It’s sad to say, but movies studios that do not use the opportunities that lie before them to cast non-white actors in roles that would be great opportunities for non-white actors to play the sorts of roles that are rarely open to them do not surprise me. I’m much more likely to blink in astonishment and delight when studios hire non-white actors to play characters who, had they just hired a white actor, no one would have otherwise blinked at. See Thor and the upcoming Man of Steel. We need a word for when you are pleasantly surprised simply because your expectations were so low.
No, what really surprises me about the Akira casting is that every step the studio makes appears to be perfectly calculated to reinforce the idea that maintaining any ties to the integral cultural setting of Akira is absolutely last on the list of priorities. However, finally, the production appears to be courting it’s first non-white actor, and Ken Watanabe is not only actually Asian, but actually Japanese, a distinction of nationality that I don’t have high hopes for Hollywood ever getting through its head.