While they haven’ quite reached the same level of ubiquity as American comic book adaptations, more and more anime are being turned into live-action movies recently. Over the last year or so, we’ve seen the release or announcement of such projects for Ruroni Kenshin, Lupin III, Tokyo Tribe, and Attack on Titan.
But while having an existing fanbase and the broad strokes of the plot already in place make an anime adaptation attractive to producers, not all fans of a series are particularly pleased at the prospect of seeing real actors and actresses stepping into the anime shoes of their favorite heroes and heroines. Japanese website Nico Nico News recently asked 500 adult men and women which anime they hope never get the live-action treatment, and here are their top five responses.
5. Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure (5 percent of responses)
Between the success of its new TV series and a manga that’s been running continuously for almost 30 years, there are no shortage of people willing to tag along on Jojo’s illustrated adventures, and in anime form it’s a consistently entertaining cocktail of bombastic flamboyance and musical act references.
In live-action, though? Fans worry about poor CG for the brawling cast’s supernatural Stand partners, plus the admittedly high chance that all the crazy costumes and poses would come off as corny with real people.
4. Mazinger Z (6 percent of responses)
If you’ve watched much anime, you’ve probably seen dozens of determined protagonists strapped into the cockpit of their giant robot, fighting to save the earth from invading aliens or a tyrannical dictatorship. Every single one of those mecha jocks owes a debt of gratitude to Mazinger Z, the very first anime to feature a heroic robot that wasn’t automated or remote-controlled, but actually had a pilot inside the machine.
But that significance should also give you an idea of Mazinger Z’s age. Initially broadcast from 1972 to 1974, Go Nagai’s giant robot classic is clearly a product of the ’70s, and much of what was considered heartfelt pathos at the time would come off as cheesy melodrama today. And while the anime’s line art, coming from the early days of anime as it did, could be pretty rough, that doesn’t mean fans are any more eager to see it replaced by “clunky CG,” as one respondent feared.
3. Neon Genesis Evangelion (7 percent of responses)
Rumors of a live-action version of hit psychological drama/mecha story/bath salt inspiration Evangelion have been bouncing around for the last two decades. So far, nothing has come to fruition, and many people are just fine with that.
“This is a series that is what it is because it’s anime,” proclaimed one respondent. “It isn’t something that would be compelling in live-action, and it’d be a black mark on the franchise’s legacy.”
While Nico Nico News didn’t specify whether the hypothetical live-action adaptations it was asking about would be produced by Japanese or foreign companies, in the case of Eva fans seemed to be reacting to the on-again, off-again interest Hollywood studios and New Zealand’s Weta Workshop have shown in such a project. “I don’t want to see a buff Shinji and slutty Rei,” said one fan in voicing his casting fears. More directly, another said, “I think it’d end up being a disappointment, like [the live-action] Dragon Ball Evolution.”
2. One Piece (10 percent of respondents)
Casting concerns once again reared their heads in relation to the Straw Hat Pirates and the colorful characters they encounter. Creator Eiichiro Oda’s artwork is extremely stylized even by the standards of anime and manga, and one respondent said she thinks you could scour the entire global acting community and still not find good matches.
Even if producers could somehow find performers who look like Luffy and crew, there’s still one more huge hurdle: their voices. The One Piece anime episode count is just about to soar past 700. After 16 years of watching and listening, one fan thinks moviegoers wouldn’t accept anyone but the anime voice cast reprising their roles for the live-action version, something that’s not likely to happen.
1. Slam Dunk (14 percent of respondents)
It’s actually a bit of a surprise to see Slam Dunk at the top of the list. All four of the other top five entries have either magical powers, giant robots, or characters who can make their limbs stretch to ridiculous lengths, which would mean tons of CG, something more critically minded movie fans are growing vocally tired of. They’d need sets of cities to be smashed up or vast oceans rigs to film on.
But Slam Dunk? It’s about a couple of good-looking dudes playing high school basketball. That movie can’t be that hard to make, right?
Maybe not, but fans think it’d be hard to make well. As one of the most enduringly popular anime ever, expectations for any new addition to the franchise would be sky-high, and one respondent just doesn’t think there’s any way a live-action version could live up to the original. Another believes that shoehorned casting would ruin the movie. Slam Dunk was equally popular with men and women, and casting archetypical pretty boys as the leads would likely alienate male moviegoers, just as giving the roles to actors with legitimate basketball skills but who couldn’t also be on the front cover of a fashion magazine would be enough to keep many female fans of the series away.
Looking over the list, we see that time and again, it’s casting and special effects that fans are worried about. And while you could come to the condemning conclusion that this is a clear sign that movie studios need to step up their game, maybe it’s also a testament to how skilled Japan’s best animators are at making something that just couldn’t be done in real life.