Anime and manga don’t work as live-action adaptations

Caroline Lozano/ Assistant Opinion Director

As a once avid anime viewer, I always found it disappointing that live-action anime adaptations haven’t fared well anywhere, especially when compared to live-action comic book adaptations, like those belonging to Marvel.

In fact, anime (and of course, its manga counterpart) and comic books have similar qualities that have made them popular and inspirational for audiences this may range from compelling characters to good stories to amazing character designs.

But if both mediums share the same qualities, why has the live-action adaptations of one medium fared better than the other?

After watching the latest live-action film of the popular anime and manga “Fullmetal Alchemist,” it becomes more and more apparent that Hollywood has no clue on how to adapt such a medium to film.

Now, I can’t say I hated the live-action “Fullmetal Alchemist;”  there were certain aspects of the film that were actually done pretty well, such as set designs and action sequences. Out of all the anime adaptations I’ve seen so far, this film was able to entertain me.

But like Netflix’s “Death Note” and the 2017 film “Ghost in the Shell,” the film’s story is riddled with problems that can be confusing and even embarrassing for both fans of the original work and casual viewers, regardless of how visually stunning the film looks on-screen.

It’s important to note the differences between Japanese and American film adaptations of anime because yes, there are many. Japanese live-action anime adaptations tend to most retain the tone and feel of the world and characters of the original work. This works…to a limited extent.

Because anime and manga rely on exaggerated gestures and unrealistic dialogue between characters (sometimes for comedic effect), the medium’s translation onto the big screen can revert it into a corny and cringy mess, making it hard for audiences to watch and relate to the characters.

With American adaptations of anime, the tone and feel of the world and characters loses its color and becomes more “realistic.” At first glance, this makes complete sense, as American filmmaking values realism, even in a fantastical narrative. However, the characters and universe are no longer themselves, which, in turn, alienates fans.

Dullness and a confusing plot may turn off casual viewers, which was a problem I saw with Netflix’s “Death Note” and with “Ghost in the Shell.” Both countries’ film adaptations of these stories often suffer from cramming too many storylines and characters into one narrative.

To be fair, it is incredibly difficult to adapt a story from one medium to the other, whether it’s a book or a TV show. However, with the amount of talented directors and screenwriters in today’s film industry, it’s not an impossible feat.

Each film crew behind the Marvel comic-book adaptations were able to successfully win over audiences with their on-screen depiction of the characters and stories, turning them into iconic characters in film and that was not a simple task in and of itself.

It seems that Hollywood is unwilling to give up the medium, however, with anime live-action films such as “Alita: Battle Angel,” “Akira” and “Your Name” projected to be released in the next few years. Perhaps these directors, screenwriters and producers will learn from the mistakes of previous adaptations and create films that are both innovative and retain the beloved qualities of the original work.

It’s worth mentioning that successful anime film adaptations do exist, such as “Edge of Tomorrow,” adapted from a manga titled “All You Need is Kill.” While I haven’t personally seen the film, it comes to show that this medium’s translation to film does have the potential to be good and isn’t entirely doomed.

But until the upcoming adaptations prove that, casual observers of these films may just have to turn to Netflix and other video streaming sites for the time being.



The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of Panther Press Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.


Photo taken from Flickr.

About the Author

Caroline Lozano
Caroline Lozano is a senior pursuing a Bachelor's degree in English. She enjoys writing, reading, traveling, listening to music (especially The Beatles), attending cons, and watching movies/shows on Netflix. One of her goals is to become an accomplished writer of novels and short stories. Caroline is also fluent in Spanish.

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