The live-action version of Akira had numerous starts over the years from Warner Bros. with budgetary and other concerns often at the heart of the issue. But a lot of work has already been done on the film over the years as well.
So why not share that with the world if that original concept for the film never sees the light of day, right?
Concept artist Sylvain Despretz had been working on live-action Akira art and storyboards for what supposedly was not a great script. And io9 got their hands on a few pages of the work. Scope them out below.
Obviously, these live-action Akira storyboards don’t give much info about what the film would have been. But there is a rather blonde-looking Kaneda riding what looks to be a much slimmer version of the iconic motorcycle from the original anime.
Fans of the anime will also notice the shots of the city being destroyed, as in the opening image of the 1988 version. So it’s nice to see that, at least conceptually speaking, that aspect of the story wasn’t changed.
However, if one were to venture a guess, it does appear that it is Los Angeles and not Tokyo, which could be offputting for some franchise fans. Regardless, it does appear from these storyboards and artistic concepts that real work had been happening for the film. It was past the point of boardroom suits sitting around discussing whether or not it should happen.
Admittedly, a live-action Akira could be amazing. Read: really amazing. Imagine it in the hands of a great director (Christopher Nolan, Wachowskis, Alex Garland, etc) on a blockbuster budget.
Unfortunately, Warner Bros. seemed originally only prepared to invest about $70 million. Even for 2012, when these concepts were first released, this number was much too low.
In 2017, it looked like we were actually going to get a live-action Akira moving toward production with Taika Waititi in the director’s chair. They even got a release date going for 2021 so things really appeared as if they were moving into place. At the time, Waititi ultimately pivoted to Thor: Love and Thunder instead, but the groundwork was being laid for the flick.
The original Akira came in 1988, and the cyberpunk action animated flick has been a fan-favorite ever since. Though we’ve long past the movie and manga’s 2019 setting, the concepts remain futuristic nonetheless. And it’s cool here that we finally saw how that vision might come to life on the big screen.