George Takei Against Alleged Whitewashing of AKIRAPosted 3:42 pm on Thursday, April 21st, 2011 by Michael Pao
AKIRA, created by the legendary Katsuhiro Otomo began as a manga series and then a feature length animated film. Since then it has been featured on music videos, fashion, and more. A story of super science ran amok, politics, and youth culture run wild in a post apocalyptic Tokyo with two best friends, Kaneda and Testuo in the heart of it all.
Last month Deadline reported from its sources a short list of lead actors for the two principals roles in AKIRA. For the role of Testsuo; Robert Pattinson (Twilight), Andrew Garfield (Amazing Spider-Man), and James McAvoy (X-Men: First Class). For the role of Kaneda; Garrett Hedlund (TRON: Legacy), Michael Fassbender (X-Men: First Class), Chris Pine (Star Trek), Joaquin Phoenix (Walk The Line), and Justin Timberlake (former member of ‘NSync). A pretty lackluster line up for an AKIRA film in this writer’s opinion and the fact that NONE of them Asian.
In response to the Deadline report social activist and Mr. Sulu himself George Takei endorsed a Facebook petition called ‘Don’t Whitewash AKIRA‘ where people can sign to show their dissatisfaction of going with the reported Caucasian leads rather than with Asian actors.
In a recent interview with The Advocate, Takei observed that Warner Bros. hasn’t learned from past mistakes such as M. Night Shymalan‘s flop of an adaptation of the popular Avatar: The Last Airbender series. Another animation heavily based on Asian culture and remade with Caucasian performers.
The manga and anime phenomenon is mostly white in this country. It originated in Japan, and, of course, it has a huge Asian fan following. But it’s the multi-ethnic Americans who are fans of Akira and manga. The idea of buying the rights to do that and in fact change it seems rather pointless. If they’re going to do that, why don’t they do something original, because what they do is offend Asians, number 1; number 2, they offend the fans. The same thing happened with M. Night Shyamalan. He cast his project [The Last Airbender] with non-Asians and it’s an Asian story, and the film flopped. I should think that they would learn from that, but I guess big studios go by rote, and the tradition in Hollywood has always been to buy a project, change it completely and flop with it. I think it’s pointless, so I thought I would save Warner Bros. a bit of failure by warning them of what will most likely happen if they continue in that vein.
With all the protest against the current state of affairs with the casting of AKIRA, please keep in mind it’s all currently based on rumor. Anime News Network has reported that Warner Bros. as thus far made no comment on the Deadline report. Also Robert Pattinson has addressed in an interview with MTV News that while he is aware of the report he claims to have yet seen a script, but he is a fan of the anime.
Michael Pao is a photographer and writer who loves pretty much anything geek/nerd culture. Meet the rest of the Nerd Reactor Team.