While we're looking at upcoming live-action anime adaptations, it'd be good to check out some recent ones to see how badly they can go. "Ghost in the Shell" had a big budget and a big-name star, but it ended up being a "soulless" imitation of the original, according to CNET editor Rich Trenholm.
Though "Ghost in the Shell" tried to be respectful of its source material, "Speed Racer" seemed to miss the mark tonally. It was visually interesting, but the assault on your eyes began to wear you down after a while.
Then there are the disasters. "Dragonball" and its successor series, "Dragonball Z," are among the most well-known and beloved anime out there. Which made it especially heartbreaking that the people behind "Dragonball: Evolution" missed everything -- the tone, the characters and the effects. It didn't help that the actor playing iconic character Goku lacked any sort of charisma.
Now that we have that awfulness behind us, it's on to the upcoming adaptations. Both the "Death Note" anime and manga have a strong following thanks to twisty story lines and the rivalry between the lead characters, Light and L. The Netflix adaptation actually looks good, and the makers have nailed Ryuk, a demon of death. "Death Note" will have a big presence at Comic-Con in San Diego later this week.
Caption byRoger Cheng
/ Photo by James Dittiger/Netflix
Here's a project that has us both excited and fearful. "Cowboy Bebop" is a fan favorite, and for many people it's their first introduction to anime. A breezy mix of sci-fi, jazz, action, comedy, spaghetti western and a little of everything else, this will be one of the tougher shows to adapt into the real world.
"Voltron" fans have gotten their fill thanks to an excellent remake of the show on Netflix. But a Voltron live-action film is also in the works. As of the end of last year, "X-Men" scribe David Hayter was working on a script. Given the success of "Power Rangers," a "Voltron" film would seem like a no-brainer.
"Battle Angel Alita," which focuses on a female cyborg (it doesn't get more anime than that), has long been a passion project of famed director James Cameron. But he's handed the reins to Robert Rodriguez, who seems to have gotten some momentum going. He's cast Rosa Salazar (of "Maze Runner" fame) as Alita, and assembled a cast that includes Jennifer Connelly and Michelle Rodriguez.
Popular anime "Sword Art Online" can be described as a show about a Warcraft-like massive multiplayer online role playing game, except the players actually are in a fight for their lives. Skydance Media acquired the global rights to the anime last year and intends to make a live-action show.
This anime's weirdness is right in the title, so it's amazing it even got the live-action treatment. Basically, it's about people with special powers who take on supernatural threats. And there's some stuff about family. This is a Japanese production, though Warner Bros. is co-financing the project.
"Fullmetal Alchemist" is an anime about two brothers with the power to alter any material (hence the alchemy bit). They're searching for the Philosopher's Stone to restore their bodies after a failed attempt to resurrect their mother (it gets complicated). This is another Warner Bros. production of a Japanese film, but it looks like a faithful adaptation.
An ultrapopular and ultra-long-running series about a "soul reaper" who defends humans from evil spirits and guides the departed to the afterlife, "Bleach" will get the live-action treatment in Japan next year. Surprise, surprise, it's Warner Bros. that's also producing this one.
"Naruto" has been a fixture atop anime popularity lists since its debut in 2002. The series just ended after a 15-year run (though there's already a sequel series out there). This epic about young ninjas who fight in increasingly massive and convoluted battles (seriously, it gets pretty dense after a while) will get the Hollywood treatment through Lionsgate. With varied ninja "powers" and a lot of colorful characters, this is like "X-Men" on pastel steroids.
We may never get to see live-action adventures of the space pirate "Cobra," which was in development for a flesh-and-blood treatment but stalled. The '80s series does feel a bit dated, and it's unclear whether there's even a fan base that would recognize it anymore. Maybe the stall-out was for the best.
Another beloved cartoon from the '80s, Robotech was for many their first brush with anime -- even if they didn't know it yet. Robotech was partly based on the Japanese anime Macross, best known for its marquee jets that transformed into robots. Another long project that has long gestated in Hollywood, "It" director Andy Muschietti is now attached to direct an adaptation for Sony, according to Variety.
Another series with a rabid fanbase, "Neon Genesis Evangelion" is a series about large mecha, but its interspersed with the weighty issues of depression and isolation, along with a healthy dose of religious references. A live-action version seemed to be in the works when Weta Workshop, best known for special effects in the "Lord of the Rings" series, said it was working with Gainax and ADV films on a project. That was back in 2003. Thanks to legal complications, as well as the complicated subject matter, a film adaptation may never happen.
"Gundam" is one of the forebearers of giant robot anime, and in the '80s Lionsgate tried to make a live-action movie version. But like "Neon Genesis Evangelion," the effort was mired in legal complications and never got off the ground. It's a shame, as "Gundam" remains a popular franchise and served as an entry into anime for many fans.
Caption byRoger Cheng
/ Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
Speaking of well-known franchises, "Akira" is another classic anime film that hooked millions of future anime fans. Warner Bros. is still trying to make a live-action version happen, and even approached Jordan Peele of "Get Out" fame to direct. Peele declined, saying he preferred to work with original material.
Finally, we get to "Attack on Titan," one of the hottest manga and anime properties in recent years. The show pits soldiers with sophisticated grappling equipment against naked giants who rampage through the last bastion of human civilization. But there's so much more to the story. Warner Bros. is interested in making a US adaptation, with David Heyman ("Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them") set to produce. There're already two live-action Japanese films, but we wouldn't suggest watching them first.