Last week, Japanese animation studio Sunrise made a pair of significant announcements regarding the iconic film “Akira” at Anime Expo 2019. First, it will be releasing a new 4K remaster of the legendary anime in Japan on April 24, 2020. The company also noted the restored version would subsequently be available in North America.
Next, “Akira” writer-director Katsuhiro Otomo revealed the firm is working on a new TV version of his most famous work. From 1982 to 1990, Otomo serialized “Akira” in a Japanese comic book publication called Weekly Young Magazine. The creator adapted the work-in-progress story into a feature film in 1988. Sunrise CEO Makoto Asanuma said the company plans to incorporate the entirety of the manga’s storyline into the new TV show.
Why Akira Matters 31 Years Later
For the uninitiated, “Akira” is one of the most important and well-regarded Japanese animated movies of all time.
The film’s action takes place in the then-future of 2019. The story follows Kaneda and Tetsuo, a pair of biker gang members living in the post-apocalyptic ruins of Neo-Tokyo. After a freak accident, Tetsuo begins developing immense psychic powers, and officials conscript him into a secret government project. Eventually, the duo uncovers the secrets behind the force that devastated Tokoyo 30 years prior.
Typified by dazzling animation, international influences, and heavy sociopolitical themes, “Akira” was a sensation in its native land. The film’s stylish cyberpunk aesthetic and surreal apocalyptic tone had an immense impact on locally produced comic books, movies, and TV shows.
Moreover, audiences in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France made “Akira” a massive cult hit. In addition to grossing millions of dollars on home video, the film introduced a new generation of viewers to the boundary-pushing world of adult animation. The movie also influenced a host of different artists including film directors Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan, rapper Kanye West, and video game studios CD Projekt and Eidos-Montréal.
However, for all its commercial success and influence, Katsuhiro Otomo didn’t like the film version of “Akira.” He felt that the project’s budget and time-constrained production resulted in a flawed final product. While the movie is an artistic triumph, it does lack the nuance of the creator’s 2,000 page, six-volume narrative.
Sunrise did not indicate when its new “Akira” TV series will be released.
Notably, Otomo’s new take on “Akira” is not the only one currently in production. On May 21, 2021, Warner Bros. will release writer-director Taika Waititi’s (“Thor: Ragnarok”) live-action adaptation of the original manga.
Sunrise also announced Otomo has another film in the works called “Orbital Era.” The new movie will follow a group of teenage boys as they navigate life in a space colony that is still under construction. Though the company didn’t announce a release date for the project, they did show a 44-second trailer that suggests it will blend traditional animation and CGI aesthetics.
Otomo described his new film as, “The reality found in mankind’s future.”
“Orbital Era” will be the third film written and directed by Otomo after “Akira” and 2004’s “Steamboy.”