Katsuhiro Otomo’s landmark Akira manga turns 35 years old this year. Originally published in 1982, Otomo was also asked to direct an anime movie adaptation in 1988 while the manga was still ongoing. Both works have been immortalized by science fiction fans around the globe.
However, in an interview with Forbes, Otomo revealed his complicated relationship with the series. He spoke about first viewing the movie, stating:
“Actually, when I saw the first rush of the movie version of Akira I thought it would be a failure. I left the theater very quickly and came back home to tell my wife that the movie was a failure. This was because I thought the first half was good but because the time and budget was limited, with so many cuts, the quality dropped as the story developed. In general, I thought the picture quality and cut quality went down when the movie went into the latter half. So when I saw the movie’s quality decline as I watched it made me feel miserable.
“To give some examples of what I mean, there were just too many cuts. I think there were more than two thousand cuts in the end. That meant we didn’t have enough animators to do all the work. So each animator had way more work than they could do, so that meant they did a lot of overtime and had to make compromises in terms of animation quality. In addition, the studio had to outsource the animation abroad to reduce costs and they weren’t very good.
“However, when Shoji Yamashiro did the remake with 5 channel audio, he invited me over and showed me the movie again. So this was a very long time since I had seen the movie back when it was released. Maybe time had made me softer but when I saw it again I thought, ‘Oh, this is interesting’ and that maybe it wasn’t so bad after all.”
Otomo would also touch on modern anime since his Akira movie has inspired a generation of directors:
“I don’t really like the art style of most anime these days, the ones that appeal to otaku tastes. So that means I don’t watch much modern anime. However, I try to watch things like Your Name and In This Corner of the World. That said, I really love the new Gundam: The Origin anime series.”
Otomo would then speak to Forbes about the long-gestating live-action adaptation of Akira:
“While I haven’t seen the new live-action Ghost in the Shell, when it comes to Akira I have already finished the original manga and my own anime version too. So in that sense, I am basically done with Akira. If someone wants to do something new with Akira, then I am mostly okay with that. As I accepted the offer for a live-action Akira to be made, so I am generally okay with whatever they want to do with it. However, I did give one major condition to a live-action version and that is that I had to check and approve the scenario.
Otomo would then talk about his views on adaptations in general:
“As always, the fundamental question on adapting anything is whether you follow the host work strictly or do something new with it, that is a never-ending discussion I think. This is especially true for film-based adaptations from novels, as the reader has to use their own imagination to bring it to life. Readers inherently have their own interpretation. That often means a movie’s production has more creative freedom. That said, with things like manga it means the story already comes with very specific visuals. That makes it much harder for a film’s production to go their own way with it.
“Personally, I think being entirely bound to the original manga of something like Akira would not make any sense as a movie. As for what I would do in terms of adapting Akira into my own live-action movie, I really don’t want to do that. I would much rather do something entirely new and separate.”
What do you think about Katsuhiro Otomo’s thoughts? You can read the rest of his interview, which includes his inspirations and beginnings as a mangaka, at Forbes.