It’s nothing new for popular anime to get a live action remake (or a stage play which I desperately want to see someday) but with Netflix getting in the game lately, and the incredible popularity of comic book movies which could be seen as a western counterpart, we seem to be getting more and more non-Japanese adaptations. From what I’ve seen the immediate reaction from most fans is a mix of dread and anger! I can understand this but I’m not sure I agree.
First let me put an ENORMOUS grain of salt on this post. With the exception of the first Assassination Classroom movie and the Death Note film the gif is from, I have not seen any live action adaptations of anime and don’t really plan to any time soon. I simply have no interest in them. If I wanted to see real people on a screen (and why would I?) I would most likely opt for something that doesn’t have an anime version available. Otherwise, the anime is always going to get priority from me, even if it isn’t the original.
As such, I have absolutely no personal views on any particular adaptation. That doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion about the general concept of creating not only live action anime but westernized live action anime. This is probably not a popular view: I’m kind of for it.
Now now, put down those pitchforks. I get where you’re coming from. Adapting from one medium to another is notoriously difficult and most of the time simply fails. For a lot of us, seeing a beloved story badly handled is worse than having it ignored. But just because no one’s managed to do a proper westernized live action adaptation yet, doesn’t mean it’s impossible. After all, comic book movies were also considered pure unwatchable garbage, detested by fans of the genre, for the longest time. And look where we are?
I have a sinking feeling I just stepped into some comic centric debate I don’t want to be a part of…
Times have changed, I know that, but I do remember when getting my hands on any anime at all was difficult. The idea of saying no to more anime in any form seems counterintuitive. All publicity is good publicity and all that jazz. But is there an argument to be made that a subpar product will actually hurt the industry rather than help it?
Yes, yes of course there is. If the adaptations are so bad that even loyal fans can no longer bare to go see them, they could give the impression that the industry as a whole is unprofitable and drive away foreign investors that might otherwise have brought in some extra resources.
Not only that, but there’s always a risk that it will taint public opinion against the source material driving overall anime interest down. (Although that’s currently not the trend I’m seeing).
However, is the solution really to just stop trying? I should note that the issue for both these problems isn’t the quality of the adaptation but rather the success of it. And that’s part of my reasoning for defending them. Fact is, the anime industry is still very niche, but it has a nice cozy loyal following. There’s no real reason for the industry to diversify, unless it’s to try and reach new fans that would, for some reason, not be attracted to the original medium.
Basically, as otakus, we are in fact not the intended audience. That doesn’t mean we can’t judge these works, but I do think it’s important to keep this in mind. Sure, Death Note may have been a cash grab trying to capitalize on one of the most widely known and popular animes out there. However, I genuinely believe the Erased movie was meant for people that had never seen the series. The “it was better in the anime” argument shouldn’t apply. We have to examine them as stand-alone offerings from the point of vue of someone unfamiliar with the source material.
And I think we tend to dismiss adaptations way too quickly. For instance, despite my noted lack of interest in live action adaptations, I was recently rewatching Beyond the Boundary and realized that I would love to see a live action high budget movie version. It would be impressive on the big screen with proper effects and I think the slightly less extravagant nature of the characters would work very well with properly cast actors.
I remembered the groans that followed the recent announcement of a live action Cowboy Bebop as well. I get it. Netflix doesn’t have the best track record with these adaptations and Bebop was lightning in a bottle after all. The odds of this ending well are slim. But can you imagine if they do end well?
A talented writer could easily take the rich atmospheric Bebop universe and make an engrossing movie out of it. The fantastic characters are all already fleshed out, they could just introduce a few to give them room to grow. If Star Wars has taught us anything, it’s that we can make space-based movies look amazing. Mix in that noir element and there’s certainly the makings of a very enjoyable movie or miniseries.
On paper it sounds incredible. Bebop was one of the series to first break into the international market and introduced a generation of fans to Japanese animation, it could do so again in this new form.
And in case you’re worried that live action would replace animation there’s no need to fret. Animation will always be cheaper to make and there are elements that you can never translate from one medium to another.
****I wrote this about 6 hours before Super Scott over at Mechanical Anime published a very similar post – go read it, it’s great! The fact that I think a little like such a great blogger makes me very proud so I’m publishing mine as well, even if it is a bit redundant now****