'Priest,' a loose adaptation of Hyung Min-woo's manhwa (Korean comic), hits theaters this weekend. But fans have been reading the comic series over several volumes from the publisher Tokyopop, a manga (Japanese comic) company. "Manga" has become a catch-all when describing the world of Asian comic books, and features characters as popular as Superman and Spider-Man.
Now that American comic books have flooded Hollywood, it looks like manga may be the next big thing. We've already seen adaptations of 'Dragon Ball Z' and 'Akira' has been in the news lately. What's next? We've got five manga that should be adapted, and some compelling reasons why.
The thing about Hollywood adapting manga is that a thriving industry doing exactly that already exists in Japan, and many of the more popular titles are translated and sold over here. The question, then, is what's the point? There are already several animated and live action adaptations that you can go out and buy right now, so this slate of adaptations has to be something special.
The best possible angle to take would be to employ a bit of creative-driven cultural fusion, rather than simply translating a work to a new medium. If you're going to take a Japanese series and adapt it for American audiences, then you should treat it like a big deal. Prior Hollywood manga adaptations have been sorely lacking in the quality department, and that's something that needs to be corrected. Put your best actors, writers, and directors on the project, and come up with a take that's faithful, but still different enough to make the adaptation worth it.
Kenichi Sonoda's 'Gunsmith Cats'
Why? Rally Vincent is a gun nut. Minnie May is a bomb freak. Together, they're the Gunsmith Cats, teenage bounty hunters and gunshop owners. Kenichi Sonoda's manga is a whirlwind of trick shots, an incredible amount of attention paid to guns and cars, an interesting look at Chicago, and a whole lot of explosions. There's also plenty of cheesecake, if that's your thing, but the real draw here was the relationship between Rally and May and all of the impressive ways they found to shoot people and/or blow them up.
Who Should Work on It? 'Gunsmith Cats' requires fast-paced, punchy, and funny dialogue and good action direction. Rally and May get into a whole lot of trouble, often with awkward consequences, but they're consummate pros. Shane Black practically invented movies with those sorts of characters, so let him write and direct this one. I'm not sure who would be good to play Rally, but Dakota Fanning is good enough to pull of Minnie May's unhinged cutie-pie mayhem.
Nobuaki Tadano's '7 Billion Needles'
Why? '7 Billion Needles' has a basic plot that's probably pretty familiar. A girl meets an otherworldly presence, gains super powers and eventually saves the world. The twist is in the fact that she doesn't fully embrace these powers, they don't necessarily make her life better, and saving the world seems like a pretty traumatic experience. This story teeter-totters on the edge of going dark, but manages to stay upbeat.
Who Should Work on It? '7 Billion Needles' is a distinctly urban Japanese adaptation of a hard sci-fi classic, Hal Clement's 'Needle.' It needs a director who can capture the differences between Japan's countryside and densely populated urban centers, but also show the inner conflict of the girl at the center of the maelstrom. My pick is Guillermo del Toro. 'Pan's Labyrinth,' 'Hellboy,' and 'Blade II' proved that he can capture quiet creepiness and effects-driven action.
Monkey Punch's 'Lupin the 3rd'
Why? Thieves are awesome. We ate up 'Ocean's 11,' and while that movie was perfectly fine, sometimes you need a heist movie with even more swagger. Monkey Punch's gentleman thief is the grandson of Arsène Lupin, who could easily be described as the criminal counterpart to Sherlock Holmes. Lupin the 3rd, however, is younger, flashier, and more willing to do extraordinary heists in public. He's got a crew, too. Fujiko Mine is the love of his life and sometime bane of his existence. Daisuke Jigen is his no-nonsense sharpshooting partner. Goemon Ishikawa XIII is a master swordsman from a family of master swordsmen. They're opposed by Inspector Zenigata, a hard-nosed and harder-headed agent of Interpol who never quite seems to get his man.
Who Should Work on It? This one's got to be a globe trotting epic, but at its heart is the story of professionals who just want to get the job done, whether that job is hijacking Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro or stopping that theft. You know what director does professionals at work better than anyone else? Michael Mann. 'Lupin the 3rd' could easily be 'Heat,' but funnier and sexier.
Ai Yazawa's 'Nana'
Why? This down-to-earth drama is a good one with a funny hook. Two girls with the same name, Nana, come to Tokyo with different goals, but end up living together. The series charts the evolution of their relationship, as they experience love, loss, and rock and roll. 'Nana' is about living out your dreams, and could be a great movie for 20-somethings. Relationship drama is universal, whether it's in Tokyo or Timbuktu, and 'Nana' definitely has strong source material.
Who Should Work on It? This is a weird choice, but Spike Lee should direct this one. His work with female characters tends to be lacking, and this would serve as a nice corrective, and hopefully influence his future work. More than that, though, is the fact that Lee can shoot conversations between two people, the sort of thing that dramas are made of, and make it as interesting as someone else's action scenes. '25th Hour' and 'Inside Man' were both largely composed of people just talking, and they were tense, exciting films. Lee is a weird choice, but a good one.
Akira Toriyama's 'Dr. Slump'
Why? You can't leave kids out when you're looking at movies to license. Movies for kids can do gangbusters if you do it properly, and then sell for years as an evergreen title. Toriyama's 'Dr. Slump' is goofy, dumb, and entirely suited for kids. The humor is low brow, with plenty of poop jokes, but also pretty clever. The jokes are set up and telegraphed, but you'll still laugh until you cry. Arale, the robot girl who stars in the series, is precocious and hilarious. 'Dr. Slump' is good stuff, and more than worthy of a big budget adaptation.
Who Should Work on It? Pixar. Who else could do it justice? 'Dr. Slump' has to be cartoony and flexible. The characters twist and warp under the weight of jokes, whether they're pulling funny faces and getting blown up in rocket launcher accidents. 'Dr. Slump' uses a very visual kind of humor, not unlike the old 'Looney Tunes' shorts.
Do you agree with our reasoning? Have better ideas for the cast or crew? Let us know in the comments!
Get more comic book news and reviews from David Brothers at ComicsAlliance.
Watch the trailer for 'Priest,' in theaters today: