This has been a question that has been circling the interweb the past while, brought to the foreground partly because of the recent buzz surrounding the live action Ghost in the Shell. This has been a question voiced even before this film was even announced, more so back when Dragonball Evolution was released and even before then. Can we see a theme here? Hollywood and Japanese cinema alike have tried to recreate the success of successful anime into live action adaptation for many years ow. Needless to say, not all have been well received by fans and have been panned across the board.
So we pose the question, how do we make a good live action anime? We don’t.
It really is that simple. Why do we need live action adaptations of anime series or films that have already had success in that medium? This is not a new phenomenon since we see book and comic adaptation all the time. We all know even they can be hit or miss at times. However, we are seeing more and more of these anime adaptations fail whether it be Hollywood or Japanese cinema.
For me I feel this simple problem comes down to the medium; anime has so much freedom to be and do whatever it wants. Let’s take the Dragonball series for example; the anime has created an incredible, whacky universe that is perfect for the medium. In live action, it does not really work and this is why the creators changed it so much in Dragonball Evolution. The new Ghost in the Shell movie is actually a good example of a film following the anime world very closely and it does, for the most part, pay off. The cityscapes and surroundings are breathtakingly amazing. Every detail is very close to the original, but that could never make up for the lacking everywhere else.
We constantly hear that the whitewashing around these films is the reason why they fail. Take the Dragonball film for example; if Goku was cast correctly, would that have made the film better? Unlikely, since the story and world it was set in would still have been underwhelming and clunky. Where I do agree is has a hands-on effect on the film’s success, it does not break the film. Without proper story, atmosphere and well-rounded characters, a film is nothing. Japanese cinema has made numerous attempts at live action as well, with some working out better than others, but they can have been seen as more comical then true live action. A good example of where this did not work is the attempt at an Attack on Titan live action. It excelled in graphics and visuals but it lacked in story.
And so we return to the question – why do we need live action adaptations? Realistically, we do not NEED them. We have the original successful and enjoyable anime. Now I am the first to admit I would love to see Spike Spiegel (Cowboy Bebop) kick some ass and make some bounty in a live action, but I know that this can’t happen because anime Spike cannot truly be brought to real life. Anime as a medium has such freedom of expression that live action just cannot capture. There is imagination there that cannot be captured elsewhere without losing something along the way.
It comes down to this: have film creators lost steam for new ideas? Is hashing out a live action version of something already popular the best they can do? It seems to be working for Disney to some degree, but can the same be said for anime?
Does the future bring hope or more disappointment for us anime fans? Well, we will just have to wait and see with the upcoming Netflix Death Note film and the Fullmetal Alchemist film.
What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!