The anime behemoth is back – in more ways than one
This past weekend at Anime Expo 2019, legendary manga creator Katsuhiro Otomo announced a new anime project, namely an adaption of his Akira manga. Sunrise, one of Japan’s biggest animation studios, creators of classics such as Cowboy Bebop, Mobile Suit Gundam and even non-Japanese productions Inspector Gadget (i miss that) and Batman: The Animated Series, will produce. Sunrise CEO Makoto Asanuma confirmed the intention of incorporating the entire story of the manga. So yeah, pretty huge news.
And if that news alone wasn’t huge enough for you, well how about this: The original 1988 movie will receive a 4K remaster in both Japan and the US. Hopefully a UK version will follow also, with Akira still serving as one of Manga UK’s key licenses.
Otomo’s original sci-fi action manga ran for 8 years in Kodansha’s Weekly Young Magazine, from 1982 to 1990. It is set in Neo-Tokyo, a city that has been rebuilt following a mysterious explosion. The movie, directed by Otomo, created an explosion of its own in the west back in the early 1990’s. It is still considered by many, me included, to be the benchmark is Japanese animation. Its hard to argue this point, despite many other glowing examples in the last 30 years.
After paving the way for anime into the mainstream, Akira also helped launch Manga Mania, a UK-based anime/manga magazine from Dark Horse Comics. The western translation became its premiere manga strip, with 100 pages each month. The magazine’s decline is often attributed to the end of the strip in issue 38. Akira’s 6-volume run is always in circulation across the globe, and remains one of the most successful and influential manga ever created.
As for the movie, a 4K edition is most welcome, and certainly deserving. Of all the Japanese anime works in the world, especially one that is over 30 years old, there are few that look better, even today. It wasn’t the most expensive anime film of its time (1.1 billion yen) for nothing. It has already undergone remaster treatment for both DVD in 2001 (as well as the alternative English dub track) and more recently Blu-Ray, featuring a Japanese Dolby TrueHD 192 kHz remaster. Definitely plenty to look forward to from a 4K version.
As for the manga adaption, if it indeed is produced as a series, don’t expect the same lavish production. Although I’ve little doubt that if Otomo is involved, it will need to be some form of standard-setter. His 2004 effort Steamboy is still the most expensive anime ever produced, standing at 2.4 billion yen, and was in production for 10 years. It’ll be interesting to see how the creative style stays true to his manga. Although the 1988 movie does not follow the original manga (it was still being produced by Otomo while he was making the movie), the style remained very true to the original.
So after 31 years, Akira has once again come to the forefront of Japanese animation across the world. I will of course remain sceptical of the planned Warner Bros Taika Waititi Hollywood effort. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go watch and read Akira all over again.
Buy Akira on Blu-Ray here
Buy the Akira manga here