Warner Bros. Pictures long-delayed Akira once again has a release date: May 21st, 2021, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Based on the manga by Katsuhiro Otomo and his 1988 animated film, the story centers on Tetsuo, a biker who begins to develop terrifying powers of the mind. When he talents begin to threaten a post-atomic Tokyo, it falls on biker gang leader Keneda to learn the secret behind his friend’s terrible transformation and stop Tetsuo.
The project, now helmed by Thor: Ragnarok‘s Taika Waititi, has been in the Warner stable for sometime. A 2012 version starring Garret Hedlund never materialized and a subsequent attempt by Alan Hughes also disappeared into the mists. But even prior to that, attempt to set the film up as a vehicle for Keanu Reeves and Leonard DiCaprio were mooted. DiCaprio is still involved as a producer through his Appian Way production company.
In almost all cases though, a problem emerged when trying to adapt a very Japanese story to a “wide” audience. Rumors persisted about Kaneda and Tetsuo’s names being changed, then word would leak about the names remaining while casting American actors in the roles and shifting the setting from Tokyo to New York. For a time, it seemed the project’s best destiny was to remain in development hell, safe from any disastrous attempt to adapt the material.
But considering Waititi’s talents, he may be able to contemporize and mainstream its story. He also vowed to cast Asian actors in the key roles, which is genuinely important for Akira to maintain any of its cultural importance as it becomes a live action feature. It it will work is anyone’s guess. Akira is an incredible idiosyncratic story and any attempt to adapt it — besides Otomo’s own animated film — may be folly.
At this point, we’ll find out in May of 2021.