Ghost in the Shell just came out last week and if you are an anime fan, and reading this, then you’ve probably already heard about Netflix’s Death Note adaptation. The Japanese live-action adaptation of Full-Metal Alchemist has already released a trailer and promo images. No matter how many times an adaptation turns out like the Wachowski’s Speed Racer or Dragon Ball: Evolution, we all know that movie studios won’t stop trying. So, which one is next? The most popular anime are the obvious first choices. Talks of a live-action Akira have been making the rounds since the early 2000’s, but who knows if that will ever really get off the ground. Personally, my favorite anime series is Cowboy Bebop and I would be concerned if they ever tried to adapt it. The vibe of that show would be pretty challenging to ever duplicate and I think that is true of many anime. Shows like Cowboy Bebop, that had such a limited run, feel more precious than the anime that have existed for so many years. Perhaps, Hollywood needs to go after franchises that have a large fan base, but aren’t as revered?
The last few years have shown that movie-makers can successfully adapt things like Marvel or DC comics and this tells us that translating visual stories successfully from the page to the screen is possible. Of course, mainstream American comics aren’t the same as Japanese manga or anime, but if you’re looking for a notable manga adaptation into Western cinema, then I would point to 2014’s Edge of Tomorrow. It was based on the manga, All You Need is Kill. Movies like these point to a strategy that works better than direct adaptations. Instead, you take a property with a dynamic premise or an attention-grabbing idea, then adapt it into something new and original.
So here’s my pitch. After the success of films like the Transformers franchise and Pacific Rim, the prospect of a Gundam film feels more within reach. I’m not saying the Transformer films are necessarily a great storytelling model to follow; but they have shown how we might achieve the visual of giant robot battles. You just need someone that knows how to tell a proper story and manage the amazing visuals simultaneously. A live-action Gundam franchise could be what might have happened if the Transformers movies had quality stories. Imagine a live-action Gundam franchise treated like the Star Wars or Marvel series of films.
So, what should the next anime to live-action translation be? I’m going with Gundam.