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Taika Waititi Still Plans on Directing Akira, Eventually

Tetsuo!
Tetsuo!
Image: Toho

Western anime adaptations are always fraught and complex, but few have been as troubled in their development as Akira. Recently, it was delayed due to director Taika Waititi’s major commitments elsewhere. And while some viewed that as another death knell on another failed adaptation of Akira, Waititi isn’t so sure.

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Talking recently to IGN, the director spoke about his schedule, the conflicts that led to Akira being at least temporarily shelved, and his eagerness to get back to it.

“Unfortunately, the timing with Akira, because we’ve been working really hard on the script, we had to keep pushing back the start date for the shoot,” Waititi explained. “We ended up having to push it a couple weeks too far, which actually ate into the Thor schedule because they were very close together. And that got pushed again and again, and it just got too far into the Thor schedule to be able to make it work. And my first commitment was to Marvel to make that film, so now I’ve kind of had to take Akira and sort of shift it around to the tail-end of Thor and move it down a couple of years.”

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It’s not surprising that the script would give the production trouble. Katushiro Otomo’s original work is a sprawling, dense epic, and the anime adaptation only functioned by essentially cutting it into pieces and turning the first third or so into a self-contained (albeit confusing) story. It’s been called unfilmable for a reason.

But it’s valuable to know that Waititi will be getting back to it sometime. Though, honestly, maybe some projects should just be left undone.


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io9 Weekend Editor. Videogame writer at other places. Queer nerd girl.

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DISCUSSION

I really don’t want this adaptation. Not that I don’t have faith in Taika, but that I don’t think it can be realistically removed from Japan and I don’t think a western director will be allowed to make a Tokyo based movie that doesn’t star western character(s).

Also the story is somewhat esoteric, but the characters are not. This is a tough beam to balance on. Realistically this should be at least two films to do justice to the story, and probably three. However, I think that the esoteric nature of the story isn’t likely to hold the attention of western audiences for three films.

Look at Battle Angel: Alita. It fairly faithfully follows the story from the first volume of the manga, but audiences didn’t flock to it. I’ve heard more than one criticism that it feels like a setup for a sequel. Well duh. It’s only one small part of the whole story. People don’t appreciate it for what it is and criticize it for what it is not.

I think the Akira! animated film did a fairly good job of translating a manga that takes place over a number of years and adapting it to a movie that takes place over a couple weeks. Where it fails is where it tries to explain things (and I don’t think there’s been a decent translation yet.) The only place it is even attempted is in Kei’s monologue to Kaneda in the cell, and it really misses the point by being too philosophical about it.

And it ignores exactly what Akira himself became, and really flubbed Tetsuo’s story arc. Nothing about his dependence on drugs to control his powers and how going off them lead to his final meltdown (or melt-up/out as the case may be.)

No, I say let it be what it was: flawed but enjoyable.