Anime Expo is currently underway at the Los Angeles Convention Center, and one of the Thursday panels spotlighted the legendary career of Katsuhiro Otomo. Major anime buffs may not be familiar with the name, but Otomo is responsible for the manga series that inspired an anime movie that revolutionized the industry. That manga (and movie) was Akira.
Katsuhiro Otomo started Akira in 1982, and the manga series ran in Young Magazine until 1990. The series was then published by Marvel Comics in the United States under their Epic Comics imprint, which marked one of the first times a manga series had been translated in its entirety into English.
Akira takes place in Neo-Tokyo, a post-apocalyptic city that is trying to rebuild after a mysterious explosion that destroyed the city. Kaneda leads a teen motorcycle gang, and he has to join forces with Kei, three psychics, and a military colonel to try and stop his friend Tetsuo, whose burgeoning psychic abilities could destroy the city all over again.
Otomo used a lot of the conventions familiar to the cyberpunk genre to tell his story of political upheaval, societal isolationism, and corruption in government.
Akira was adapted into an anime series in 1988, and while it was visually stunning, the movie made very little sense. It was revolutionary, though, and garnered a ton of fans to the medium. It feels like a live action adaptation of Akira has been in development since the dawn of time, but the story is so uniquely Japanese that it is proving difficult to adapt to Western audiences. (some would argue that perhaps a live action version of classic anime is pointless)
Flash forward to July 4th, 2019, and Katsuhiro Otomo has announced that a new anime project based off of the Akira manga is in the works. Sunrise president and CEO Makoto Asanuma took the stage, and mentioned that the project was still in development but that they intended to adapt the entirety of the manga's story.
Oh, wow. That's a pretty ambitious undertaking!
The 1988 version of Akira is also getting a 4K remaster, which will debut in Japan during the spring of 2020, and should see a release in the US as well.
As for the live action version of Akira, Warner Bros. has announced a release date of May 21, 2021, with Taika Waititi signed on to direct.
Sunrise also debuted a short trailer for Otomo's latest anime project, Orbital Era: