I dub 2017 “The Year of Live Action.”
If you browse enough anime news sites (which you know I do) you’ll find an overwhelming amount of announcements for live action adaptations for some extremely popular anime. If it isn’t the promise of a live action TV show of Cowboy Bebop, then it’s movies like Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure and Fullmetal Alchemist.
Even though most live action adaptations have a history sucking the big one, we’ll inevitably go see these. Because, deep down, we Otaku really do want a cool movie/show from the television we admire so much. And they’ve been getting better, but they still have a tendency to just miss the mark. So I sat down and asked myself: what do I want from a live action adaptation of my anime? Why have I been so disappointed with the past few that crossed the blockbuster mark?
In the end, it breaks down to four things.
I Want Characters That Follow Their Source Material
So, lots of people were up in arms when they saw that Netflix was producing a version of Death Note that took place in the states, effectively westernizing every character therein. The short answer on why was because they wanted to see it portrayed by Asian actors rather than American ones. Now I’m not gonna get into the politics of it (and I will ignore those who do. We are a fun, geeky blog, dammit) but I will say that I took some deep offense with their portrayal of Detective L Lawliet. I don’t particularly care that he’s black; I’m more concerned as to why the show’s resident Hikikomori, known to never show his face in public, is giving a public press conference out in the open with little more than a half-face mask.
The big flaw I see in a lot of these live action movies is that the characters themselves are only skin deep. The creators focus on making the character look like their anime counterparts, but they often fall flat in terms of personality. Mikasa’s counterpart lacks the burning fire of her anime self; Live Action Sebastian Michaelis is far too quiet and subdued, and so on and so forth. I would never ask for the characters to be carbon copies, but I will happily demand they behave in a way akin to their anime selves. In short, maybe L doesn’t only speak from a computer, but he’d still never put himself in the public eye this badly.
I Want the Same Themes Explored Differently
I found out a couple days ago that Tomorrow Studios had signed on to make a live action TV show of the anime, One Piece. Now, anyone who reads this blog knows that One Piece is my biggest weakness, so I was naturally worried. But I also saw that the manga’s writer/artist, Eichiiro Oda, would be working on the project as well. This gives me some cautious hope; who’s got a better understanding of the themes explored in the show and manga than the workaholic author of it?
And I must stress that understanding an anime/manga’s themes and motifs is absolutely essential to making a live action adaptation. While recreating the world and characters is a huge deal, it all falls flat if the main message and ideas aren’t present. In short, no matter how many special and practical effects they use, the new One Piece Live Action Show will flop if it doesn’t play with themes of chasing your dreams, getting back up after tragedy, and exploring an exciting world of unknown danger.
And, of course, remembering those who came before us
I Want a Plot That’s On Par
I had mixed feelings when I learned that Fullmetal Alchemist was getting a live action movie. I only got more nervous when they finally got a full trailer out, and what I saw looked like they had a bigger focus on copying the anime’s look rather than the feel of it. Still, I want to remain cautiously optimistic since the Brotherhood version of the show has been one of the most complex and emotional plots I’ve ever seen. It’s one, big, emotional rollercoaster that plays on human nature, corruption in governments, and the nature of being a “real” human being.
With some good old fashioned Nightmare Fuel
And if the live action movie can channel just a shred of that, we’ll be in good shape. Nothing is worse than a live action movie with not even an iota of its predecessor’s good plot. You can make the movie look amazing, look exactly like the real life clone of the anime – it won’t mean a thing if your audience has fallen asleep.
I Want Good Effects and Immersion
Finally, the big thing any fan would want from a live action adaptation of any kind is full immersion. The reason we love anime in the first place is that a good anime sucks you into an artificial world and traps you until the story finishes. We want the movie to do much of the same, to see this material come to life before our eyes. The best way to get that done, besides the characters and story, is for the special effects to come to life. After all, just how awesome would Jurrasic Park really be if the t-rex didn’t look so good?
Now, to be fair, this particular want is usually met pretty well. The alchemy in the Fullmetal Alchemist movie looks really good and even the sword fights in Rurouni Kenshin are decent despite the obvious wires. That being said, when it is bad, it completely rips the viewer out of the experience and inspires that angsty teen eye roll movie makers never wanna see.
Then again, you also don’t wanna lose yourself in making the movie look good. Balance is key, and filmmakers would do good to remember that.
What I want is likely what everyone else wants from an adaptation of anything they love. They want one that respects its roots while experimenting with the main themes. If you can paint a landscape that can draw me in and a story that keeps me hooked, then I’m a happy camper all the way around. It’s hard to say if the new crop of live action films will do just that, but we can cross our fingers and hope to see it someday.
What do you want from a live action anime film? Feel free to comment below; don’t forget to like and follow as well for more content like it.