The Akira Project

Akira is one of the most influential works of media ever created. The animated feature film was released in 1988 —the graphic violence, cyber punk style, engaging plot, and high production values made it stand out, especially from animated works being created in the west. It still stands the test of time and has become known as a classic.

Recently a production crew from Montreal decided to adapt Akira into trailer for a would-be live-action film dubbed The Akira Project. It was a fan made project, a labor of love, and it turned out fantastic. We interview the project director Nguyen-Anh Nguyen to find out more, but first check out the finished work:

The plot of the original Akira anime was perhaps overly ambitious, distilling so much manga into a single film. If you were to make a feature film, what changes would you make for intelligibility?

I don’t think that the anime was a very good representation of the manga. Yes it was groundbreaking and mind binding in many ways, but I always cherished the manga a LOT more than the anime. If I were to make a feature, it would be in 2 or 3 movies. Or even better, a short TV series.

The trailer looks as if there was a great deal of energy expended to make this a frame-for-frame remake. Where are the most significant differences between the films?

We didn’t actually WANT to make a frame-for-frame remake. I guess I just saw the anime so many times and knew the manga by heart that when I was on set, I was just setting up shots the way I saw them intuitively, and they turned out to be the same for a lot of them. I only realized this when a fan made a side by side comparison with the trailer and the anime after we released it.

photo1What kind of thought went into the ethnicity of the cast and choice of spoken language?

Well I always wanted to cast Japanese actors, but they are hard to come by in Montreal. So I chose Asian actors in general. As for English, I wanted this to be seen as much as possible and knew that if it were made in Japanese, it would have less of a reach.

What was the source script? The original streamline english translation? A new script based on the manga? Something else?

I wrote a script based on the manga mainly, with some of the streamline dub. I wanted the best of both worlds I guess.

During the production, what was the easiest thing to get right? What was the hardest thing?

The locations we found were pretty key in making the whole thing look legit. The hardest thing was figuring out how to integrate the special fx and CG down the road, as a lot of this was overly ambitious at the time.

The trailer is promising. How much more work will be required to complete the feature?

We are not doing a feature at the moment, WB owns the rights to the AKIRA property, so they are the one making it.

The original Indiegogo campain didn’t reach it’s funding goal but you went ahead and made the trailer anyways. That’s commendable! How did not reaching your funding goal affect how you approached the project?

We had to scrap a few scenes that were crazy, even if we had reached our goal (i.e. the stadium scene, the tunnel imploding on the SWAT), but in the end, we managed to pull off most of the script as we had a lot of help. We did cut the scene when Kaneda kisses Kei by the purification pool though, although we shot that.

You have a much larger fan base now… Will you return to crowd funding at this point? If so are you worried about the legality?

Yes the fans are now there and waiting for us to do something else. I am not planning on working on more Akira related material in the future, unless WB asks me to… 😉 I am however thinking about crowdfunding my next project, a sci-fi feature film.

neo-tokyoHow do you balance client work with internal passion projects like this one?

Well, it’s pretty difficult as client work usually takes precedence both for me and my collaborators. Which is why it took so long. But passion is what kept us going and is what makes this whole industry worth it in the end.

Other than Otomo, who are some of you or your teams greatest influences?

I grew up with classic anime and manga. My dream would be to make Battle Angel Alita and Akira, then my life would be complete. But sadly, they are both copyrighted material owned by major studios. If not, I would make Blade of the Immortal or Gunsmith Cats, they were both fun in their own ways and remind me of my youth.

Do you ever vacation in Vietnam? I’d love if gave a presentation at one of our events!

I just went to Vietnam prior to the launch of Akira, but am thinking of going back next year. I would love to be invited to one of your events.



Nguyen-Anh Nguyen and his team are now working on a new cyberpunk film called Temple. Check out the trailer here:

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