Fans of body horror and cyberpunk motorcycle gangs, rejoice! More Akira is coming from creator Katsuhiro Otomo, as per an announcement by Otomo himself at Anime Expo 2019. The new anime project is not a sequel and will instead seek to further expand the original manga source material, according to ANN. The original Akira film, by contrast, was a sort of Akira Abridged if you will, hitting the primary story beats of the manga but making cuts to characters and subplots to save time.
The new Akira will be produced at Sunrise, which is also making Otomo’s new animated film, Orbital Era, which was announced during the same panel. Beyond that, little else is known. It will be animated, naturally, but whether Otomo/Sunrise have plans for a limited OVA series or an ongoing, televised project remains to be seen. No mention was made of characters, voice actors, release dates, or even an explicit confirmation that Otomo will direct, though one would have to assume. Otomo directed and wrote the original 1988 Akira film, and was the writer and artist of the Akira manga, which ran from 1982 to 1990.
Since then, Otomo has directed one other full-length animated feature, 2004’s Steamboy; a steampunk coming-of-age adventure set in an alternate history version of mid-1800s England. Compared to Akira, Steamboy’s reception was tepid at best, and while the animation (also a Sunrise joint) was lauded for its complexity and spectacle, western critics regarded the plot as meandering and the characters as abrasive and contemptible. BBC film critic Matthew Leyland said that Steamboy was “devoid of humor,” and recommended that folk watch the Wallace & Gromit movie instead. After that, Otomo directed a live-action, straight-to-DVD film adaptation of the anime Mushi-Shi in 2006, and an anime short entitled Combustible in 2013.
In other Akira news, Otomo also announced that the original 1988 film is being remastered in 4K UHD, and will be released on bluray in Japan on April 24, 2020. A western release is also planned, but no further details were given.
It’s weird to think that Akira takes place in 2019, aka right now, but what’s even weirder is that in the film, Neo Tokyo is preparing to hold the 2020 Olympic Games, which is also happening right now. Tokyo may not be Neo yet (or ever, hopefully, given how that tends to come about), but it sure as heck is hosting the next set of summer Olympic games, which is almost certainly a coincidence but also maybe not??
Regardless, of all the things that Otomo could accurately predict with Akira, I’m really glad that “Tokyo hosting the Olympics” is what it got right, and not the lawless gangs of murders on bikes, or the whole World War III thing, or governments secretly trying to harness the power of psychic children, leading to widespread chaos and destruction. The Olympics have a lot of bad politics wrapped up in ’em, but they ain’t “psychic child murder” bad. (At least, not as far as we’re aware.)