Letters to the Editor (1)

This was a requested letter in response to a query from the movie podcast The Match Cut episode 036.

Sorry about the delay. I started writing an email then got distracted by a shiny car.

Excited to an Akira live action version, you ask? No, I say. For, as you often ask, what’s the point? It’s just taking a movie, which is an icon of its genre, stripping it to its bones, letting those bones bleach in the American sun, and then attempting construct a frame with it to market the American culture of fear and to promote generalizations about the perceived oddities of Japanese culture. Probably.

Begin rant:

When Katsuhiro Otomo wrote the manga (which I started reading but the Japanese was a bit dense for my level at the time and I haven’t tried since) he was crafting a story based on one of the largest concerns still plaguing the Japanese psyche: radiation (especially from nuclear war). It must be empathized that Japan is the only country in the history of the world that has ever experienced the ravages of nuclear warfare, and this terrible incident left an indelible impression on the country and the post-war generation through the depression that followed until the mid-1970’s. That is the background that Akira was written under, although it is set in the future. Does America have the same cultural identity that apocalypse-obsessed Japan all together witnessed? On a recent trip to Japan, I found that radiation is very much still ingrained in the culture and bubbled to the surface after the Fukushima incident – and not without good reason. You could argue that 9-11 is equivalent, but it is not the same as nuclear holocaust.

But that’s just a thematic thing. There’s more to argue just for the sake of argument.

  • Otomo wrote the manga and screenplay and directed the movie and, as stated, it became a cultural icon. The writer is the director and so the movie is distilled according to how he thought it should be. Although not impossible, I find it unlikely that another director could improve on that.
  • The movie was released in 1988 and was set in the near future. 27 years later, the movie still looks fresh and STILL looks like it is set in the near future. How many sci-fi films can claim a fresh look nearly 3 decades later? (There are examples (2001) but not many). Can a live version accomplish that?
  • The movie is just so goddamn badass! The pace, the flow, the bright colors in an otherwise bleak world of corrupt politicians, abusive authority figures, violent rebels, and orphans left drifting in the road are the combined elements that craft a story of disaster, isolation, and rebirth through chaos and pain. The animation is as fluid as water and there isn’t an ounce of fat in the whole movie. So, I ask again, what’s the point?

In conclusion, I see no reason for a live action version other than to make a good thing bad, for I do not see any way that seeing some hunky white actor screaming the English equivalent to “Kaneda~!” will make it better. Also, I completely disagree with Wright’s choice of soundtrack but that’s only because the original soundtrack is nigh flawless.

Incidentally, Otomo was also a prophet. A soothsayer, if you will. In the story, just before the disaster that is Akira surfaced, the Olympics were to be held in Tokyo in the year 2020. Guess where the actual Olympics are being held in 2020? Oh, SHIT!

– Joel


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