Movies & TV / News

New AKIRA Anime Project, Orbital Era Film by Katsuhiro Otomo Announced at AX 2019

July 6, 2019 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris

During the Anime Expo this week, Sunrise Inc. of Bandai Namco and legendary filmmaker Katushiro Otomo announced his third animated feature, Orbital Era, along with a new anime project based on his classic, seminal 1988 animated feature AKIRA, along with other various releases for upcoming Otomo-related projects.

First things first, the new AKIRA anime. To clarify some mis-reports that are happening for the project, the panel at Anime Expo wouldn’t go into detail about what the project will be, but they did confirm that it is in fact “not a sequel.” According to the official press release from Sunrise, this is a “new anime adaptation project.” More details will be announced later on.

The hint that was given by the panel is that there was a lot of additional story told in the serialized AKIRA manga series that could be further explored. Fans of both versions will remember that the anime version only really scratches the surface of the full serialized manga storyline. The original Kodansha manga for AKIRA, written and illustrated by Otomo, was published in Weekly Young Magazine from 1982 to 1990. It later won an Eisner Award in 2002.

So, it seems there’s potential than rather telling a brand-new story, the upcoming project will perhaps re-adapt Otomo’s original manga, animating events, characters and subplots who have never really been shown onscreen before from the storyline. That’s not a confirmation for the route the project will go, but simply speculation based on what was actually said during the panel. However, it’s been confirmed by Sunrise and Otomo that this isn’t a “continuation” or a sequel. Sunrise and Otomo didn’t state in what capacity he will be working on the AKIRA anime, but he appears to be heavily involved based on the announcement.

Also announced at the panel was Otomo’s third animated feature film, Orbital Era. Otomo is writing and directing the new film, which he is also designing. Based on Otomo’s own original concept, the story follows a space colony under constructions in the near future. It’s described as “an action-adventure story following the lives of some young boys surviving in this peculiar environment and society as they are tossed around by fate.” The announcement included the film’s first key-visual artwork created by Otomo for the panel. An early teaser video was released, which you can see below.

Other announcements at the panel included the upcoming release of Otomo: The Complete Works. This will be a retrospective of Otomo’s works spanning the entirety of his career. Otomo is going to edit and organize the retrospective with the goal of publishing a fresh collection work for fans to trace the trajectory of his ideas and creations since he started working as a manga artist in 1971. Per Kodansha, this will be seen as “everything Otomo,” and include more than just a “complete collection.” The retrospective will receive a global release and more details will be announced soon.

Also for AKIRA fans, the panel announced a new home video release for the 1988 original film. The 4K remaster will be released in Japan on ULTRA-HD and Blu-ray April 24, 2020.

The panel didn’t really touch on the new live-action AKIRA movie that’s also in development from Warner Bros. Taika Waititi is attached to direct the project for a May 21, 2021 release.