Wednesday, October 31, 2007


News broke yesterday from Bloody-Disguisting that Warner Brothers is looking to fast track a live-action version of Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira. The rumored director is Ruairi Robinson, whose best known credit is this short (via Warren Ellis), The Silent City:

I hastily threw the rumor on FW earlier today, along with John Brownlee's own drunken anecdote:

I did have an interesting (and completely abstract) conversation with [Robinson] the night before I moved from Dublin to Berlin about whether a live-action remake of a story as sprawling, surreal and decidedly Japanese as Akira could work as a live-action remake.

His feeling, as I recall, was that the setting could still work, but there'd be a necessity to move it to America to please studios. His idea was that a Neo-New York that had been culturally swamped by Japanese immigrants in a post-globalized future could take the place of Neo-Tokyo. In short, something like Blade Runner's futuristic vision of Los Angeles.

The other thing that he said that was interesting was that he didn't think Akira could be filmed as a single two-hour movie: the anime had tried that and failed to really convey an understandable plot. An Akira movie would need to be a Kill Bill style two-parter.

So who knows? Take our drunken ramblings with a grain of salt, since we used to talk about stuff like this all the time. Maybe the rumors are true and he has been picked up as the director of Akira.

I guess the sole thought going over and over in my head today was how can you change a line like Kaneda screaming "TETSUOOOOOOO" into the sky. Effects-wise, you'd need WETA-level production once the body-morphing begins. It would be impressive to see Akira in person, but keep thinking about it. Once you change Tetsuo's name, you'd change Kaneda. Then you'd change Akira and now the American version will be Steve.

Who the fuck will be afraid of STEVE in block letters on a masthead while a kid in a red leather jacket with a pill on the back stands in front of a city. No one.

This is fascinating to me, though, since WB is also responsible--or will be--for co-producing a live-action Robotech with Tobey Maguire last month.

I'm a massive anime fan and a bit of a nerd when it comes to the critical essays on culture, the state of apocalypse and how The Guyver is all one big allegory to teenage hormones. But would an American audience sit down for this? Will they for Dragon Ball Z or whatever it is Fox seems to be casting?

Visually and culturally, I don't think you can Americanize any of the films. It sounds lame, but segments of Otomo's manga are inherently Japanese and were removed, shortened or abandoned for the feature release. And it worked. Of course, it wasn't the full story, but what about Vampire Hunter D? The anime is the second or third story in a franchise. The Akira anime produced a streamlined and superior version to the manga, especially for an unfamiliar audience. If you can honestly say that you were--in 1988--well versed and had read all six tankobon prior to the film, you can go fuck yourself.

The visuals for all the films are another big reason. Especially in the case of Robotech, which would be laughed at the second a fighter jet turns into a bi-pedal thing with arms, carrying a missile-shaped gun. And it battles pods. My god, it was great as a child, but you seriously think this will work on film? Nah.

And goddamn it, I'm a huge fan of any series with a power level OVER 9000, but even I can recognize how awful DBZ is. Not "translated" or "adapted" or "turned into a multi-generational story that is in fact a reference to Journey into the West."

No, it's awful. It is the stereotypical "shounen" story. But it's so addictive.

Definitely unlike seeing Tobey Maguire as Rick Hunter or even Robinson, whose own Silent City evokes Maroru Oshii, Kereberos/The Red Spectacles/Jin-Roh and the best use of Cillian Murphy since he was dragged off horseback in Batman Begins.

I'm kidding. The best use of Murphy remains Disco Pigs.

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