Akira Anime Film Producer Corrects 30-Year Fact on How Much the Groundbreaking Film Cost to Make

No, Akira didn't cost 1.1 billion yen to produce, says executive producer Shigeru Watanabe



1988 anime film classic Akira has just returned to Japanese theaters for a 4K re-release of the film this week, putting the influential masterpiece back into the forefront of minds all across Japan, including producer Shigeru Watanabe, who worked on the film during its production. But instead of reminiscing working with creator Katsuhiro Otomo, Watanabe set to correct the record on the longstanding belief that Akira cost 1.1 billion yen (US$9 million at the time) to make, and was confused why Google and Wikipedia were citing this incorrect figure. 


The 1.1 million yen figure has been cited multiple times over the last 32 years since Akira was released, with The Hollywood Reporter in 2019, Empire in 2011, Jerry Beck's 2005 book The Animated Movie Guide, and Ryan Lambie's 2018 book The Geek's Guide to SF Cinema, all using the figure to boast about the exuberant cost for the film, especially considering the film was made during Japan's bubble era. Watanabe asked where this number had come from on his Twitter account, and thankfully the internet came out and helped him.




Katsuhiro Otomo researcher Junya Suzuki responded to Watanabe saying that Toho (the distributers of Akira) in 1987 was quoted in an article referring to the production cost being 1 billion yen, and again in an advertorial in 1988 using a similar quote. The extra 100 million yen was widely rumored in Japan to come from corrections on the finished film, like reshoots on a film after it had finished production.


While Shigeru Watanabe didn't directly know how much Akira cost to make, he believed that the 1.1 billion yen figure was way too high and that they didn't have enough staff to justify that high of a production cost. Junya Suzuki was once again to the rescue, with a passage from the 2012 book The Law of Anime Film Hits and a direct quote from Ken Tsunoda, the head of the production committee on the film for Kodansha.



Tsunoda is quoted in the book as saying "the original budget was 500 million yen, but it ended up costing 700 million yen."  This could have been where the extra 100 million yen rumor started from all those years ago. Watanabe confirmed that Tsunoda's quoted amounts match his own memory of how much Akira cost to make and that back in the 1980s. Production costs were inflated in advertising to promote films and sometimes included advertising costs, which isn't normally included when referring to film budgets. NetLab confirmed the figures in the book were correct with their own copy of The Law of Anime Film Hits.


In fact, looking back, Studio Ghibli's 1986 classic Laputa: Castle in the Sky had a reported budget of 500 million yen, with Kiki's Delivery Service in 1989 having a reported budget of 800 million yen. This means the budget given to Akira was on par with regular budgets for anime films at the time, breaking a 30-year belief about the anime film being "one of the most expensive anime films of the era." 


Though this doesn't change the fact that Akira was one of the most groundbreaking and influential films of the era and is widely cited as one of the best anime films of all time. 



The 4K remaster of Akira is currently showing in cinemas across Japan.


Source: NetLab


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Daryl Harding is a Japan Correspondent for Crunchyroll News. He also runs a YouTube channel about Japan stuff called TheDoctorDazza, tweets at @DoctorDazza, and posts photos of his travels on Instagram

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