After much speculation, rumor, and the occasional subject of ridicule, it appears that one of the oldest of the old school anime Akira is finally getting the Hollywood adaptation treatment. Back in 1988 and based off a six-volume manga (Japanese comic), Akira was an animated theatrical trip that hit America like a ton of bricks as it introduced Americans to the concept that not all animation has to involve a squeaky clean mouse with a fierce marketing strategy or rascally rabbit who addresses everyone as Doc. Long time film critic Roger Ebert praises Akiraoccasionally when talking about animation. It was anime like Akira that helped secure a foothold in the anime fan community for the United States, which now comes in the form of lots of anime DVD releases and fan conventions dedicated to the media.
Akira was definitely groundbreaking when it was first released and continues to astound viewers today. Set in a post-apocalyptic Japan where motorcycle gangs wreak havoc. Two friends suddenly find themselves placed on opposite sides of a military experiment involving the god-like mental abilities of the titular Akira. Things go from bad to worse throughout the film until the climax when everything hits the fan. It is a thought-provoking, film with enough twists, turns, and themes that is sure to get fellow viewers talking.
Leonardo DiCaprio and his production company Appian Way bought the rights in 2008 but seemed to do nothing with it; dropping the project later. But two years later in February again, it appears that Appian Way is talking to the Hughes Brothers to direct Akira. It is probably one the better choices to direct such a film. Akira is a bloody violent film with enough gory scenes to tick off any film rating censor. The Hughes Brothers have a history of directing violent films including Menace II Society, Dead Presidents, and From Hell. From Hell was particularly a gore fest that needed some edits to make the R-rating. The experience there will help in adapting Akira. Their recent film The Book of Eli set in the post-apocalyptic world happens to be a wonderful fit for the post-apocalyptic setting of Akira. So this is probably one of the most surprisingly good choices in directing seen in Hollywood production.
If and when Akira does get fully produced and released, it is sure to generate a range of support and derision. My main hope is that they do not try to turn it into a child-friendly project. Unlike other anime adaptations like Dragonball Evolution, Akira is best kept away from the children.