Anime & Manga News

Akira Live-Action Film 2009

by ElectricSlime
Feb 20, 2008 8:04 PM | 49 Comments
Warner and Leonardo DiCaprio will produce a live action film based on the Akira manga. There are two films planned, each spanning 3 volumes of the manga.

The films will have some changes to appeal to a western audience. The films will no longer take place in Neo-Tokyo, but rather "New Manhattan". The film will be Directed by Ruairi Robinson, and a script is being written by Gary Whitta. No actors have been announced yet.

Warner Bros had the rights to Akira before, but lost them before they produced a movie. The rights had to be reacquired from Kodansha, a manga publisher, for a reported 7 figure sum.

The first movie is currently set to air in the Summer of 2009.

Source: ANN

20 of 49 Comments Recent Comments

Wow, yet another anime they have to ruin by turning it into a live action movie >__>

Mar 2, 2008 4:44 PM by Mana___

no no no no no no NO

leave akira alone! dammit

Mar 2, 2008 12:38 AM by kaen

i dont agree with this one bit as a akira fan

Feb 25, 2008 10:53 PM by Corpse69

Very true about Witchblade, I'm sure, but I still don't think it's all that terrible that they're trying to apply the themes of Akira while throwing in some new thoughts. Just because it will be different doesn't mean it will completely lack depth, which I felt like you were saying.

I think it's a little presumptuous to call it a bastardization at this point in time, as well. Granted, given that Hollywood and Leo himself don't have the best track records, there's a good chance that you're right, but I just don't like it when people to assume that Hollywood is incapable of having depth alongside action.

I just think it'd be a shame if you actually saw the movie, going in with assumptions that it would lack depth, and come out believing that it did lack it when in fact the depth and complexity were there, but you were blinded by your preconceptions. And I'm not trying to single you out, Brian333. I mean that for everyone.

Feb 22, 2008 11:02 PM by ichikiba

Red_Zealot said:
Warner and Leonardo DiCaprio will produce a live action film based on the Akira manga. There are two films planned, each spanning 3 volumes of the manga.


so it's not ~2 hours, it's potentially ~4 hours. and if the original akira movie was twice as long as it was, it could've had a lot more of the depth and plot than it ended up with.

anyways, what you're saying is basically just what I said about V for Vendetta.

Brian333 said:
To me, i'm getting the impression that at best, this is going to turn out to be a V for Vendetta scenario. The adaptation is going to bastardize the original themes because it's being removed from its cultural and sociological background and twisted to meet a different set of standards. The governing themes are going to be hollywoodized and lose their original color. In the end, we can hope that despite those things, the work can remain entertaining, but even if it is fun to watch, it's not going to have the spirit of Akira.


V for Vendetta was a pretty good movie in my opinion but it's very different from the original work. Quoting the orignal writer,

"[The movie] has been "turned into a Bush-era parable by people too timid to set a political satire in their own country… It's a thwarted and frustrated and largely impotent American liberal fantasy of someone with American liberal values standing up against a state run by neoconservatives—which is not what the comic V for Vendetta was about. It was about fascism, it was about anarchy, it was about England."

So I basically see something similar happening here.

and as for witchblade... I don't know too much about the original western comic or even the anime version but I seriously doubt that witchblade is as connected to a specific society, culture, and history as akira is.

Feb 22, 2008 10:31 PM by Brian333

I still say that while Hollywood is definitely not known for depth in their movies, that doesn't neccesarily mean that this movie will entirely lack any depth. There's no way it'll have the same depth in the same way as the manga. A manga and a movie are two very different mediums. There's a limited amount of depth and complexity you can have within 2 hours. I, personally, would rather have them lose the political themes in order to keep the earthly, universal themes. I think those that are making the movie would rather do that, too, seeing as the affects of the end of WWII on Japan mean very little to the average American. It comes back to appealing to the masses.

I mean, look at the Witchblade anime (I just got done watching an episode just before posting it). It's originally an American comic book, but are the characters of the anime in America? Do they have names that are of European decent? No. Is it a good anime? Damn straight it is. Yes, it's different, but if an adaptation wasn't different, then what would be the point of an adaptation? If definitely needs to be faithful to the original source, to a point, but it's definitely interesting to see new possibilities, too.

My problem with the change was mainly the fact that I'm sick of the vast majority of movies being set in New York (though, I live near Chicago, so maybe it's just my instinct to hate New York), and there have been several Hollywood movies set in Japan in the past, so it seems a little inconsistant. But then again, the guys making this movie probably didn't make those ones, so maybe I shouldn't think of it that way.

Lastly, if they cast Johnny Yong Bosch as Kaneda, I will see this movie no matter what.

Feb 22, 2008 9:12 PM by ichikiba

Brian333 speaks alot of sense.

If the film is not going to be set in Japan, and not have Japanese characters, why even call it Akira? I cant copy and paste my ridiculously long dissertation on this anime, but suffice to say, as brian continually points out, Akira is about Japan. If you strip Japan out of it, then dont even bother calling it Akira anymore. Just call it some generic apolyptic name and rip some of Akira's set pieces off. There's no need to sour the franchise like with the NY set Godzilla.

I know alot of people just connect with the basic theme of friendship in Akira, but that is not the point of the anime. If you look past the surface, if you look at the nuclear explosion opening and closing the film, the unfinished Olympic stadium, the riots, the religious cults, it's all subtext and iconography of Japan's history, its observations of the 1980's, and a dour anticipation of the 90's.

This isnt just some story about two kids blowing shit up. Which is what the US version will probably focus on, with some post 9/11 iconography to make it 'relevant'.

Feb 22, 2008 5:10 PM by Beatnik

ichikiba said:
I disagree. I think the themes are universal, and can just as easily be applied to the United States. Especially since it takes place in the future. The writers can take liberties with the US government and other aspects of American society and talor to their needs, if neccessary.


Themes are generally universal but the act of tying themes to a series of events, characters, and a setting is part of creating a story. Telling that story through a very specific form of visual interpretation is what creating a manga or a movie is about.

When you sever that original tie between a theme, the events, characters, and background and then go on to link it to something new, you have an entirely different entity. That's why it the japanese aspect of it matters. That's why you're bastardizing the original themes.

While the broader idea behind the story doesn't change, the perception of a theme can and does change when you're changing what's associated with them.

A story can be about racism. Change the races of the characters and the theme of racial aspect of that inequality will be gone. Name one of the characters Martin Luther King Jr. and suddenly the theme begins to carry the significance of history.

Akira's themes are tied to a story that's heavily influenced by Japan's history before and after WW2 and the society and culture of the late 80s.

Taking liberties with the original story and applying it to the US government and other aspects of American Society? that's not Akira. That's Hollywood.

Feb 22, 2008 11:57 AM by Brian333

Brian333 said:
ichikiba said:
Well, first I'd like to say that I can do without your condescending attitude, sir.

Second, I am a little disturbed by how everyone seems to automatically assume that because they're Americanizing it, the movie will automatically be awful. The fact that Akira is Japanese is irrelevant, really. I haven't seen the manga, but from what I've seen of the anime, it doesn't seem like it would've made a difference whether the original was based in Japan, America, or any other country. The only thing the country of origin seemed to influence is the names of the characters, and of the series itself.

And by the way, the main characters can easily be Asian-Americans, so maybe they won't change the character's names. Even if the characters are played by white actors, they can just say that they're of a mixed decent. There's also no law saying white people can't give their kids Japanese names. But anyway, I'm getting off my original point: The depth and complexity of Akira can easily survive the process of Americanization. I just thought that while it is a good move finacially, Americanization is a little offensive artistically, and possibly, ethnically.


well, quickly, because I don't want this to become a tl;dr statement...

I'll just say that you're wrong in saying that the fact that it was set in japan only influenced the character names. Seeing as how you went on later to bring up the depth and complexity behind Akira, I assume you know that much of that depth and complexity is directly tied into a response to Japanese society and Japan's future.

Removing the story from its Japanese background and overlaying it onto Manhattan automatically severs those direct ties and shines a different light on the themes of the work.


I disagree. I think the themes are universal, and can just as easily be applied to the United States. Especially since it takes place in the future. The writers can take liberties with the US government and other aspects of American society and talor to their needs, if neccessary.

Feb 22, 2008 11:18 AM by ichikiba

ichikiba said:
Well, first I'd like to say that I can do without your condescending attitude, sir.

Second, I am a little disturbed by how everyone seems to automatically assume that because they're Americanizing it, the movie will automatically be awful. The fact that Akira is Japanese is irrelevant, really. I haven't seen the manga, but from what I've seen of the anime, it doesn't seem like it would've made a difference whether the original was based in Japan, America, or any other country. The only thing the country of origin seemed to influence is the names of the characters, and of the series itself.

And by the way, the main characters can easily be Asian-Americans, so maybe they won't change the character's names. Even if the characters are played by white actors, they can just say that they're of a mixed decent. There's also no law saying white people can't give their kids Japanese names. But anyway, I'm getting off my original point: The depth and complexity of Akira can easily survive the process of Americanization. I just thought that while it is a good move finacially, Americanization is a little offensive artistically, and possibly, ethnically.


well, quickly, because I don't want this to become a tl;dr statement...

I'll just say that you're wrong in saying that the fact that it was set in japan only influenced the character names. Seeing as how you went on later to bring up the depth and complexity behind Akira, I assume you know that much of that depth and complexity is directly tied into a response to Japanese society and Japan's future.

Removing the story from its Japanese background and overlaying it onto Manhattan automatically severs those direct ties and shines a different light on the themes of the work.

To me, i'm getting the impression that at best, this is going to turn out to be a V for Vendetta scenario. The adaptation is going to bastardize the original themes because it's being removed from its cultural and sociological background and twisted to meet a different set of standards. The governing themes are going to be hollywoodized and lose their original color. In the end, we can hope that despite those things, the work can remain entertaining, but even if it is fun to watch, it's not going to have the spirit of Akira.

Feb 22, 2008 11:05 AM by Brian333

UltraTien said:
ichikiba said:
UltraTien said:
I figured if it was a non Japan studio doing Akira it wont be set in Japan. You have to remember you silly self hating Americans that the movie industry doesn't solely target fans for adaptations, they target a mass market, including people that never even heard of Akira.

animejnkie said:
This movie is going to be totally americanized and bastardized.


^Here's a prime example of a self hating American


I don't understand why some people are crying over that its set in New Manhattan not Neo Japan.


I still don't see how it would appeal to the masses any less if they had it set in Neo Japan, unless they're assuming we're all racist hics. And if they're just gonna take what they like from the series, and leave out what they don't want, to me, that's not really an adaptation. That's just ripping off other people's ideas.


Kid listen, its not ripping off ideas if they give credit where credit is due which is required by copyright law's.

The average American movie goer would not appeal to a movie they know nothing about and has nothing major that they should know backing it up (unless they advertise greatly that its based off the manga, which will probably loose their average viewer profit, which is why The Departed didn't greatly advertise its a remake of Infernal Affairs, a chinese movie) set in a country they are unfamiliar with and its language.

Its standard marketing really, think like this, an average non-anime fan, english only speaking, normal guy goes to see a movie but hasn't decided, he see's a movie called "Akira" and hears its set in Japan, now the our guy would probably not see this movie because he hears its set in Japan, and will probably think its a Japanese language subtitled movie and will have some of the JP movie stereotypes, advertising its based on a manga and anime will even lessen the average viewer rate, since many average Americans consider Anime childish, and the average viewer rate is where a great portion of the money is made.

Yes not all Americans are like what I stated, but that is the Mass market appeal though, which is usually placed higher on priorities than fans. Again this is standard Marketing facts, you'll learn about it when you're older and taking classes on related topics

Anything else you'd like to say?


Well, first I'd like to say that I can do without your condescending attitude, sir.

Second, I am a little disturbed by how everyone seems to automatically assume that because they're Americanizing it, the movie will automatically be awful. The fact that Akira is Japanese is irrelevant, really. I haven't seen the manga, but from what I've seen of the anime, it doesn't seem like it would've made a difference whether the original was based in Japan, America, or any other country. The only thing the country of origin seemed to influence is the names of the characters, and of the series itself.

And by the way, the main characters can easily be Asian-Americans, so maybe they won't change the character's names. Even if the characters are played by white actors, they can just say that they're of a mixed decent. There's also no law saying white people can't give their kids Japanese names. But anyway, I'm getting off my original point: The depth and complexity of Akira can easily survive the process of Americanization. I just thought that while it is a good move finacially, Americanization is a little offensive artistically, and possibly, ethnically.

Feb 22, 2008 10:09 AM by ichikiba

This is sad to hear. I thought that Akira stood out amongst anime movies as something that definately had more potential to become a good live-action movie. Especially if it's a longer movie based more on the manga.

The story and setting had depth and complexity, the characters were well developed, there was plenty of room for epic action scenes, and though some of the themes were more specific to the time period and lose some of their strength when taken out of context, it'd still be a fun watch that leaves viewers thinking.

With the information we have right now on the movie, I doubt it'll be any good and do the manga justice. I hope the failure here doesn't ripple over to effect the possibility of quality live-action reproductions of other works (I'm looking at you, evangelion).

Feb 22, 2008 8:13 AM by Brian333

UltraTien said:

The average American movie goer would not appeal to a movie they know nothing about and has nothing major that they should know backing it up (unless they advertise greatly that its based off the manga, which will probably loose their average viewer profit...

...Its standard marketing really, think like this, an average non-anime fan, english only speaking, normal guy goes to see a movie but hasn't decided, he see's a movie called "Akira" and hears its set in Japan, now the our guy would probably not see this movie because he hears its set in Japan, and will probably think its a Japanese language subtitled movie and will have some of the JP movie stereotypes, advertising its based on a manga and anime will even lessen the average viewer rate, since many average Americans consider Anime childish, and the average viewer rate is where a great portion of the money is made.


You are right about the marketing.
However, the matter of interest is... why is Hollywood is trying to appeal to the mass market with Akira? A controversial one where a town is gonna be ripped to shreds and they are going to set it at Manhattan? Really?

The biggest problem might not even be directly the changes to the original, it'll be the confusion. I'm sure this will go through some people's heads when they watch this in theaters. Even when "americanized", parts of the story in the original isn't easy to watch, and understand the first time. If they change that they can take a risk.

Feb 22, 2008 5:45 AM by Kuronoa

hounddog said:
When I heard Leo was involved, I thought "oh no..." but it's just as a producer. Whew.


I have the same feeling; but, I am not relieved that he is directing.

Heigen said:
New Manhattan, like haven't americans never heard of Tokyo? :D


My thoughts exactly.

Feb 21, 2008 9:35 PM by kazerfozl

ichikiba said:
UltraTien said:
I figured if it was a non Japan studio doing Akira it wont be set in Japan. You have to remember you silly self hating Americans that the movie industry doesn't solely target fans for adaptations, they target a mass market, including people that never even heard of Akira.

animejnkie said:
This movie is going to be totally americanized and bastardized.


^Here's a prime example of a self hating American


I don't understand why some people are crying over that its set in New Manhattan not Neo Japan.


I still don't see how it would appeal to the masses any less if they had it set in Neo Japan, unless they're assuming we're all racist hics. And if they're just gonna take what they like from the series, and leave out what they don't want, to me, that's not really an adaptation. That's just ripping off other people's ideas.


Kid listen, its not ripping off ideas if they give credit where credit is due which is required by copyright law's.

The average American movie goer would not appeal to a movie they know nothing about and has nothing major that they should know backing it up (unless they advertise greatly that its based off the manga, which will probably loose their average viewer profit, which is why The Departed didn't greatly advertise its a remake of Infernal Affairs, a chinese movie) set in a country they are unfamiliar with and its language.

Its standard marketing really, think like this, an average non-anime fan, english only speaking, normal guy goes to see a movie but hasn't decided, he see's a movie called "Akira" and hears its set in Japan, now the our guy would probably not see this movie because he hears its set in Japan, and will probably think its a Japanese language subtitled movie and will have some of the JP movie stereotypes, advertising its based on a manga and anime will even lessen the average viewer rate, since many average Americans consider Anime childish, and the average viewer rate is where a great portion of the money is made.

Yes not all Americans are like what I stated, but that is the Mass market appeal though, which is usually placed higher on priorities than fans. Again this is standard Marketing facts, you'll learn about it when you're older and taking classes on related topics

Anything else you'd like to say?

Feb 21, 2008 9:26 PM by UltraTien

UltraTien said:
I figured if it was a non Japan studio doing Akira it wont be set in Japan. You have to remember you silly self hating Americans that the movie industry doesn't solely target fans for adaptations, they target a mass market, including people that never even heard of Akira.

animejnkie said:
This movie is going to be totally americanized and bastardized.


^Here's a prime example of a self hating American


I don't understand why some people are crying over that its set in New Manhattan not Neo Japan.


I still don't see how it would appeal to the masses any less if they had it set in Neo Japan, unless they're assuming we're all racist hics. And if they're just gonna take what they like from the series, and leave out what they don't want, to me, that's not really an adaptation. That's just ripping off other people's ideas.

Feb 21, 2008 8:27 PM by ichikiba

I figured if it was a non Japan studio doing Akira it wont be set in Japan. You have to remember you silly self hating Americans that the movie industry doesn't solely target fans for adaptations, they target a mass market, including people that never even heard of Akira.

animejnkie said:
This movie is going to be totally americanized and bastardized.


^Here's a prime example of a self hating American


I don't understand why some people are crying over that its set in New Manhattan not Neo Japan. Heres how I think its going to happen, its not going to be an Akira live action, rather a movie based on Akira, similar to how the Departed is based of Infernal Affairs I and II. I mean just because the location is different on a movie that is going to loosely based on the manga and might not even have the same character names or title name, people have shunned it because "its in America". So the odds that there will be a Tetsuo and Kaneda like characters are high, the odds that they will be Tetsuo and Kaneda are I'd say 30%

About the film being good or not, I'll wait till I see some footage or cast photos to decide. I assume that quite a few people are under the delusion of "OMG REAL PEOPLE IT SUCKS" Which many Live action have been a let down to the actual case, but there are multiple cases of a Live action being good or better, and sometimes more popular, than the original. Now the U.S. market for Japanese based live action is usually not that good, but there has been a few good ones like the Guyver movies (namely the 2nd one), Speed Racer looks promising, Forbidden Kingdom looks excellent like it was done in Hong Kong rather than the U.S. (not exactly a live action version of anime/manga, but its based on the book Saiyuki, Dragonball, and many other things, plus its a U.S. take on Chinese style cinema with Jackie Chan and Jet Li.), so theres still a chance for this movie.

Feb 21, 2008 8:08 PM by UltraTien

This guy is writing:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Whitta

Let's see hes written star trek and some other science fiction garbage, so at best it will probably be like a Paul W.S. Anderson video game movie. This movie is going to be totally americanized and bastardized.

Feb 21, 2008 7:56 PM by animejnkie

Can we just say ferking EPIC FAIL, first you need a super huge budget for this movie. Lets say over 100 million, second I have no faith that the script will follow any of the manga/anime movie. I really don't know how this can turn into a win, Hollywood needs to lay off the manga/80s cartoons, and make up stuff of there own.

Feb 21, 2008 7:50 PM by Kamapuaa

I wonder how this will turn out...

Bad I bet. >_> I never did like Leo.

Feb 21, 2008 6:03 PM by Darkreaper70