Hollywood has a reputation for falling in love with popular manga films and then completely butchering their adaptations through a combination of white-washing and changes to the stories which loses the essence of what made the mangas so popular in the first place. It is something which Hollywood has been getting better at with Alita: Battle Angel showing some signs of improvement in the way such stories are handled.
Perhaps the biggest test Hollywood faces in adapting a manga story though is the long-awaited Akira adaptation which is based on one of the most popular manga stories of all time. The film has been in production hell for a long period of time with directors hoping on and off the project as no one has been able to find a way to make this story work for an English-language film.
Those are very encouraging signs. It will probably still be quite a while before we see anything concrete coming out of the project though, as they still need to start searching for a cast and then align schedules for the sci-fi movie. At best we’re still three to four years out. And while it may still be early days for the project with a script still in flux, Production Weekly has now revealed what the current full synopsis of the movie is. Most importantly, this leaked synopsis highlights some changes that Warner Bros want to make for the planned movie if they go ahead with their current version of the script:
When a young man’s telekinesis is discovered by the military, he is taken in to be turned into a super weapon and his brother must race to save him before Manhattan is destroyed by his powers. Kaneda is a bar owner in Neo-Manhattan who is stunned when his brother Tetsuo is abducted by Government agents lead by the Colonel. Desperate to get his brother back, Kaneda agrees to join Ky Reed and her underground movement who are intent on revealing to the world what truly happened to New York City 30 years ago when it was destroyed. Kaneda believes their theories to be ludicrous, but after facing his brother again is shocked when he displays telekinetic powers. Ky believes Tetsuo is headed to release a young boy. Akira, who has taken control of Tetsuo’s mind, Kaneda clashes with the Colonel’s troops on his way to stop Tetsuo from releasing Akira, but arrives too late. Akira soon emerges from his prison courtesy of Tetsuo as Kaneda races to save his brother before Akira once again destroys Manhattan island as he did thirty years ago.
The synopsis above includes several differences from both the anime and manga in story and setting. For instance, the live-action movie will be set in Neo Manhattan, not Tokyo, and instead of being a member of a biker gang, Kaneda will have a job as a bartender. The main thrust of the plot, Kaneda trying to save Tetsuo from the military after he develops telekinetic powers, appears to remain the same, though now Tetsuo is Kaneda’s brother instead of best friend.
I fully expect the story to change a lot more in pre-production, but it does appear as if Warner Bros wants to move away from the Tokyo setting (probably out of fear of the white-washing criticism that hit the Ghost in the Shell adaptation) and give it a story that is perhaps more relevant to a Western audience. Considering the growing Asian box office though and how much studios are relying on successes in that market, the decision is still surprising nonetheless. I wouldn’t be too surprised that by the time we finally see this movie actually hitting production that they realign some of these story elements closer to the original. They will hopefully leave some surprises in store though to still keep fans unsuspecting of where the story may go.
Last Updated: April 8, 2019
April 8, 2019 at 10:12
A bit surprised that Tetsuo has latent powers (rather than them being triggered via exposure and drugs), *and* that Akira is mind controlling him, but I strongly suspect these are changes made to accommodate a 2-hour running time, so that makes sense.