Last week, rumours abounded on the Internet that Zac Efron, star of High School Musical would be cast in a lead role in “Akira“. Folks who hadn’t seen the original anime movie assumed this meant that this meant Efron was being considered for the role of Akira; fans of the original anime knew that Akira’s actual role was too small and that Efron was being considered for the role of Kaneda, who is the film’s actual protagonist.
Well, it doesn’t really matter which role Efron was supposedly being considered to play, because it now looks as if the Hughes brothers, who are helming the “Akira” project, have squashed the Zac Efron rumour. Possibly because they realized that Akira, the live-action musical, was just too ambitious a project to undertake.
While there’s a collective sigh of relief being heard all over the Internet with this latest news, it’s not as if we’re going to see an Akira remake that actually includes Asian/Asian American actors. Phil, over at Angry Asian Man, notes that the upcoming Akira remake is intended to take place in a war-ravaged Manhattan, not Tokyo, thus freeing all of the characters up to be played by “American” (re: White) actors.
Personally, while I think Akira is a ground-breaking anime film, the more I think about it, the more I think it simply cannot be translated into live-action for American audiences. The Akira film is genre-redefining, but may ultimately be too fantastic for a live-action screen. Anime provides the perfect medium to blend the real with the unbelievable, because the entire world is, ultimately, an artistic reconstruction where anything is possible. Live-action grounds stories in a need to be believable; is there any way to show the final scenes of Akira without having it devolve into impossible, and laughable, camp?
Akira may be doomed to failure from the get-go. All race-bending issues aside, this may be one project where Hollywood should know well enough to leave it the hell alone.