The Anime genre has come a long way since Katsuhiro Otomo's 1982 Manga opus, Akira, was adapted into a 1988 film that forever changed how adults would view animation. "Cartoons", as many call them, would no longer be viewed as just for kids; They were then considered a marketable and financially viable market for adults in the west. For years Anime was relegated to the Asian markets and if you wanted one would have to order it from a specialty shop. If it wasn't for Akira we would have never gotten Anime in the states such as Dragon Ball, Spirited Away, Ghost in The Shell, and others.
The Manga of Akira ran from 1982 to 1990 in the states and has been collected in several large "Phonebook" sized omnibi. It is regarded as one of the greatest graphic novels of all time and it too paved the way for Manga as a genre to stake a claim in the west.
The film version was a visual masterpiece of animation at that time and still holds up even by today's standards. The movie, however, had its detractors as much as it had praise. The differences between the film and book were quite big. The characters were much more fleshed out in the book vs the film and we weren't treated to Akira himself in the movie as we were in the book. Kaneda and Tetsuo (the two leads) had their stories more intertwined and secondary character Kei was given more facetime in the book.
There have been several attempts to make a live action version of Akira. Warner Bros. acquired the rights in 2002 and have had a few false starts on production and casting. Producer Andrew Lazar stated they "...contemplated splitting it (Akira) into two movies based on three manga volumes each..." Other notable items from the attempted film are:
- Having the setting be Manhattan instead of Tokyo.
- Having a cast of white actors when the characters are Japanese. George Takei even stated in an interview that casting white actors in Japanese roles would offend asians and fans of the original works.
- There have been many names attached to the several starts to the film such as: Christopher Nolan, George Miller, Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Marco Ramirez, Ken Watanabe, Jackie Chan, and Takeshi Kitano.
I believe if done properly by a production company who wants to keep true to the source material, this could be a blockbuster, sci-fi movie of epic proportions. With the advancements we've made in special effects, bringing the scenes from the page to the silver screen would be that much easier. Movies like Watchmen and 300 have shown that a direct adaption of the graphic novel could work, we think that they should have some leeway with what goes in the final film though. The current movie going crowd is ready for Akira. Once again Akira could be a trendsetting film and make it easier to translate notable Anime to live action films in the west.