When this exploded all over the Internet last week, I wanted to wait and actually see the 1988 movie first, hoping that in the meantime casting choices would be announced. I saw it, but still no official confirmations yet on who will play who.

Warner Bros has re-acquired the rights to Akira and plans to turn the six-volume graphic novel/manga into two live-action movies. WB purchased the rights for seven figures from Katsuhiro Otomo, the author, original anime director, and now executive producer. Leonardo DiCaprio will produce with his company Appian Way.

1988′s Akira is basically definitive anime at this point. Anyone who claims to enjoy anime has seen and pretty much loves Akira. For everyone else who hasn’t seen it, you have no idea how weird this decision is.

According to the HR article, it will be set in 2019 where a teen biker gang member is subjected to a government experiment which unleashes his latent powers. The gang’s leader must find a way to stop the ensuing swathe of destruction. They’re describing it as Blade Runner meets City of God, which would sound awesome if I knew it was nothing like either film.

There are a few changes to the story, the sort of Americanizations you would have to expect from such strange Japanese source material. The story won’t take place in “New Tokyo” after World War III. It will be in “New Manhattan.” Or I guess New New York? Plus it will star two whities.

AICN is saying DiCaprio is not only producing, but plans to star in the movie as Kaneda, the story’s main character and hero. They also say Joseph Gordon-Levitt has been hired to play Tetsuo, his friend and the one subjected to the experiments that give him extraordinary powers.

This will be director Ruirai Robinson‘s first feature film after being nominated for an Oscar for a short film called Fifty Percent Grey.

WB is shooting for a summer 2009 release for the first film.