Where to even begin with Akira? Katsuhiro Otomo‘s magnum opus, it was one of the works that made manga and anime huge in the West, as influential and seminal as The Drifting Classroom or Astroboy combined. The manga told the long and winding tale of a post-apocalyptic Japan, struggling in the aftermath of a psychic apocalypse and a small cadre of troubled teenagers and superpowered children that threaten to reduce our world into a cinder. Also, a hellishly bleak outlook of modern Japanese society. Needless to say, the manga’s themes make it a tough cookie to swallow, especially when it comes to adapting it in any on-screen format, but Katsuhiro Otomo might have some enlightening news on the matter…
During a recent interview given to the French manga enthusiast magazine Manga News on a special report straight from the legendary Angouleme Comic Book Convention, Otomo teased the interviewers and assembled nerds relentlessly by claiming that the possibility of an on-screen adaptation of Akira was:
The creator didn’t go into any further specifics regarding this adaptation’s development, but the interviewer had already asked whether Otomo would be interested in even the remote possibility of a TV adaptation of his post-apocalyptic work. Why is this huge news? We guess a little history is in order:
Akira begun its publication in 1982 in serialized format in the Japanese Young Magazine and was finally concluded in 1990, with over 2,000 pages total (and of considerable quality, at that). The manga was rife with post-war imagery and a lot of its messages reflect the cynical, pitch-black outlook of Japanese youth at the time, especially considering the advent of the bosozoku, a breed of biker gangs that begun a heretofore unforeseen rise in crime in Japan. What’s moire interesting, is that Akira also predicted a lot of the doomsaying and rampant end-of-the-world speculation that was going on in the island nation at the time, as the Japanese economy was going through what was later (dramatically) dubbed The Lost Decade. Oddly enough, these same sentiments are repeated in the other legendary work of Japanese fiction, Battle Royale.
These themes are infesting the manga throughout, along with Otomo‘s long and convoluted fictional history of a Cold War that could have been where human psychic potential outclassed the atom in every way, shape or form. There are some jabs at religion thrown in, just for good measure as well. When the legendary anime adaptation came screening onto the world’s silver screens in 1988, the development team did their damnedest to try and condense all these nuances into its 90 minute runtime and largely failed, but not without offering us some serious, unprecedented adult animation eye-candy.
A TV adaptation of Akira might sound like a dream come true to every nerd worth his salt, but for the time being, we have nothing to go by but a creator’s relentless teasing and our own rampant speculation. We do not yet know if the adpataion will be live-action, animation or even whether it will be handled by a Japanese studio in the first place or outright outsourced. One thing is for certain: whoever decides to attempt this feat of narrative, it will take considerable grit, bloody-minded determination, a thorough study of Steinbeck‘s Grapes of Wrath and a scary-large budget to make it all happen.