At a recent discussion in the convention halls of Anime Expo in Los Angeles, California, the idea of adapting eastern anime franchises within the west was discussed at length. Why haven't there been more examples of an adaptation managing to succeed in the US? Why aren't the successful films and television properties even more so? What is it specifically about American cultures that makes it so difficult? The Vice President of Sony Pictures offered his thoughts, along with several other panelists on why anime hasn't taken root as strongly in the west.
Twitter User Deb Aoki broke down the panel where Sony VP Tony Ishizuka shared his thoughts:
As far as western adaptations of JP anime/manga content, “no one has cracked the code. But it also depends on your expectations. If you’re expecting a James Cameron-sized blockbuster, that’s a different challenge than if you’re going for smaller production.” - Tony Ishizuka— Deb Aoki (@debaoki) July 2, 2019
It is true that live action adaptations have not done as well as they perhaps could have, or have completely flopped, when entering into the land of Hollywood. Ghost in the Shell's live action movie starring Scarlet Johansson for example didn't just bomb, it was rife with controversy of Scarlet's casting and had an air of failure even before its release. Other anime adaptations that failed include the infamous Dragon Ball Evolution, Kite, and Netflix's adaptation of Death Note (at least critically for the latter if nothing else).
Arguably, one of the best anime adaptations that hit the Hollywood scene was Alita: Battle Angel which delivered an action packed movie that did justice to the source material which it was based on. Having been in the works for years, the movie still didn't manage to be a box office juggernaut when all was said and done but Sony VP Ishizuka did mention that perhaps its just too much wishful thinking to believe that any of these anime adaptations are going to be able to hit the heights of James Cameron's Avatar or Avengers: Endgame.
Two other examples of adaptations that were received well critically were the Warner Brothers' adaptation of Speed Racer and Netflix's live action adaptation of the long running series Bleach. While neither lit the skies on fire in terms of profits, they were well received by general audiences, and maybe at the end of the day, that's the best that some of these adaptations can do.
What was your favorite anime adaptation that was brought to life by Hollywood? What anime do you think could be adapted to a live action feature film which would be well received both critically and financially? Feel free to let us know in the comments or hit me up directly to talk all things comics, anime, and/or just what on earth they were thinking with Dragon Ball Evolution!