When I first saw AKIRA I was unaffected in my younger days at the sight of The Espers. It's not enough that they are aged significantly, they also have these very sweet and eerie voices. I felt, and still feel nothing but compassion for them. Their faces torn in horror and sadness. It's hard to shake that image out of your head.
While I never thought it was impossible to adapt AKIRA for the big screen I did think that after the Hollywood polish it still wouldn't measure up. This movie has elements that are perfectly captured with the animation and hard to imagine seeing beyond that. As of now the fate of the film is in limbo even though there are reports that it will begin production with director Jaume Collet-Serra in 2014. I'm at the point that I'll believe it when there's actual movement on it.
Until then, we have these pieces of concept art from Howard Lau (I, ROBOT) via Film Sketchr. Here you will see some tests on the face for Masaru who is sort of the ringleader so to speak out of the three.
Here's a little background on The Espers:
The Espers came together when Takashi, Masaru, and Kiyoko developed psychic powers and were taken to the Nursery with the original intention to develop their potential for political purposes. They met and befriended each other and Akira, but were left behind under the care of Colonel Shikishima and the scientists when Akira transcended to a godlike existence and destroyed the original Tokyo in the process. To prevent a future psychic explosion, the Espers were fed drugs to inhibit their developing powers, with the side effects of suffering physical impairments - Kiyoko eventually became bedridden and Masaru was afflicted with polio. The drugs also inhibited their physical growth but they aged along with everyone else, appearing in the early 40's.
Here's the synopsis they were going with: Kaneda is a bar owner in Neo-Manhattan who is stunned when his brother, Tetsuo, is abducted by government agents led by The Colonel. Desperate to get his brother back, Kaneda agrees to join with Ky Reed and her underground movement who are intent on revealing to the world what truly happened to New York City thirty years ago when it was destroyed. Kaneda believes their theories to be ludicrous but after finding his brother again, is shocked when he displays telekinetic powers. Ky believes Tetsuo is headed to release a young boy, Akira, who has taken control of Tetsuo’s mind. Kaneda clashes with The Colonel’s troops on his way to stop Tetsuo from releasing Akira but arrives too late. Akira soon emerges from his prison courtesy of Tetsuo as Kaneda races in to save his brother before Akira once again destroys Manhattan island, as he did thirty years ago.
AKIRA was set to star Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Ken Watanabe, Helena Bonham Carter, and either Michael Pitt or Dane DeHaan as Tetsuo.