The Hollywood machine is always looking for fresh stories to tell, and with the current popularity of the comic book genre, you’re seeing more North American studios starting to look to another form of nerd-dom to cash in on: Japanimation. (Both Japanese comics, a.k.a. manga, and Japanese cartoons, a.k.a. anime.)
Never make fun of a grown adult for collecting toys, reading comics, and watching cartoons. First of all, when it comes to anime, many shows are aimed at adults and entirely unsuitable for the little hatchlings. Don’t get me wrong, there is some great anime out there for kids, but the more adult-orientated series are bursting with creativity, violence, and great artwork. (Skimpy outfits are also sometimes included, of course.)
Hollywood knows there is gold in d’em dar hills, and that’s why we are starting to see some animated Japanese classics receive live-action adaptations. There was a huge uproar when Dreamworks announced that they were going to adapt the manga classic Ghost in the Shell. The criticism was mostly aimed at the casting of Scarlett Johansson as the cyborg lead (The Major), as some accused the studio of whitewashing a character that should have had more Asian attributes. There are rumors that the studio is going to make Johansson look partially Japanese but that has not been confirmed.
It’s not just Ghost in the Shell that is getting the live-action touch. Netflix has started production on another popular anime series called Death Note, and there are reports that the manga classic Akira is also secretly in development at Warner Brothers.
It’s exciting that big studios are putting money into these types of projects. With today’s technology and effects, films that were previously impossible to adapt into live-action could now actually become a reality. But what anime fans really want is an adaptation that stays true to the spirit of the source material.
There are so many original stories full of potential. What could be next? I’m setting the odds on that very question. Some of these potential adaptations are already in preliminary discussions; others would just make sense!
Don’t see your favorite anime or manga on the list? Let us know what you’d like to see adapted in the comments.
Odds to Be Made into a Live-Action Production
Battle Angel Alita: 1/2
Director James Cameron is attached to the adaptation of this long-running cyberpunk/action manga story, and Robert Rodriquez will apparently collaborate as director. This animated series (known as Gunnm in Japan) mixes brutal violence with some touching human drama.
With today’s special effects, it’s the perfect time to revisit this story about a rescued cyborg girl who becomes a kick-ass bounty hunter. According to Wired Magazine, the live-adaptation is slowly moving forward and has eyed Rosa Salazar as the lead. This is all preliminary stuff, but the recent news brings the big screen closer than ever.
Cowboy Bebop: 2/1
Cowboy Bebop takes place in 2071, at a time when humanity has abandoned earth and has colonized most of the planets and moons in the solar system. The Inter Solar System Police are responsible for keeping peace in the galaxy and are aided by outlaw bounty hunters called “Cowboys.” A ragtag team of Cowboys aboard the spaceship Bebop embarks on thrilling adventures that unravel each member’s mysterious past.
There has been some talk about doing a live adaptation of Cowboy Bebop but it has been in development hell. Why Hollywood hasn’t jumped on to this potentially epic space opera is pretty baffling. Back in 2008, there were whispers that 20th Century Fox was interested in taking on the source material; there was even a casting rumor of Keanu Reeves in the lead role of Spike.
If Death Note and Ghost in the Shell are successful, you can bet your bottom dollar this will get fast tracked.
Ninja Scroll: 9/1
This is another great anime that has been in production hell. Warner Bros had the rights; then it was rumored that Leonardo DiCaprio also owned the adaptation rights. However, those rumors are from 2008 and there has been no update since.
If you love samurais and ninjas, you’ll like the idea of this legendary anime being made into a live adaptation. The story is about a journeyman ninja by name of Jubei who stumbles upon a plague, an evil clan of demons, a national crisis, and a beautiful ninja girl. This is a classic manga and would make a fantastic film. It’s probably just a matter of time before we see it greenlit. There is even a proof-of-concept video floating around on the web.
Fullmetal Alchemist: 10/1
Considered one of the most popular anime ever made, Fullmetal Alchemist would be difficult to make into a live adaptation. But the challenge could turn into a huge payoff if a brave studio makes it happen. It’s not so much the effects that would be the problem; the challenge would be adapting a sprawling storyline and a wide array of characters that are all important to the plot. In fact, a studio would likely have to commit to a trilogy of films with each flick being just over two hours in length.
There are rumors that a Japanese live-adaptation is in production for a 2017 release. This is not unheard of; a lot of anime get the live-action adaption in Japan and a lot of them are not very good. No word on any interest from large North American studios at this point.
Black Lagoon: 20/1
Not only does this have strong female leads, it’s a kick-ass story inspired by some of Hong Kong and Hollywood’s best shoot-’em-ups. The story takes place in Thailand and is about a group of pirate mercenaries called Black Lagoon who fight and work with a variety of organized crime syndicates in the region. With the right casting, this could be an amazing film that spawns a franchise.
Vampire Hunter D: 25/1
All the talk about a live adaptation of this animated classic hasn’t borne fruit. The story is equal parts western, fantasy, science-fiction, and horror, focusing on a vampire hunter named D who wanders a post-apocalyptic Earth eliminating supernatural threats. The story will remind you of Blade. It would be pretty amazing if a director like Guillermo del Toro could take on a project like this.
There have been talks about a Vampire Hunter D comic revival along with an animated film or TV series. There is even a video game that is getting Kickstarter money put behind it. Nothing on the live-action movie front … yet.
This is a dark fantasy set in medieval Europe. A group of mercenaries form a team called “Band of the Hawk”and fight off beasts and demons. It’s violent, sexual, and somewhat depressing.
A live-action adaptation would require a very large budget. It has a scope comparable to Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. Speaking of GOT, Berserk would make a better television series on HBO or Netflix than, say, a film or two.
Dirty Pair: 45/1
This stylized science-fiction about two sexy female action heroes would make a perfect film or television series. Add an awesome 80s soundtrack filled with synth glory, and you might have a hit on your hands.
Dirty Pair is about a couple of WWWA (World Welfare Work Association) agents, dubbed “Lovely Angels,” who solve cases and create a ton of collateral damage in the process. This has Quentin Tarantino written all over it.
Gurren Lagann: 50/1
This modern classic – which is essentially Mecha action within a Mad Max-esque wasteland – would be quite easy to make into a live adaptation. It would also fit well in the current Hollywood climate that’s hot for dystopias.
In this story, humans have been forced to live in isolated underground villages, where they continuously dig deeper into the earth due to earthquakes that disrupt their way of life.
Two orphans, Simon and Kamina, along with a gang called the Gurren, decide to dig their way back to the surface, where they hope to make peace with the Spiral King and his robots who terrorize their human prey.
This series was actually a big influence on the Transformers franchise. As of right now, there are no plans to make it into a live adaptation, but it definitely has to be considered.
Log Horizon: 90/1
Have you ever played World of Warcraft or another MMORPG game and wondered what it would be like to wake up within the game itself? Log Horizon tells the story of 30,000 gamers who are whisked from their everyday lives and inserted into their favorite video game, Elder Tale. Shiroe, a socially awkward college student and master strategist, must make the best of his new found reality and solve the mystery of why they are stuck in the game.
A story about gamers being trapped in a virtual world would make for a great fantasy adventure and would have blockbuster written all over it. Tron told a similar story back in 1982, as does fellow anime show Sword Art Online (currently on Netflix), which is already in talks for a live-action TV series.