Hollywood’s history with anime is a complicated one which fans try to avoid at all costs. Earlier this year, audiences watched as the live-action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell failed to find its footing at the box office and tank. Netflix followed the feature with its own take on Death Note, but its transplanted storyline fell flat. Neither film were as bad as Dragonball Evolution, but their disappointing debuts made fans question whether Hollywood would ever get anime right.
Despite the industry’s dreary reputation with anime, it doesn't look like Hollywood is ready to give up on otakus just yet. The U.S. seems determined to cash in on some of Japan’s biggest franchise as a slew of classic series have announced they are being developed by Hollywood studios. Franchises like Pokemon, Cowboy Bebop, Sword Art Online, Naruto, and One Piece are all getting live-action adaptations. Akira is reportedly circling a director after years of being stuck in development, and J.J. Abrams recently confirmed he will bring the record-breaking film Your Name to U.S. audience soon enough.
These franchises are some of the biggest Japan has to offer, but anime fans have been less-than-receptive to their announcement. Hollywood’s record with anime has jaded an entire audience, but there are those trying change how anime fans view live-action adaptations. During a recent talk, a screenwriter at Marvel Studios opened up about why Hollywood is turning to anime, and Craig Kyle says he completely understands fans’ anger:
Last month, Kyle stopped by Tokyo to attend the Japan Content Showcase. The writer, who recently helped pen Thor: Ragnarok, revealed he was now developing a live-action adaptation of Ga-Rei for Hollywood. During his talk, Kyle urged Japanese creators to safeguard their properties when Hollywood comes knocking because the industry is starting to turn its eye to anime and manga for inspiation.
"I left Marvel with all my friends intact...I wanted to touch far more worlds than the ones I had been exposed to for 14 years," the writer and producer admitted "The best place to find those great stories is here.... [Japan has] a treasure trove of material that you can pull from."
"The Japanese stories and characters that have appeared since before I was a kid have far exceeded those that we have done in the States. When it comes to gender, the diversity, on all levels fearless choices are made.... [The characters have] so many tremendous shades of emotional and sexual and personal gray,” he continued. “They're just bold. You own the vault.... You guys are the promised land."
As the Marvel Studios writer wrapped his talk, Kyle noted the one thing moviegoers have been saying for some time. “Everyone else in the States is out of ideas,” the writer argued.
“They are trying to find any movie or property they don't own,” Kyle stressed before adding: ”You guys are in control."
Hollywood isn’t shy about its love of adaptations, and studios know a good franchise can keep them afloat for years. Marvel Studios took a giant risk with Iron Man back in 2008, but it paid off and made the studio one of Hollywood’s most lucrative. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has earned more than $5 billion at the box office total, and there must be companies who see that kind of money hidden away in series like One Piece.
The anime fandom may have died down in the U.S. after its late-90s surge, but the community has been on the upswing in recent years. Series like Attack on Titan rejuvenated the medium with its gory story, and iconic franchises like Dragon Ball and One Piece still reign supreme. The fandom has become a truly international community with millions upon millions of members - and Hollywood wants in on it.
Of course, the industry has much to prove to fans before it can spin anime adaptations like it does comic books. The latter genre experienced its growing pains in the very early 2000s, but it only took Iron Man and a few good Batman films to turn the public’s opinion around. Sooner than later, Hollywood will find the perfect recipe for bringing anime to life, and heroes like Luffy will be shot to even higher peaks of fame.
Hollywood is in no rush to push its next anime adaptation out of the gate, but it seems like the industry is carefully considering what Japan has to offer. Disasters like Dragonball Evolution stand to remind the world of what can happen when an adaptation goes horribly wrong, but the same can be said for Batman & Robin. Hollywood knows what it’s like to strike adaptation gold thanks to its on-going superhero boom, and it is becoming more apparent by the day that anime will likely become the genre’s successor.
So, what do you think about Hollywood's increased interest in the anime world? Hit us up on Twitter @ComicBook or @MeganPetersCB to share your thoughts!