Much like the phrase “video game adaptation” shoots fear into the hearts of gamers across the globe, so too do the words “anime live-action adaptation” make the weebs of the world cower in fear. While the former has experienced an uptick in quality with the likes of Detective Pikachu and HBO’s The Last of Us, anime adaptations with human beings cosplaying as beloved characters tend to be an insult to their respective fandoms.
Recently, the Netflix live-action adaptation of the beloved ‘90s sci-fi anime Cowboy Bebop caused both fans and the show’s creator, Shinichiro Watanabe, to voice his displeasure over the direction of the canceled show. In an interview with Forbes, Watanabe said it was “very tough” for him to get through the live-action show’s casino scene (its first scene, btw). In fact, Watanabe called it quits after the folks at Netflix sent him a video of the opening scene.
“It was clearly not Cowboy Bebop and I realized at that point that if I wasn’t involved, it would not be Cowboy Bebop,” Watanabe told Forbes. I felt that maybe I should have done this. Although the value of the original anime is somehow far higher now.”
Suffice it to say, live-action anime adaptations are a troublesome venture for both the creators and fans. Regardless of what the past has taught us, production studios and streamers are forging ahead with their live-action anime adaptations. As a service to my fellow anime appreciators, here’s a list of every confirmed anime that’s getting the live-action treatment.
Avatar: The Last Airbender
Oh hey, Avatar: the Last Airbender is getting the live-action treatment (again). Avatar (not the blue people one) follows Aang, a child with the power to control the elements, as he liberates the world from the tyrannical reign of the Fire Nation. Much like Cowboy Bebop’s Watanabe, the original creators of AtlA, Bryan Konietzko and Michael DiMartino, voiced their displeasure with Netflix’s direction of their series’ live-action adaptation. After a fallout over creative differences, Konietzko and DiMartino decided to produce their own trilogy of AtLA films with Nickelodeon’s new film studio, Avatar Studios.
“When Bryan and I signed on to the project in 2018, we were hired as executive producers and showrunners,” DiMartino wrote in a blog post. “In a joint announcement for the series, Netflix said that it was committed to honoring our vision for this retelling and to supporting us on creating the series. And we expressed how excited we were for the opportunity to be at the helm. Unfortunately, things did not go as we had hoped.”
Despite the creator’s exit over creative differences and the stink of M.Night Shyamalan’s farce of a live-action film, Netflix’s cast of Hollywood actors for the live-action show is packed with star power. Among them are Lost and Legend of Korra’s Daniel Dae Kim as Fire Lord Ozai, Prey’s Amber Midthunder as Princess Yue, and The Mandalorian’s Paul Sun-Hyung Lee as Uncle Iroh.
Here’s hoping Netflix’s show is flameo, my hotmen.
Netflix, not leaving well enough alone, will attempt a second go at a live-action Death Note. Death Note follows Light Yagami, a high school student who finds a supernatural notebook that gives him the power to kill anyone whose name is written in it, so long as he has their names and faces in mind.
Unlike the anglo-saxonized 2017 film, Netflix will have Stranger Things creators, Matt and Ross Duffer try their hand at “an entirely new take” of the popular supernatural anime, according to Deadline. The Duffer Brothers will make the Death Note live-action under their new production studio, Upside Down Pictures. I pray they stay far away from Light Yagami and L Lawliet and stick to adapting the 2020 Death Note one-shot where Donald Trump entered a bidding war over the cursed tome.
Back in 2021, Deadline reported that Amazon Studios is working on a live-action Hellsing film. Hellsing is a supernatural horror series where Alucard, a gun-toting vampire battle against the neo-Nazi organization Millennium and their horde of zombies. John Wick screenwriter, Derek Kolstad, is collaborating with Amazon Studios to produce the live-action horror anime film.
“Ever since my brother introduced me to the Hellsing manga and anime some years ago, I’ve been obsessed with adapting it,” Kolstad told Deadline. “And when Mike Callaghan and his team managed to secure the rights to then partner us up with Brian Kavanaugh-Jones and Amazon, I mean -damn, dude- this is a dream.”
Mobile Suit Gundam
At Anime Expo 2018, Legendary Pictures announced it was collaborating with Studio Sunrise to create the first live-action Mobile Suit Gundam movie. Broadly speaking, the narrative most Gundam anime follow has a young protagonist battling in a cool mech while the show expounds upon the horrors of war between intergalactic nations. While details on the film have been scant, what we do know is that it will be set in the “Universal Century,” a timeline most mainline Gundam anime exist in. Kong: Skull Island director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, who just so happens to be directing that Metal Gear Solid live-action movie we all forgot was happening, will direct the live-action anime film as well. The Gundam movie will release on Netflix, because of course it is.
My Hero Academia
Wouldn’t you know, Netflix is doing yet another live-action adaptation. Are you sensing a theme? This time around, the streamer is adapting the popular superhero anime, My Hero Academia. MHA follows Izuku Midoriya, a “quirkless” boy who inherits the superpowers of a world-famous superhero, All Might, and attends UA Academy, a school for fledgling heroes.
The live-action movie’s screenplay will be written by Joby Harold, the executive producer for the Obi-Wan Kenobi show, John Wick, and Edge of Tomorrow, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The My Hero Academia film will also serve as the English directorial debut of Shinsuke Sato. Prior to the MHA live-action movie, Sato directed the live-action films for Inuyashiki and I Am A Hero. Someone should’ve told the Netflix executive we already got a live-action MHA in the 2005 Disney film Sky High, a superhero movie about a kid who joins an academy for kids with superpowers.
Back in 2016, the official Shonen Jump Twitter account chose violence by announcing that a live-action Naruto film was in the works. Naruto follows a hapless ninja named Naruto Uzumaki as he fights to prove that he, with enough hard work and training, can become the Hokage (basically the ninja president). The film will be produced by Lionsgate and directed by The Greatest Showman’s Michael Gracey. In a 2018 interview with Collider, Gracey said the movie is still happening, should series creator Masashi Kishimoto give Gracey’s script the seal of approval.
“Because until that script is at a level that I’m excited about, I have no interest in destroying an amazing franchise, as has happened before. But I think the great thing is that everyone involved, from Lionsgate to the producers, are all of the same mind,” Gracey told Collider. “Everyone knows how precious this property is and to me it’s incredibly exciting, and I love the work that I’ve gotten to do on it to date. At this stage, no one is going to go into production until we’ve got a script that excites everyone.”
Yesterday, Netflix gave fans a first look at the Straw Hat pirates in the upcoming live-action One Piece series. Similarly to Naruto, One Piece follows the misadventures of Monkey D. Luffy as he sails the seas to become the king of the pirates. In a written statement, series creator Eiichiro Oda hyped up the live-action series, most notably, the cast of babyface actors portraying his iconic characters. Oda apparently was a big fan of “the size of their mouths and hands” and their whole aura.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Steven Maeda, from Lost and The X-Files fame, will executively produce the show alongside Luke Cage’s Matt Owens and Oda. The series is slated to release sometime later this year.
One Punch Man
Last year, Sony announced it was working on a live-action One Punch Man film. One Punch Man, created by mangaka One, follows an overpowered baldy named Saitama as he and the world’s organization of superheroes battles against a league of monstrous supervillains. According to Variety, the film is being written by Venom writers Scott Rosenberg and Jeff Pinkner and will be produced by Avi Arad and Ari Arad of Arad Productions. Prior to the OPM live-action film, Arad Productions worked on the Uncharted movie, Ghost in the Shell, and did post-production work on Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.
Netflix (shocker, I know) is also working on a live-action Pokémon series. In case you’ve been living under a rock, Pokémon follows the story of a fledgling pocket monster trainer, typically Ash Ketchum, as they travel the land and battle against imposing gym leaders. According to Variety, Joe Henderson, Lucifer co-showrunner and executive producer, will write and produce the series. Hopefully, the live-action series will capture the same magic that Detective Pikachu had. If not, the least they can do is give us Danny DeVito as Pikachu. It’s what we deserve.
Saint Seiya: Knights of the Zodiac
Saint Seiya: Knights of the Zodiac, an anime series that’s no stranger to revamps and retellings, will receive a live-action adaptation. Saint Seiya is a sci-fi anime about a group of Greek mythological heroes that battle against Olympic Gods who want to rule the world. According to The Hollywood Reporter, The Witcher executive producer, Tomasz Baginski, will direct the series. Much like the AtLA live-action show, Saint Seiya has a stacked list of Hollywood actors in its cast. Chief among them being Game of Thrones’ Sean Bean, X-Men’s Famke Janssen, and John Wick: Parabellum’s Mark Dacascos.
According to Anime News Network, Skydance Television, the folks behind Netflix’s Altered Carbon, are producing the live-action adaptation of the cult classic sci-fi anime series Steins;Gate. Steins;Gate is a sci-fi anime about a group of scientists trying to free themselves from the brutal time loop their homemade device has them imprisoned in. The anime project’s announcement said supposed to hit streaming services worldwide “soon,” but we’re two years out from that statement and still no live-action Steins;Gate. What gives?
Read More: The Massive World of Steins;Gate, Explained
Sword Art Online
Back in 2016, the usual suspects behind live-action anime adaptations, Netflix and Skydance Television, announced they were working on a live-action series for the isekai progenitor, Sword Art Online. Sword Art Online is a fantasy anime about a gamer named Kirito as he battles to clear levels in a virtual world he and other players are trapped in. According to Anime News Network, Altered Carbon’s Laeta Kalogridis will serve as the Netflix live-action series’ writer and executive producer.
Tokyo Revengers, which already received a live-action movie adaptation in 2021, is getting another live-action film this year. Tokyo Revengers follows a high schooler named Takemichi Hanagaki who uses his powers to alter the flow of time to prevent his childhood crush from dying. According to Anime News Network, the sequel film will be a two-parter that will release in Japan on April 21 and June 30 respectively.
The beloved 2017 Makoto Shinkai animated film, Your Name, is getting a Hollywood makeover. Your Name is an award-winning love story about two high schoolers that have their bodies swapped whenever they go to sleep. According to Deadline, J.J. Abrams will produce the live-action film alongside Genki Kawamura, the anime’s original producer. In a 2017 press event, Shinkai equated the news of the Your Name live-action adaptation to experiencing one’s children leaving home.
“I often compare my works to my children but I don’t have much interest in how my kids will turn out,” Shinkai said. “There was the announcement that Hollywood was making [a Your Name movie]. However, while at the same time looking forward to it, I felt like this was the beginning of a journey, and what kind of adult it would be was a question for the work itself.”
Yu Yu Hakusho
Last, and certainly not least, is Netflix’s upcoming anime adaptation of the popular ‘90s anime, Yu Yu Hakusho. Yu Yu Hakusho follows a bancho high schooler named Yusuke Urameshi who, after his untimely death, becomes a spirit detective. Last year, the official Netflix Twitter account gave fans a first look at its live-action cast. While its cast certainly resembled their anime counterparts, time will tell whether the spirit of the show lives up to the Toonami classic. The live-action Yu Yu Hakusho is slated to hit the streamer in December 2023.
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