Live Action Anime – When will Hollywood get it right?

A lot of anime fans in the western world would love to see some of their favourite shows made into Live Action movies. While imagining all the epic fight scenes in our heads, deep down we have accepted that it’ll probably never happen. Why? We have the technology, the fan base, the creative minds so what’s wrong? Well, Hollywood will probably fuck it up. When I say Hollywood, I generally mean the whole western movie industry.

The Failure that was Dragonball Evolution

Dragonball Evolution Worst Anime Movie

It is not as if Hollywood hasn’t tried to cash in on the popularity of Anime. We have them to thank for the lovely adaption of Dragonball Evolution *throws up in a corner*. Sorry about that guys but I felt sick at the thought of what them pricks did to my beloved show I grew up with, I’m sure some of you share my resentment.

What went wrong? Simply, a lot. Goku came across as too innocent and his Saiyan heritage somehow didn’t seem worth a mention. Piccolo looked like a Power Ranger villain and the fight scenes can be politely described as dumbed down. One of the key factors of the anime series was the fight scenes, they are intense, destructive and simply mind blowing. The movie provided us with a version so dilute version that I felt like the producers didn’t want their actors to break a nail during filming.

To be honest these snippets from rotten tomatoes sum up the trash that was served to us in 2009

Rotten Tomato 1 Dragon Ball Live Action MovieRotten Tomato 2 Dragon Ball Live Action MovieRotten Tomato 3 Dragon Ball Live Action Movie

They Killed Avatar: The Last Airbender too

The_Last_Airbender_Movie Aang Learning Water

You would have thought that a western anime broadcasted on Nickelodeon would have faired a lot better. Well at least it got a big enough budget. In the end, the great action scenes couldn’t save the poor selection of actors and scripting. Even Dev Patel – the actor casted as Prince Zuko – had this to say about the movie in a recent ShortList magazine interview:

Dev_Patel-Quote_from_ShortList_On Last Airbender

No amount of CGI could cover up the disappointment felt by the animated series fanbase. Rumours even later emerged that the senior production team who made 80% of the decisions never even watched the original show. Yeah, you could tell.

Glimmers of Hope

Well, enough of that because I’m not giving up hope yet. Here are so examples of movies that I think show that creating a live action anime is possible.

Pacific Rim

Final_Four_Jaegers_From_Pacific_Rim_Neon Evangelion

I’ll admit the story was not particularly as ‘deep’ as reflected in the anime that influenced it -Neon Evangelion – (those final episodes were confusing as hell and a little too abstract for my liking). Nor were the characters that compelling but I felt it was a great effort and I believe they made the right choice steering away from the original storyline. I watched this in the cinema and I was captivated by the CGI and the visuals. During the main event, my imagination was going wild with visions of how Gundam Wing would look on the big screen with Wing Zero slicing tearing through enemy lines ruthlessly.

Man of Steel: Superman


Before I start, I wouldn’t recommend action packed movies on a date. It was…weird, I didn’t pay any attention to her throughout the movie and I didn’t think it was her sort of thing – maybe a little too heavy? Oh well, you live and you learn.

The fight scenes in this were nothing short of epic. Even though some were too long it reminded me of Dragonball Z a lot, and how Evolution should have turned out in the first place.

The right cast and acting

I think it is important that producers understand what makes anime so compelling. These series are not simply cartoons with lots of fight scenes for teens to drool at. They are also deep dramas in animated form tackling complex issues through storytelling to both a young but adult audience.

I think the main issues left lie with the scripting and the acting used to provide a simpler experience to the anime series. Emotions are exaggerated a lot of the time in anime. For example, what famous actor could do a good Luffy impression when he sees something cool? Or when Usopp is shitting himself when faced with danger? Then how do we capture the humour frequently found in the midst of battle where two characters start arguing over nothing while facing a front assault?

Zoro and Sanji from One Piece playing about

It’s balancing all this while creating that apocalyptical theme that a lot of manga plots are based on. In my opinion it can be done but you need movie directors and producers to “get it” in the first instance and see it from a fan’s perspective. A bit like a crowd funded campaign…

Dragonball Z: Light of Hope

Dragonball Z: Light of Hope Pilot

Indiegogo Project Light of Hope –

I have to give it to these guys credit, they are making their dream a reality piece by piece. With only a very small crowd sourced budget they are creating live action episodes of Dragon Ball Z. These sorts of projects will increase in the future, as crowdfunding becomes more popular method of investment in order to give the people what they want.

This may become the only way we will ever get a live action movie that do justice to the original animes they are based on. One benefit of these sorts of methods is that it reduces the chances of profit-driven agendas from corporate investors putting the projects in jeopardy. This is just a starting point, for example consider whether a big movie studio funding a movie if it was part funded by Kickstarter? They will know that there’s a big enough market, it would reduce the overall business risk and there would be massive socially-driven marketing campaign. Give it some years and I can definitely this sort of thing happening.

Going forward: Rumours of Live Action

Attack on Titan Live Action Movie

Attack on Titan shot to the top as one of the most popular anime series in 2013, which I am sure you are aware. Apparently, they have been working on a Live Action Movie that will be released soon. We can only hope they bring the suspense, emotion, drama, intensity that was experienced in those short 25 episodes of the anime. Hopefully they will break the curse of mainstream production, plus it’s an eastern release so you have that home advantage I guess.

A live adaptation of an anime is possible. So I shall continue to dream on and hope I am alive when the big guns in the move industry realise the potential of these adaptations and maybe one day they can rival the Marvels and DC Comics movies. Fingers crossed.

Also guys, if you could turn one anime into a Live Action Movie what would it be?

Leave your response in the comments section!

Follow @seyiagboola 🙂

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