Help Mr. Sulu Save Akira From White People

I’m just going to come and say this, right off the bat. I don’t like Akira. Actually I don’t really like most anime either. Wait, before you pillory me in the comments section, hear me out on this. For once anime fans, I’m actually on your side.

See a few weeks ago we found this shortlist of actors likely to be up for the two leads in a new, live-action Hollywood version of the well-known Japanese anime. The list was populated entirely by a bunch of white people. The whitest of white people. White people like Robert Pattinson, Chris Pine, Justin Timberlake, and that British kind who stole Tobey Maguire’s job as Spider-Man. Akira on the other hand, is one of the most well-known pieces of entertainment Japan has ever produced. And... none of the movie’s leads, animated though they might be, is even remotely a generic white guy.

Now I like white guys. I like them a lot more than I like either anime or Akira, so if anyone’s going to be behind this move it should be me. But I’m not.

Imagine for a moment, if you will, that Hollywood tried to cast Jackie Chan as Superman. There’d be an uproar, and we’d be right to be up roaring. It’s not about the color of his skin, but the fundamental nature of the character. It’s about where he comes from, who he is, what we identify with about him. Why should Akira be any different?

The characters of this film are in their own way just as iconic as Superman, and are clearly Japanese. They should probably stay that way. Leading the fight to let them keep their cultural heritage is, believe it or not, George Takei.

I’m surprised Takei even knows anime exists, but apparently he does and the Star Trek star has spoken out on the subject of race bending. He sent this tweet out into the ether through Twitter last week:

Akira epic fail--all actors up for Kaneda & Tetsuo are white? Sign & RT the petition here:

Yes, George Takei just said epic fail. He’s serious about this social media thing, I guess.

That link, should you choose to follow it, takes you to a simple Facebook page. I wouldn’t worry overmuch about it, in my experience online petitions are pretty much useless, unless you’re trying to get Betty White a hosting gig on some Lorne Michaels produced variety program. What’s more useful though, is someone like Takei, someone who’s actually spent much of his life fighting just this sort of thing speaking out in Hollywood. What’s nearly as useful is if other people, people like you, speak out about it too. Not by clicking “like” on some Facebook petition, but by actually voicing your feelings on the subject to someone who might be able to do something about it. Here’s how you can make that happen.

If you’re on the side of me and Mr. Sulu, and want Hollywood to keep Akira Asian, let Warner Bros. know with a simple tweet by clicking right here.

Josh Tyler