If Jordan Peele directs anime, he needs to be careful
The genius that is Jordan Peele recently made history with the success of his social thriller film, “Get Out.” The film set box office records; it was the first black directorial to debut at $160 million. It goes without saying that Peele is hot in Hollywood right now.
Recently, he has caught the attention of movie studio Warner Bros. Representatives are trying to seal him in to direct a live action version of the popular anime film “AKIRA.”
At first, that seemed like a great idea. A poppin’ black nerd is going to direct an anime film that has a cult following of other black nerds. It would be amazing, but this is Japanese art we’re talking about. How much nuance and authenticity is going to be present in a film revolving highly around culture without that cultural similarity present?
Let’s talk about the background of “AKIRA.” This film mixes two genres of film that have the biggest cult followings, especially when it comes to cosplay: sci-fi and anime.
Even though all anime warrants beautiful art and pictures, stylistically, “AKIRA” was ahead of its time and just oozes with a certain confidence. The film was released in 1988 and is based off of a book with the same name; both were written, illustrated and directed by Katsuhiro Otomo.
Anime is an art form specific to Japan. Why wouldn’t a Japanese director be at the helm of this project alongside some Japanese cast and crew? In the words of Denzel Washington, “Spielberg probably could’ve directed ‘Goodfellas,’ but it’s as much to do with the difference in culture as it is with race.”
The little nuances inherent in films surrounding ethnicity can only come from a person who lives in that space. It’s the reason that in reviews of films like “Moonlight,” people said they felt it was so intimate that they “shouldn’t be there;” it’s why in “Raging Bull,” the Italian stereotype doesn’t seem played out; it’s the reason why television shows “Martin” and “Friends” cater to their specific respective audiences that are represented in the show.
Cultural relevance and presence of identity is important and makes for the most genuine and carefully layered films.
However, one of the most beloved black films, “The Color Purple,” was directed by Steven Spielberg, a white man. The film’s popularity could be attributed to his mastery of filmmaking, the outstanding performances or the great source material.
If Peele ends up directing this film, I think it will be a good piece of work. The motifs and underlying messages he could base the story on would be phenomenal. To make “AKIRA” perfect, though, Peele would need to ensure the cast represents who the story’s based on: the people of Japan.
Senior staff columnist Dana Jones is a broadcast journalism junior and can be reached at [email protected].