Abandoned ‘Akira’ Storyboards Tease An American Cyberpunk Flick

3 years ago by  

Before the Hughes Brothers came (and left) as directors on Warner Bros.’ currently-stalled Akira adaptation – which Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown) remains attached to helm – the project was slated to be overseen by Oscar-nominated Irish animation/sci-fi short filmmaker Ruairi Robinson.

A handful of abandoned storyboards for Robinson’s take on the Americanized Akira have popped up online, offering a peek at the original planned visual design of the film – based on conceptual panels illustrated by Sylvain Despretz (Black Hawk Down, The Fountain, TRON: Legacy).

Have a look at Despretz’ Akira storyboard work in the gallery below (click each panel for a larger version):


Despretz’ take on such iconic Akira visuals as the destruction of Tokyo (changed to Manhattan for the American remake) and Kaneda climbing aboard his motorcycle aren’t too far off from the imagery in either Katsuhiro Otomo’s original manga series or its feature-length 1988 animated adaptation. The most observable difference here is that Kaneda is no longer a disenfranchised Japanese youth – rather, he’s now a blonde-haired caucasian American youth.

Following Robinson’s departure from the project (at least, according to IMDb), such storyboard artists as Chris Weston (The Book of Eli), Jeff Erico (Snow White and the Huntsman) and Jim Magdaleno (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) have all been recruited to help shape the look of the live-action Akira. Based on their collective resume, you can get a feel for the sort of stylized and gritty “Americanized” cyberpunk flick this project is now meant to be.

akira storyboards kaneda Abandoned Akira Storyboards Tease An American Cyberpunk Flick

In a nutshell, the primary source of controversy which has hounded the live-action Akira project since its inception is the decision to shift the story’s setting over to the United States (specifically, New York). Most people see the central motivation behind that change being that it justifies the ethically-questionable casting of more bankable Hollywood stars (such as Garrett Hedlund and Kristen Stewart) rather than lesser-known Asian thespians in central roles.

However, we’ve also previously pointed out that the plot of Akira does touch on such timely themes and ideas (ex. civilian uprisings, an increasingly militaristic government) that would not only be applicable to the current situation in the U.S., but also resonate with moviegoers unfamiliar with the source material. So, in that sense, there is a sliver of hope that this project could turn out okay… assuming it eventually gets made, that is.

We will continue to keep you posted on the status of Akira as the story develops.

Source: io9



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  1. Leave AKIRA alone! A true classic which needs to remain anime ONLY!

    • Agreed :}

  2. no one wants to see a live action Akira anyway, give us Ninja Scroll.

    • Yeah, in Chicago. 😀

      • due it Chicago for the tax break but call it New York!

  3. I wouldnt go that far. I would just say that they need to stay true to the source material. Keep it in Japan, use a mix of Japanese and anglo actors. We don’t NEED to Americanize it. I think we are capable of relating to people from other parts of the world.

    • I whole heartedly agree with you.

      • LOST proved that. :)

  4. Luis, I think you are speaking for yourself. Nija Scroll is a GREAT movie but it lacks any substantial characer development. Its really just about monsters and martial arts. It will NEVER be made into a live action flick. Would make a great video game though. As for Akira, it has the depth in characters to create a substantial live action piece. The problem is that no one will do it right because things have to be bastardized for H-Town.

    • you might have a point, however, I think Akira would be too complicate FX wise, now if they were to do it in CGI like the DC Universe Trailer, or Final Fantasy The Spirit Within it might work.

  5. You need a filmmaker capable of casting Asian actors for a global audience but keep it stylized enough to catch American audiences. AKIRA just can’t be mixed into an American version and still be AKIRA.

  6. Na lets have michael bay do it he has screwed everything else up maybe he can screw this too…

    i agree with the 1st post leave it alone

    ohh but only the classic with the streamline audio done for hong kong not the redub for america either

  7. If they paid for the rights they can make the movie any flipping way they want to and cast who even they want!

    The Japanese and other Asian Movie industries don’t get all caught up with this crap. If they have a Manga or an Anime they are more then willing to do a full length animated feature because it’s cheap and makes a ton of money. But live action adaptations they could care less about.

    The few made by the Asian Movie industries have been low budget and only got done because of the persistence of non-Asians willing to partially fund some of these projects. Hard core fans do not pay to get these movies made and these movies are not made for the hard core fan.

    Instead of always being super critical of every single movie Hollywood wants to make, how about supporting it and understand your history. Before we could get a decent Batman movie we had to go through some stinkers and this is no different. At the very lease understand that one company’s vision and thus their personal adaption of a movie is not the final version ever.

    Does it really matter if Michael Bay blows up TMNT? In five years there will be someone new making their version it. Think of every single movie which originally came from a comic, cartoon, manga or anime whether you liked it or not. Within the next 10 years someone will be remaking them.

    • Good argument, but I think you have missed the point on why a lot of people are angry about this proposed version of Akira. It’s not that changes are being made. it’s naive to expect any property not to go thru changes when it’s put up on the big screen. It’s the removal of anything Asian when it’s clearly based on a Japanese anime.

      They are keeping the name Akira I’m guessing cause they know how popular it is, yet still they insist on white washing it. There are definitely themes and ideas present which only work when it’s set in Japan. At least give it a new name if they continue with this.

      • I’m well aware of the race issue people attach to these things but again if they paid for the rights they can do whatever they want.

        Fans of all races would be so much more effective if they wrote or protested Asian movie companies for a change and forced them to buy the rights to source material that originated in their country. Blasting Hollywood 24/7 for their casting choices is misguided (i think) because the only color Hollywood sees is green. They will make their changes once and only once some other movie industry prove them wrong becuase thats the only thing they understand.

        I do agree that the title should be changed 100%. Not because of the race but whenever you have a movie which is over 50% new material from the source it becomes a loose interpretation, a personal adaption at best and just takes away from the original storyline.

        • “Fans of all races would be so much more effective if they wrote or protested Asian movie companies for a change and forced them to buy the rights to source material that originated in their country.”

          I take this back because it would be the same as what people are doing to the American Movie industry and it would solve nothing.

          But what will solve it is if we as Fan’s put the pressure on the creators of the source material and force them to put in a contractual clause before they sell the rights off. The women that created Harry Potter did that. Before selling the rights not only did she insists that the main characters are exactly as she described them but also they needed to be kids born in the UK. She even had a bunch of clauses added for script review.

          • Just stop. as a fan i have to say that what u are saying is complete b*******. Let Hollywood do what they do and stay out of it. If u want to see Akira watch the original and DON’T go see the remake. It’s OPTIONAL!

  8. and nothing of any value was lost