced by US media and forming Bosozuku. It’s about civil unrest, politics and a country thats coming to terms with both its dark past and it being thrown into the modern world (the Edo period had only ended around 120 years before Akira’s release), its position of using nuclear power as a large source of its national energy and the difficulties the populace had with accepting that only a few decades after such power had been used against them.
I’ll admit the film doesn’t outright address these, it takes repeated viewings, reading the Manga and learning more about Otomo and his idea’s to learn all of this. But once you do know elements of this you can see it within the film (notice Tetsuo’s pattern being the same as the explosion Akira causes at the start of the film and how the latter in itself is similar to that of a nuclear explosion). Thing is, I did kind of start to come around to the idea when it was announced that Taika Watiti would be involved, and in actual face they’ve not scrapped the whole thing entirely, but I’ll be incredibly surprised if it see’s the light of day let alone if its any good. Just give me that animated series, let me keep the 1988 movie and, lastly, leave me alone to re-read my Dark Horse Manga collection.