Media Consumers for Entertainment Equality


George Takei tweets out on “whitewashed Akira”

April 19, 2011

UPDATE: April 19th, 2011 Taking his twitter critiques a step further, George Takei is now asking his followers to retweet at Warner Bros.!

RT: Hey @wbpictures! I’m with @GeorgeTakei and @cinemablend! Leave the white guys out of it and keep Akira Asian!George Takei

Click here to retweet George Takei

“Young Asian actors get few opportunities in Hollywood. Warner Bros could’ve helped change this with Akira, but is casting only whites.”George Takei, April 2nd, 2011

On March 31st, 2011, Asian American actor George Takei began tweeting dismay over the reported “whitewashing” of Warner Bros. adaptation of AKIRA to his 90,000+ twitter followers. On March 22nd, entertainment media outlets reported that all of the actors currently being considered for lead roles in AKIRA are white.

On his verified twitter account, Takei began posting a series of tweets with his thoughts on Akira. If you agree with them, please consider retweeting them to help spread the word. Due to retweets, Takei’s tweets about Akira were prominently displayed on Twitter’s front page on March 31st.

WB’s live action film AKIRA based on JAPANESE comic casting only WHITE leads. Hey, I ride a mean motorbike! #WhyNotJohnCho” – George Takei

A blog re AKIRA live action film whitewashing–white lead actors, renaming Tetsuo to Travis?! http://ow.ly/4qw7i #ShameOnWB” – George Takei

Live action of anime classic Akira will use white actors. In related news, remake of Roots to star Mel Gibson. #ShameOnWB” – George Takei

When they made this parody they thought they were being satirical, not prophetic. http://ow.ly/1sjjPw #WhitewashedAkira” – George Takei

“Young Asian actors get few oppys in Hwood. WB could’ve helped change this w/ Akira but is casting only whites. #WhyItMatters”George Takei

On April 15th, 2011, George Takei also linked to Racebending.com’s Facebook petition, which has now been “signed” by over 11,000 people!

Akira epic fail–all actors up for Kaneda & Tetsuo are white? Sign & RT the petition here:http://ow.ly/4ALY4 #ShameOnWBGeorge Takei

WB thinks it needs white leads to sell Akira. That’s insulting to white audiences and deprives Asian actors of rare oppy. #LoseLoseGeorge Takei

If Toyota owned the Big 3 and hired only Asians execs, that would suck, too. Hey @WBPictures: Stop the Akira whitewashing!George Takei

Through a coordinated effort by Racebending.com, several Asian American community organizations expressed concerns about AKIRA to Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures. Because Asian American actors continue to face casting discrimination in Hollywood, the organizations believe that “casting white actors for Asian lead characters will reinforce a glass ceiling and reduce opportunities for Asian American actors.” [For more information about AKIRA, please check out our Campaign Page and our FAQ about AKIRA.]

Illana Brownstein tweeted Takei to let him know that students praised Takei’s use of twitter to draw attention to whitewashing in her contemporary drama class.

Takei responded: “That is heartening. Perhaps the younger generation will take note and change things for the better!”

We hope so, too!

Categories: Akira, blog
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About the Author

Marissa Lee is one of the co-founders of Racebending.com

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  • Just when I think I can’t love that man any more…

    • Yeah, in George’s day, if you were a minority, you had to work much harder than anyone else to get on American TV, and even then it wasn’t guaranteed. Star Trek didn’t change everything, but it opened the door a little. It showed black and Asian kids that they could be scientists or (by the nature of the actors) renowned performers, and it showed an interracial kiss at a time when Plecker’s obsession with white purity had only recently been struck down. And it gave us hope for the future. A future people like George Takei are still fighting for. (Yes, I’m aware there’s racism in Star Trek, against aliens, but still…)

  • Staalhjerte

    Oh this is ridiculous! AKIRA with whites? Raise hell George!

  • Delphicdrifter

    I think the thing that offends me the most about this is renaming Tetsuo to Travis! How are they going to pull off the screaming at each other scene?
    “Trrrrraaaaaavvvviiiiissss!! Kiiiiiiieeeeeettttthhhh!!

  • Atatürk

    I loved you in Red Alert 3, Mr. Takei!

  • Pinkie Pie

    “Live action of anime classic Akira will use white actors. In related news, remake of Roots to star Mel Gibson.”

    Hilarious! I love the man more then ever now!

  • Aiyo

    So I was on Cracked and saw some of the script it is horrible. If this is where they are going I don’t want any POC in this film.

    I don’t understand changing everything. AKIRA has a huge following and loyal as hell fans why change everything and loose all the fans.

    Here is the link be warned it’s really bad

    • It’s called macekre. Named after Carl Macek. Macek himself didn’t invent it, though; as long as people have been translating works, they’ve been editing them. (Sometimes this is inevitable; you learn something about the history of Japan when you read the original Tale of Genji, namely that women’s literature was written in hiragana. That is lost when translated to another language.)

      Macek mainly did it so his shows could get in syndication. Robotech was actually pretty good, though. Also, once Macek was on his own, his dubs were more faithful, such as…his dub of Akira.

      The 80s and 90s were the golden age of macekre. This 4kids crap kids complain about today is nothing compared to what Saban used to do to anime. (“The next dimension!”, American Sailor Moon, Power Rangers in general. They didn’t even have the original script when they made Samurai Pizza Cats.) But these macekres made anime fans of us all.

      Of course, it’s expensive to do so, and anime fans love Japan. Shocking. These days, most editing of anime consists of bowdlerization and reworking of puns: There is no way a Dragonball fan is going to care if we see Goku or Gohan’s penis, but the FCC will. Cartoon Network translated “Yebisu” as “water” for Evangelion. On the other hand, other anime, such as Shaman King, it’s difficult to get through 4kids’ “no religion” policy. Mr. Popo and Jynx are recolored from the offensive blackface. I could go on.

  • JJdelacruz

    If they ever do get him on Saturday Night Live, it would be great if they had a skit about whitewashing characters in hollywood.

  • Takei has a wonderful sense of humor. Seriously, they’re making it about 9/11? Seriously? Ignoring that Akira is simultaneously in the future (in that it’s in a world where Tokyo has been destroyed) and in the past (in that the verse’s history reflects the 1980s), 9/11?

    The thing I loved about Star Trek was that the characters weren’t stereotypical. They were three-dimensional. Usually. (That’s right, Voyager.)

    That parody’s slightly wrong: Baseball’s bigger in Japan than in America. In America, sports teams typically live off public subsidy.

    So, should we Japonify American films? I’m picturing Hoshi Sentai Warranger, wherein all the fighters merge into a giant humanoid robot with the Millennium Falcon, now called the Bannen Houou.

  • Jiofreecs

    Whitewashing shouldn’t get all the attention here, it’s not nearly as big an issue as the fact that they are even attempting to adapt the manga at all. There are a few manga that should never get live-action adaptations, and Akira’s one of them, and probably the top for there’s no way they’d live-action it without totally killing the spirit of the manga.

    • blahblah

      What? Whitewashing is a MUCH bigger issue than whether Akira should be adapted or not. I find comparing the two issues to be almost insulting. I get that people really really like the manga, but come on, that doesn’t compare to the systemic, institutionalized discrimination that POC go through in Hollywood and the rest of society. The manga adaptation concerns fans of the manga only; the whitewashing concerns POC everywhere.

      • Aiyo

        couldn’t have said it better myself

  • Anonymous

    SHOCKER!!! First Avatar the last Air Bender and now this!!!!


  • Why do some of the Hollywood execs feel that white people need to have white protagonists in order to connect with a movie?

    As a white male, not sure if I’m in the majority or not, I don’t care much about race when it doesn’t matter. A good actor is a good actor.

    However, with a movie like Akira, it does matter. You have to have Asian actors for Tetsuo and Kaneda, at least. I would be fine with other races playing other characters like other bikers or students, the movie is set in a diverse future.

    There are characters that have their races “set in stone” and need to be cast that way.

  • He’s furious.

  • Darren Mitton

    This director has absolutely no idea what he is doing.