Before I start, let me say thanks to my very alert readers, who picked up a mistake of mine in a story which ran on Sunday. I wrote about new pictures from the set of Fantastic Four 2, but mistakenly put the link to older pictures. The new pictures can be found here. Again, thanks to readers Ryan, CharlieBrown, Andy and Tim for catching my mistake. Well played, gents!
News of the week which caught my attention: Yet another rumor of Japanese anime being turned into American movies. This one comes to us via Comic Book Movies (the financing company) and Ishimori, Inc. You can read the whole story here.
I continue to have mixed feelings regarding major motion pictures based on anime titles. I am an anime/manga fan, and while I'm certainly not as knowledgeable as some of you true buffs out there, I've certainly seen and read my fair share. With the overwhelming popularity of comic book/graphic novel movies in Hollywood these days and the ever increasing presence of Japanese media in America, anime movies would seem to be a forgone conclusion. And since American audiences seem to have a tough time accepting non-children's animation in major theater releases, live action is undoubtedly the way to go. As I see it, the major concern in translating anime to live action is essentially one of basic essence. Anime (in its best form, anyway) is a highly stylized art which very strongly reflects the culture it grows from -- a culture Americans don't really understand (for quite normal reasons). I love my country and all, but I fear that we'd mangle anime into a weirdly Americanized version, removing from it the very "feel" which makes it appealing.
Perhaps the best scenario would be a live action anime film in the hands of an eastern director with access to a western budget and western effects companies. This is unlikely to happen, however, as major Hollywood studios would be hesitant to pass their dollars along to a director most of America (the biggest film market in the world) doesn't recognize.
I know the only experience some of you out there have with anime is Dragon Ball Z and Digimon. You folks are reading this and shaking your collective heads, trying to figure out what the heck I mean why I praise anime as a "stylized art." I know because I've met hundreds of you who like to tell me anime is nothing but stupid looking cartoons with sharp lines, big eyes and small mouths. And yes, some percentage of anime is nothing more than cheaply produced junk (no offense to you Dragon Ball fans out there), just like some percentage of American media is cheaply produced junk. To you, I offer the following challenge: find a friend who owns either Neon Genesis Evangelion or even better, Serial Experiments: Lain, and watch the entire series. It won't take very long, especially if you choose Lain, and when you are finished watching I dare you to call anime simplistic and kiddy. Some of it is, some of it isn't. Expand your horizons -- I promise you won't regret it.
Anyway, the news of CMB moving into the anime-to-movie market had me thinking once more about which anime franchises I would most like to see on the silver screen. This is a tough list to gather, because while I enjoy many anime titles, I do not feel all of them would translate well into live-action Hollywood flicks even with the ideal scenario described above. Excel Saga, for instance, though greatly amusing, would not do well as a film. The episodic humor simply wouldn't translate. The same can probably be said of GTO, although you could possibly argue the case. I'm a bandwagon fanboy for Full Metal Alchemist, but I have trouble envisioning it live-action. Don't ask me why, I just do. After a bit of thought, I came up with the following four franchises:
Vision of Escaflowne -- I love the steampunk meets sci-fi meets medieval feudalism feel of this series, and it is one of my favorite titles of all time. The characters are fun, the world is rich and challenging, and the mecha are first rate.
Initial D -- I have no idea why I dig this title, as I am in no way a fan of racing. I actually follow Initial D in manga form as opposed to anime, and there is something about it with which I find ridiculously compelling. Of all the titles on my list, this one most easily translates into a modern movie as it does not include much by way of sci-fi or fantasy. It would have to do some legwork, however, to distance itself from movies such as The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift.
Witch Hunter Robin -- The most recent title on my list. It is character driven, has a fun supporting cast, and good cadre villains. However, I would live in mortal terror of a Linsday Lohan type getting the lead role.
Cowboy Bebop -- No list of anime titles would be complete without mentioning this instant classic. Spike Spiegel is a perfect lead character, and the series combined an excellent mix of space combat, martial arts, and good old fashioned beat-downs.
There are roughly 7.5 million other titles which I'm sure could be on this list, including many I have yet to see. Let me know what you think, and give me the top four or five titles you'd like to see in cinematic glory.