Hollywood’s new obsession: Anime

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anime mashup
PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY SCOTT KIRCHHOFER/TRIBUNE

After tapping comic books for creative ideas with box office success, Hollywood has turned its attention to anime as a new source of inspiration and revenue. Adapting Japanese animation into live action will definitely pose a serious challenge for filmmakers as American audiences are not used to its nonlinear storylines, fantastic characters and unique visuals.

With the launch of family-friendly Speed Racer opening Friday (May 9), we get the first look at how Hollywood handles anime. Thankfully the job is safely in the hands of Andy and Larry Wachowski (The Matrix, V for Vendetta) who both wrote and directed the movie.

speed racer pic
IMAGES FROM SPEED RACER COURTESY OF WARNER BROS. PICTURES

The Wachowski brothers are no strangers to anime. Besides being HUGE fans of the Speed Racer cartoon, they created The Matrix, which the brothers admit was heavily influenced by Ghost in the Shell, a classic cyberpunk manga and anime series.

The story goes something like this: The brothers were pitching the idea for The Matrix to producer Joel Silver and when he couldn’t understand what they were wanting to do, they showed him Ghost in the Shell and said “We want to make a live-action version of this.”

I have no fear the Wachowski brothers have created a great movie that remains faithful to the source material while blowing our minds. I’m also sure American audiences will devour Speed Racer with gleeful enthusiasm. As with any anime or live-action anime adaptation, even if you don’t love (or even understand) the story, the exciting visuals will offer you something you’ve never seen before. Groundbreaking visuals are something American audiences are always craving and haven’t really seen in a while.

Here are some anime-to-live-action movies coming to the big screen:

Speed Racer (May 9)
Written and directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski, and starring Emile Hirsch as the fearless Speed Racer. Also starring John Goodman, Susan Sarandon, Christina Ricci and Matthew Fox. In the film, Speed Racer and family live to race and refuse to loose, even when evil corporate types threaten their lives.

SPEED RACER MOVIE

Akira (Summer 2009)
Leonardo DiCaprio will produce two films based on the popular anime story Akira. DiCaprio is rumored to play the lead character Kaneda while Joseph Gordon-Levitt will play the raging Tetsuo. Akira is considered by critics (and myself) to be one of the greatest anime films ever made. The original story is about a biker gang of kids trying to survive in a chaotic, post-apocalyptic “Neo-Tokyo.” Things get really interesting when one of the kids develops psionic powers that threaten to destroy the city again.

akira movie poster

Robotech (2010)
Tobey Maguire is producing the film and might play the lead role in what is to be a new sci-fi franchise. The Robotech story is extensive, but basically deals with an alien starship crashing to Earth, providing us with advanced technology in the form of giant transforming machines or mecha that humans must use to defend itself from extraterrestrial invasions.

robotech movie

The Last Airbender (July 2, 2010)
Director M. Night Shyamalan will write, direct and produce a trilogy of live-action films based on the popular Asian-influenced Nickelodeon series Avatar: The Last Airbender, in which a young hero must master all four elements to bring peace to the world.

avatar movie poster

Ghost in the Shell (no release date)
Steven Spielberg will turn Ghost in the Shell into a live-action 3D movie. The futuristic police thriller follows the exploits of Section 9, a covert operations section of the Japanese National Public Safety Commission that specializes in fighting technology-related crime.

ghost in the shell movie


What do you think? Will Hollywood do justice here and make good quality live-action adaptations of anime classics, or butcher the Eastern artform we all love so much?

Here and there ...

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Scott Kirchhofer
One of Nerdvana's founding bloggers, Scott Kirchhofer is a graphic artist and designer of the Nerdvana logo, as well as a gamer and comic book movie fan.
https://www.linkedin.com/in/scottkirchhofer

6 thoughts on “Hollywood’s new obsession: Anime

  1. I’m going to have to say that most Americans don’t have the imagination nor the patience to appreciate anime, but for those of us who do, it’ll be a fun ride!

  2. I’m going to have to say that most Americans don’t have the imagination nor the patience to appreciate anime, but for those of us who do, it’ll be a fun ride!

  3. Hollywood will butcher the Eastern artform eg Speed Racer.
    The big problem with Hollywood doing live-action adaptations is the lack of understanding of the genre. They think we will love the special effects used to bring the stories to a live action format but they waterdown the storyline which is why we are in love with anime.
    If Hollywood wants to do live-action adaptations the director/producers need to look at the live-action version of Death-Note!

  4. Hollywood will butcher the Eastern artform eg Speed Racer.
    The big problem with Hollywood doing live-action adaptations is the lack of understanding of the genre. They think we will love the special effects used to bring the stories to a live action format but they waterdown the storyline which is why we are in love with anime.
    If Hollywood wants to do live-action adaptations the director/producers need to look at the live-action version of Death-Note!

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