Is Anime the Untouchable Genre For Live-Action Movies?

Animation, a limitless genre that can tap the emotions of all ages. Worlds are created without limitation and are products of an endless imagination and childlike thrill through minds of adults. Japan has been able to make a stable style of animation for those who aren’t aware which they call anime. Anime spread widely across the world and is one of the most beloved styles of animation to date. Inspiring innumerable  amounts of animators across the globe along with big name movie makers, anime still doesn’t seem to get the respect it deserves.

It is shocking and overwhelmingly common for film studios around the world to borrow from Japanese storytelling and if examples were laid out in front of you, you’d squint you eyes in confusion then open them in amazement. Usually this thievery is accepted simply because everyone does it to everyone else, but two wrongs don’t make a right and there should always be credit given to the proper people. Take Inception for example, a story about stealing dreams inside of dreams. Tell me this isn’t inspired, if anything, by the film Paprika whose synopsis reads:

Dr. Atsuko Chiba works as a scientist by day and, under the code name “Paprika,” is a dream detective at night. Atsuko and her colleagues are working on a device called the DC Mini, which is intended to help psychiatric patients, but in the wrong hands it could destroy people’s minds. When a prototype is stolen, Atsuko/Paprika springs into action to recover it before damage is done.

Sound familiar? There are endless fan favorites that we’d all like to see become live-action, but it seems to be nearly impossible for studios to get it right. Genres like this include the infamous video game genre that we’ve yet to see come to life or at one point, the now popular superhero/comic-book genre. The lack of limitations through books and cartoons have been the reason these genres have yet to hit a high point in their conceptions and stories borrowing concepts are the ones cashing in on the ideas. Anime is high flying, often fictional, adventures full of blood, magic, or unfathomable fiction, and making it realistic enough to not be ridiculous is a task in of itself.

There are definitely stories and anime that make for great films that have yet to be mined for their material. For me, it doesn’t come down to if a studio is capable of creating a story from anime, but if that story can make that studio money, and anime has proven to be a failure in the live-action department. I think of popular anime like Fullmetal Alchemist and Cowboy Bebop as films that could bring a renaissance of live-action anime films. They are concepts not far from what we’ve seen while still maintaining their originality with characters people can relate too while being entertained.

Ghost in the Shell seems to be the film to look out for to help this genre blossom. It has star power signed onto it with Scarlett Johansson as the lead and is a story that audiences wouldn’t be completely unfamiliar too – think of it as the inspiration for The Matrix – and it has a fair following whom are aware of its impact on new or old anime fans out there. Can they do it? Well, eventually I suppose, but I’m scared that that day will come once Donald Trump gets a buzz cut…or dies.


3 replies »

  1. I don’t think anime is impossible for Hollywood, nor is it even difficult. It’s just that Hollywood producers simply don’t seem to be able to find the right animes that actually work, or they hire shoddy writers and directors to make it.

    We actually have two examples of Japanese media making extremely successful adaptations to Live-Action films: First, is Oldboy, which is based on the manga of the same name, and of course came out fantastically (the Korean version at least). Second, is Edge of Tomorrow, which was based on the light novel/manga All You Need is Kill, and it too came out extremely well. I’ve actually read All You Need is Kill, and I thought they did a great job adapting it for a different audience.

    Really, the only adaptation that’s ever come to fruition seems to be Dragon Ball Evolution, which had the massive problem of being awful. But even if it wasn’t, it still would have been a bad adaptation. Why? Because it was attempting to make a movie out of a sixteen-volume manga series, and fit the entirety of the plot into there, while also conforming it to the standard Hollywood story structure. With these limitations, there was very little chance it could have been anything but a disaster in the first place. Dragon Ball does have pretty clear story arcs and such, but it couldn’t have been done in a way that could have worked as a standalone two-hour-long film.

    But there’s definitely a chance for anime movies to be successful in the future. Battle Angel, the long-gestating James Cameron picture (now slated to be directed by Robert Rodriguez since Cameron’s doing Avatar sequels through 2019), could potentially be very good. The Ghost in the Shell movie seems like it’s one of Disney’s hard-hitters, based on schedule placement, though John Carter and Tomorrowland proved that Disney’s live-action movies are hit-or-miss when it comes to both box office and audience enjoyment. The Death Note movie already has a good basis considering Japan already made its own Death Note movies.

    However, anime is always going to be extremely underrepresented in Hollywood adaptations, at least until producers start actually looking beyond the surface. While a Fullmetal Alchemist movie or Evangelion movie sound like they could be awesome, there’s no way in hell either of those could be made into two-hour-long films without radically changing them, and probably for the worse. There’s stuff like Gundam, which has so much material that a movie could do anything with it, but I really hope producers instead start looking for stuff beyond the mega-popular franchises. I’ve always said that the series Eden of the East could work extremely well if adapted to American TV or Movie format, and something like Hourou Musuko would probably be an Oscar winner in this day and age.

    Whichever producer first discovered All You Need is Kill (Erwin Stoff?) should be extremely proud, though, because there’s a massive number of light novels and mangas that are relatively popular in Japan but have almost no fanbase outside of that country, and All You Need is Kill was definitely one of those. I really hope we see more instances like that in the future, because Anime, Manga, Light Novels, Visual Novels, and other Anime-related mediums have an insane amount of material that could be adapted for film.


    • I don’t disagree with much of anything you’re saying, but with that being said, Studios don’t seem to get a lot of these properties right not including the few you mentioned. we’ve had to many financial failures to warrant more adaptations. Of course I’d like the light novels, but I want some great big budget films too. I want a Cowboy Bebop or Fullmetal Alchemist and definitely a Gundam, but human stories like this new anime Death Parade would be cool too. I just want respectable adaptations of all and we’ve only had a few really great ones.


      • Yeah, most Hollywood features like these simply do not understand the appeal of the source material, and they seem to go out of their way to lose the spirit of it. There aren’t enough anime adaptations to get a gist of the failures, but Dragon Ball: Evolution clearly showed an inability to understand what makes Dragon Ball special, because it turned it into a bad sci-fi action flick. They do this all the time with other adaptations, especially comic books and TV shows, and it really sucks.


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