Earlier this week, rumors surfaced that Zac Efron — yes, that Zac Efron — had been offered the lead role in the Hollywood remake of Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, one of the great anime titles. And you could practically hear all of the nerds, fanboys, and otaku screaming to the skies in anguish, their fists raised at whatever unholy deity had brought this to pass.
At first, I was going to join them, but as I thought about it, my reaction became, simply, “meh.” Listen, we all know that this film, if and when it ever happens, will resemble the original only in passing. Both Otomo’s anime and the manga on which it was based draw so deeply on Japan’s history and culture that the storyline will almost certainly have to undergo significant changes to make it comprehensible for the American audience.
When the dust settles, I think that everyone can be happy. The anime fans can continue to enjoy their film and pretend as if the Hollywood film never happened, and American moviegoers can watch a film in which, presumably, a lot of stuff explodes in really cool ways. Everyone wins.
But I do have one recommendation for any of the folks involved in the Akira remake if they happen to be reading. An epic, post-apocalyptic film about government experiments, political conspiracies, biker gangs, social upheaval, fringe religious cults, and massive psychic battles could be all kinds of awesome — with or without Zac Efron. Just don’t call it Akira. It’ll make things simpler and less confusing in the long run.