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THE DAN CAVE: Can Anime Adaptations Succeed in Hollywood?

Hello and welcome back to The Dan Cave? Did you get a tan? Doesn’t matter — you always look great.

Ever since my cousin Jen first blew my mind by popping in a grainy old video tape of Sailor Moon on a lazy, sickly Sunday afternoon, I have had a deep and abiding love of anime. Sure, for every Fushigi Yûgi, Trigun, and Princess Mononoke, you get Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch or 300 episodes of Naruto filler, but there are some damn good stories in there just waiting to be told. Obviously, many Hollywood producers agree, which is why time and time again, they’ve tried to stripmine Japan’s most notable cultural export and transform it into big budget blockbusters. At times, this strategy has blown up in their face, yielding bombs like Dragonball Evolution and Avatar: The Last Airbender, but it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. With adaptations of Death NoteGhost in the Shell, and Space Battleship Yamato on the way, many fans are worried about how their beloved properties will be treated. And today on The Dan Cave, I’m going to try and answer that age-old question of whether or not anime adaptations can succeed in Hollywood.

What do you think? Is there a place for anime adaptations in Hollywood? What series would you most like to see on the big screen and/or which would be best suited for adaptation? Let me know in the comments below or tell me on Twitter (@osteoferocious) using the hashtag #TheDanCave. I may not be your senpai, but I’ll definitely notice you.

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  1. Kim says:

    im thinking a mini series or Movie of Cowboy Bebop would be cool, j. j. Abrams as producer

  2. Cousin Jen says:

    *DOKI*  :DDD I gotta run to rehearsal but am going to race back to watch this. Thanks for the mention 🙂

    • Cousin Jen says:

      OK, now I’ve had a chance to see it. Well done! I don’t know much about the moviemakers you’ve mentioned but I do agree that there’s plenty of room to make a good movie out of an anime or manga.

      Here’s a thought, though. Most of what you’ve focused on are shonen comics – action, thrillers, horror. But I think there’s a huge untapped market of adaptations of *shoujo* manga. I’m not talking magical girls, but romances and dramas like Hana Yori Dango have done well on the small and big screen in multiple Asian countries (HYD has had a tv series in Japan, one in China AND one in Korea). I think it’d be fascinating to see something like KareKano – or even a shoujo-oriented action comic like Basara (not Sengoku Basara, but the other one, by Tamura Yumi) – put on the big screen.  (A cool manga called Kaguya Hime that never made it to anime would be a contender, too. It’s like that old movie “The Island,” but with way more meaning and layers.)

      Of course, my pipe dream is still to see Please Save My Earth on the big screen. But let’s be real, even a PG-rated “engagement” between an 8-year old and a teenager ain’t never gonna happen, past lives or no past lives.

      Thanks for being so continually awesome 😉 Cheers!

  3. Xeroz says:

    Define success in Hollywood.Now go ask any manga/dojinshi artist or independent game developer in Japan their definition of success.I can just about guarantee you’ll get a different answer.Currently there are thousands of new manga published every year in Japan. Many of which are self published by people who don’t even do it professionally. And, it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to do so. There’s even a lot of ‘Cons’ devoted to nothing but independent publishers selling them. And I’d bet most of them are perfectly fine with having small devoted groups of readers.Name any independent ‘comic’ publishers in the US who can say the same. I’d be hard pressed to name any that weren’t already owned by either Marvel or DC.You see, there is such a thing as being contempt. Doing something you love doesn’t have to entail making millions of dollars in profit. That’s where things like anime and all of its sub-genre’s thrive. Occasionally, something like ‘Pokemon, One Piece and Naruto’ are able to transcend those limits and become legacies of their own. Most aren’t quite that lucky.Just imagine any of Miyazaki’s movies put thru the grinder of an American movie studio, oh wait that already happened. And how did that turn out again? Oh yeah, the next time he (and he still had a say in this) ever agreed to his movies being released in the US, he sent them a specially made katana with the message ‘No Cuts’. Or something like that.Anyway we’ve all seen what can happen when an executive has say over works like this. Anyone remember the original dubs (and edited for broadcast) for Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura, One Piece? Thankfully,there were some companies releasing decent to mostly good dubs and some only subtitled anime in the US back then, so all hope wasn’t lost.However, one of the best parts of anime, manga, etc. is their wackiness that just wouldn’t be the same if it were real life. (Insert comment about pretty much any fanservice in anime.) If timed right or done as part of the joke simple things like that can make what was just funny into absolute hilarity. Anyone ever watch Ranma 1/2? Hell, that show even had bare breasts. (And did you know? It’s original author was a woman. All that misogyny coming from a woman’s imagination.) Now that I think about it wasn’t Sailor Moon’s author a woman. She went on to form Clamp studios, which had an all female staff.Anyway, back to my points. There is so much room for imagination in anime. And just as much of a fan base. Most of which don’t have to like what the other does. That’s what makes it so good. The diversity of its many different possibilities. Nothing is off limits. If people don’t want to read or watch what you do there are literally thousands of different things they have to choose from. They don’t try to ban u from being able to put pen to paper, that can then be sold to others. You didn’t harm anyone when you made it, and you’re not trying to tell anyone that what they see or read is ok in real life. A lot of the time you’ll get pulled in with how cool something looks and end up learning important ‘relatable’ real life lessons in the process.And that author didn’t have to give up any and all say over that story in the process.There might be some exceptions to this. Personally I agree Black Lagoon would probably translate well into a movie. But, I’m doubtful they’ll capture the nuances that make it good.Lastly, there’s an episode of Comic Party the anime in which the character tries to get all the genre’s into one story and fails miserably. He was trying to create what he imagined would sell well. When he should have been focusing on what he loved about becoming a manga artist in the first place, and not trying to please everyone.Anime and manga are able to capture what makes something good and condense it into something even greater. Not dilute it into something that’s going to please everyone. There’s room enough for all kinds of people and businesses in this world.As a fellow nerd I would like to think most of you agreed. We of all people should be the ones accepting of others. We come from all kinds of different backgrounds, races, cultures, countries.But there’s one big thing we agree on: We love what we love. If you don’t, that’s fine too. There’s all different kinds of nerdy. We shouldn’t be ashamed of what we love.

  4. I would most like to see a well-constructed Final Fantasy adaptation that brings to life all the classic and captivating elements of the early games, as well as an Oscar-worthy DBZ film.  Don’t quit trying!!

  5. Tausif Khan says:

    I would like to see Anime adaptations with actual Japanese or Japanese-American actors.

    I would like to see stories set in countries other than the United States.

    I would like to see other cities represented in cinema other than New York and Los Angeles in ways that do not exist just to be demolished by some gigantic monster or robot but show how people imagine and see the space in which they inhabit.

    Therefore I would like to see Anime faithful to the stories on which they are based.

    Until we get something like that in theaters I will not see any “whitewashed” versions of these stories in theaters.

  6. phatbhuda says:

    The differences between “live action” adaptations and “Hollywood” adaptations should also be discussed. The Japanese film already makes plenty of live action versions of anime and manga. Two of your examples: Space Battleship Yamato and Deathnote already exist.

  7. Lenje says:

    “Seriously Dragon Ball: Evolution, go f$#! yourself”


  8. Can anime adaptions work sure but 1. Really get to know the property. 2. Have someone(s) from the original property as a consultant at least. 3. Don’t white wash everything. 4. At the very least be in the spirit of the source material. What would make a good movie *ahem* 20th Century Boys, Death Note, FMA, PLUTO, FMP, HELLSING, SHIKI, Space Boys, EVA, Trigun, Cowboy Bebop, Record of Lodoss War, Black Lagoon to name a few.

  9. Desuzee says:

    try- Zankyou no Terror- Kuroshitsuji (the brit one)-Durarara-Gintama- kh Reborn

  10. Yes, yes, yes there is definitely a place for anime adaptations in Hollywood. But I think when you have non-anime-familiar folks adapting the scripts, the adaptations often leave out or change the things that make the anime unique and appealing in (usually futile) attempts to appeal to a wider audience. In any case, (I think) I’m super psyched to see they’re making a movie based on Death Note (depends on who’s making it). That series kicked ass. 

  11. hkharpster says:

    There is a difference from adapting an Japanese novel and adapting a manga/anime.

    US needs to stay out of Japanese anime and mange. If there was to be a live action version of anime or manga. Japanese film makers will do it themselves. As in many of the awesome movies that they have already made. rurouni kenshin, captain harlock, casshern, and the already made death note movies. Tho the death note movies aren’t that great. But they would be far worse if they are Americanized.  

    You also missed Speed Race in the awful american anime adaptations list.  

    • hkharpster says:

      Technically the only best adaption of any Japanese anime/manage, has been Frozen. Yes, Frozen is not an original idea. It is an adaption of the 1980’s Saint Seiya.  

      • Obsidian says:

        No, just no. Frozen WAS NOT based on Saint Seiya. Not even close. Have you even seen Saint Seiya? Frozen was an adaptation of “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Anderson.

  12. Brett says:

    Honestly, since we are talking about Hollywood, I feel Trigun would loan itself really well to American sensibilities and live action. While it would be exceptionally difficult to condense an entire series into one movie (clearly evidenced by the miserable Avatar failing), the western aesthetic, sympathetic character (who does not kill, a built in work around for FCC regulations), and action packed series would make for a wonderfully entertaining and cinematic experience.

  13. Xophe Adethri says:

    A Pokemon live action. LOL. THAT, would be dope….. for a laugh,

  14. Kate says:

    i’m nervous about anime Hollywood movies (you forgot Speed Racer, not that i blame you). Death Note i think would have been perfect with Zac Efron as Light, he still might be the best choice, but i don’t know now. Ken’ichi Matsuyama should come back as L cause he was born to be L.

  15. niizuma says:

    the only series i would love to see receive a hollywood live action adaptation is “SHINGEKI NO KYOJIN AKA ATTACK ON TITAN” the reason is simple the series is set in a european esq setting which means the white washing has already been taken care of 2nd the series lends itself to a western adaptation far better then a japanese one given the storyline ie: theres only 1 person of asian descent whos still alive mikasa which is why the japanese adaptation will be rather odd when its released next year 

  16. mikedudez says:

    i was once excited by rumors that cowboy bebop would be coming to hollywood but then i heard keanu reaves would be spike  spigel, and i blew my top in disgust. so no no anime should be made into hollywood japan should keep what they have. the best hollywood could do is get a story and try to turn it into a trilogy in the first movie. so fuck you hollywood they need to concentrate on tv shows and why they should keep dropping them at the sign of a hat (like almost human)

  17. -I think I’ve always wanted Trigun, and rightly so, though Gungrave would lend itself well to an ultraviolence flick as far as Imahori’s past works are concerned. -Akira would also be big if done very well. I do think a Gundam movie won’t be too far past the Real G Project should that prove successful in the time they gave themselves.-Since GoG had such great special effects for flying combat, I’d love an adaptation of Macross, though I have no idea which era would lend itself best to a 90-120 minute format.-I must also agree with a below commentor that Deathnote need not be made because it’s been done and stupendously. Deal with the subtitles.-In the vein of wanting a Trigun movie, I’d love to see an adaptation of the Aria: the Animation movie, cuz that was a really sweet movie.-Lastly, for anyone who was into anime in the 90’s, Spriggan. If you’re reading this comment, you either have the face of a person who’s never heard of Spriggan or you have the shocked to approving face saying, ‘yesssss!!!’

  18. Derek Read says:

    White-washing is a grey area since not everyone in Japanese anime has an obvious ethnicity. In that case pick the best actor. If it is part of the story leave it alone.

    What we really need to avoid is Cruise-washing.

  19. dyuken says:

    My issue is the “westernization of it” This puts off the main people they want to use toe market the damn thing. 

  20. Bobby says:

    They already did liveaction death notes and they were awesomesauce. Go look them up, gotta watched them subbed but it is worth it.

  21. I’ve always wanted to watch a live action of Until death do us part! That’s a manga about a real modern Samurai and a girl who’s clairvoyant

  22. Adam Wilson says:

    It all comes down to getting the right creative team (*cough* Shyamalan) for the project. Remember that The Dark Knight and Batman & Robin are based on the same source material.

    Imaging someone like Brad Bird, who has animation and live action experience, directing Gatchaman! or Big O. How about a Jon Favreau Cowboy Bebop or Tiger & Bunny? Can’t you see Tarantino nailing Samurai Champloo? I find it easy to envision a Christopher Nolan demolition derby through Neo Tokyo or battle damaged Tumbler Tachikomas. 

    Wants: AKIRA, Cowboy Bebop, Lupin The 3rd, Gatchaman (Battle of The Planets styles), Tiger & Bunny, Trigun, Full Metal Alchemist (Brotherhood), and Psycho Pass.

  23. Milling says:

    I think they just threw away the mangas and anime for dragon ball evolution

    • zel says:

      they totally did there’s an interview with toriyama saying so, i wished i watched that before seeing what should not be mentioned, but atleast we got B.o.G

  24. Keith E. says:

    the recent Kite movie starring MR Sam Jackson, wasn’t bad. I would like to see more attempts and let the fans decide. 

    • Adam Wilson says:

      I did facepalm when there was that kite scene at the end. I’m pretty sure it was originally pronounced Key-tay, but regardless it was a bit on the nose.

  25. Joe says:

    Pacific Rim is Evangelion Lite, and people still seemed to like it. I think I’d like to see Lain done as a live action movie. 

  26. I have been waiting for a live action Ghost in the Shell movie since I first saw the Manga. Fingers crossed for casting Kevin Durand as Batou
    .  Also a little hopeful they bring in Batou’s basset hound from the Oshii films.