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Live Action Anime: Skip Them or Stream Them?

By Elizabeth Gibson for The J-Pop Exchange

There have been many attempts over the years to remake classic anime into live-action movies. Unfortunately, not all of them have been a success.

Hollywood, for example, has been busy at work creating some of these more well known live-action redo's, including Dragon Ball: Evolution, 2017's Ghost in the Shell, and M. Night Shyamalan's Avatar: The Last Airbender. For the most part, big-time anime fans really, really don’t enjoy live-action takes on their favorite anime films and television shows. There’s much debate as to why some of the adaptations aren’t working out like creators had hoped.

Anime was created because the medium allows freedom for the eccentric and imaginative, like all of the strange outfits, magical occurrences, action scenes, etc. that are featured. A big reason live action anime adaptations don’t always work is because live action movies don’t have that same freedom, and are more limited as to what they can portray. (Or alternatively, they can’t afford to recreate scenes with CGI.) The creators of the adaptations have to think of alternative ways to portray the complexities of the characters, and that’s not always easy or even attainable.

But other times, bad reviews are due to the films taking completely nonsensical diversions. Take Netflix’s Death Note, which was created in 2017, for example. The setting in Death Note was transplanted from Japan to America with a white male lead and a mostly-white cast. This could technically be explained away as a remake of foreign property, and the reason for that could be a way for the creators to reach a wider audience, but not everyone agreed.

“Since there is a huge difference between Japan and America, the source material lost a lot of its identity,” states user / reviewer Donki on “Due to this, even if they would have followed the same path in story and character, it wouldn't have been the same due to the difference in culture and presentation.”

One of the latest live action movies based on a manga and anime, Bleach, has garnered outstanding reviews, and not just as a live action adaptation, but as a film in general. The Japanese film produced by Warner Brothers is said to have been made for the original fans of the anime and manga, as opposed to reaching a wider audience. The film was just released on Netflix this week, but many American reviewers are already giving it positive accolades.

“There are many, many, MANY bad live-action anime adaptations out there. Bleach defies that trend, delivering an action-packed story that never feels too dense in mythology or too cringe-worthy — flaws other adaptations revel in,” says Kayla Cobb, a reviewer of the film on Decider. “Instead Bleach knows that it’s supposed to be a fun action movie, and it gleefully embraces that aesthetic.”

The live action Bleach kept things simple, and that’s where live action anime should start. Maybe Hollywood will be able to learn from their past mistakes as well as the success of Bleach, and then consistently produce quality live action anime. Here’s hoping.

More by Elizabeth Gibson:

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