As fans get closer and closer to the release date of Taika Waititi’s upcoming Akira film, many are beginning to wonder just what to expect from the New Zealand director. Waititi has proven his mastery of the form with low-budget indies like Boy and Hunt For The Wilderpeople, he's also proven his proficiency with big-budget films like Thor: Ragnarok.
While all these films are painted with Waititi’s experience as a filmmaker, the fun he has when creating, and his sense of humor, he’s a curious choice for the darker themes presented in Akira. Waititi has stated that he plans on sticking to the source material, so with that in mind, let’s dive into Katsuhiro Otomo’s original work and pull out what fans are dying to see in Watititi’s Akira.
10 Kaneda's Bike
It’s probably best to just get this one out of the way immediately. There are many aspects of Otomo’s original work that have reverberated throughout film, music, literature, and art. However, none of them are quite as iconic as Kaneda’s motorcycle.
From the ceramic, double rotor, two-wheel disk drive to the electronically controlled anti-lock brakes, all wrapped up in one the most iconic designs to ever hit the page of a manga, Kaneda’s bike is almost more iconic the manga it first appeared in. Almost. So longtime fans of the story will certainly be expecting to see the iconic bike brought to life on the big screen.
9 Kei’s Abilities
Fans that have only seen the anime adaptation of the manga may have found themselves rather confused by Kei’s connection to the children/ government experiments throughout the course of the film. In the manga, however, Otomo delves far deeper into Kei’s story and just how it is that she’s able to make a connection with the telepathic children.
Through a combination of her training with Lady Miyako, her latent abilities, and a telepathic power transferred, Kei is actually the person sent in as a countermeasure to Tetsuo’s destructive power. So if Waititi is planning on sticking closer to the story of the manga, it’d be nice to see Kei finally get her due.
8 Good For Health, Bad For Education
While the film only skims the surface of Testuo’s drugs use after his powers begin to awake, the manga does a much deeper dive on what Tetsuo is using the drugs for as well as what he’s willing to do to get his hands on them. While he begins using the drugs as a way to suppress his abilities and the pain caused by them, eventually Tetsuo begins to use them for much more.
After taking control of a rival biker gang after brutally murdering their leader, Tetsuo begins using it’s members to collect more and more drugs to help ease his suffer or boost his abilities. There’s very little Tetsuo won’t do for his people, including, but not limited to, killing members of his and Kaneda’s old crew.
7 Tetsuo’s Fall From Grace
As Tetsuo begins to amass more political and telekinetic power, he quickly begins his descent into an all-out power grab for control of Neo Tokyo. There’s very little capable of stopping Tetsuo at this point in the manga, however, when Kaneda along with the rest of Tetsuo’s old crew shows up to try to pull Tetsuo back from the brink, it does not go according to plan.
Rather than listen to the pleas of his friend, what Tetsuo answers with can only be described as savaging his former friends. As Kaneda watches as his friends all around him are being torn to pieces, he realizes that this is no coming back for Testsuo. The friend he once knew is completely gone.
6 The Great Tokyo Empire (Or It’s Film Equivalent)
While it has already been announced that Waititi’s version of the Akira will take place in a fictionalized version of Los Angeles, California rather than the Neo Tokyo of the original manga, that’ s no excuse to exclude one of the greatest aspects of the original work.
After releasing Akira before allowing him to fully awaken and send another massive explosion reverberating throughout Neo Tokyo, Tetsuo begins building a new empire in the rubble of the twice-annihilated Tokyo. An empire which he leads with the help of Akira in the position of a monarch. For anyone wondering where Scott Pilgrim creator Bryan Lee O’Malley got the idea to have Todd punch a hole in the moon as a display of power, it all began with Tetsuo and the Great Tokyo Empire.
5 Kei Vs. Tetsuo
While it begins much like any other telekinetic battle, rubble flying everywhere, lots of screaming and intense stares, when Testuo and Kei finally get serious in the final battle it’s a sight to behold. Much like something one might see in 2001: A Space Oddysey, their battle leads to multiple characters experiencing higher planes of consciousness, some even reliving their own births.
This is exactly the kind of stunning and complex imaginary that Watiti could pull off fresh from his work on Thor: Ragnarok. This epic battle between two incredibly powerful psychics is something that was only touched on in the manga, making it a perfect scene for Waititi to include in his adaptation.
4 Japanese Representation
As mentioned earlier, it has already been announced that Waititi’s adaptation of the uniquely Japanese story will no longer take in Japan. While it is apparently taking place in a fictionalized version of Los Angeles (because Hollywood), it would be nice to see someone of the lead roles go to actors of Japanese descent.
It would go a long way to spare the film the kind of criticism received by films like the recent Ghost In A Shell adaptation. As bad as it is to remove this very distinctly Japanese story for the location and cultural history that shaped it, it’d be even worse to erase the Japanese from the story entirely.
3 Tetsuo Breaks The Moon
As previously mentioned, one of the most iconic scenes in the original manga by Otomo takes place after Tetsuo establishes the Great Tokyo Empire. As Akira and Tetsuo put their power on display at the stadium, Tetsuo teleports up the moon and blasts a massive crater in it, which causes untold destruction, the tides rise, buildings crumble, and Tokyo, along with many other parts of the earth are left decimated by the telekinetic pair and their devastating power.
This is yet another crucial scene from the manga that was left out of the film (largely do to the manga not being finished yet) that Waititi would be smart to take advantage of.
While fans of the anime may only know Akira in name, fans that followed along with the manga have gotten a taste of just how incredible the young boy's power is. The film opens up with the devastation wrought by the first time Akira is awakened. For the rest of the film, however, there’s a very noticeable absence of the terrifyingly overpower young boy.
Tetsuo spend most of the very violently making his way towards what he believes to be Akira, but when he finally reaches him, all Testsuo finds are some disembodies organs filling up a few jars. In the manga, however, Akira plays a large and definitive role in reshaping Tokyo time and time again.
Katsuhiro Otomo’s original work is largely a story about destruction and creation. It’s a story about the way life and rebirth can sprout from the most heinous and vicious acts of violence and destruction. Time and time again Neo Tokyo is reshaped, reformed, and regrown.
In order to fully capture to scale and the message of Otomo’s classic work, Waititi must be willing to create that same sense of destruction and the optimism that sprouts up in its wake. Plus, recreating the brilliant and obsessive panels that Otomo has come to be known for should be a priority in any adaptation of his masterful work of art.