Every season there’s a wave of new anime shows, many of them based on some other form of media such as a manga or light novel series. Most reasonably popular manga titles seem to make it onto the screen in animated form at some point or other, so it can be galling when your favorite series is passed over by the animation studios time and again in favor of yet more giant robots and impossibly large and buoyant chests.
Read on to see which manga series Japanese readers most want to see animated, and let us know what your own picks would be.
Japanese website Anime Anime! conducted a survey to discover the manga series their readers most want to see turned into anime. They first asked for suggestions on Twitter then put together two lists of 20 titles, one of manga series which had come to an end and one which was made up of continuing comics. Each respondent could choose up to three manga series from each list. In total they received 1,800 responses.
Here is the ranking for the as-yet incomplete manga series readers really hope to see on their TV screens soon. Some of these have been licensed and published in English while others have not. The majority of them are seinen titles, but there’s also a few shonen and shoujo in there, too, and the themes vary from slice-of-life to superheroes and fantasy battles.
1. Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto by Nami Sano
This slice of life seinen manga first made its appearance in 2011 and has been consistently popular. It got over 25% of the votes to secure first place in this survey!
2. One Punch-Man by One and Yusuke Murata
One Punch-Man is a webcomic that has been running since 2009. It follows the story of the super-powerful hero Saitama on his journey to defeat evil monsters and gain recognition.
3. Yotsuba&! by Kiyohiko Azuma
Yotsuba and has been going since 2003 and it’s surprising it hasn’t been animated yet after the success of Azuma’s previous series, Azumanga Daioh, both in Japan and overseas.
4. March Comes in Like a Lion by Chica Umino
Begun in 2007, this slice-of-life manga from the creator of the award-winning Honey and Clover, follows a lonely 17-year-old professional shogi player.
5. Drifters by Kouta Hirano
This fantasy manga from 2009 brings historical figures together to fight to save a mysterious world.
6. Nijiiro Days by Minami Mizuno
The first shoujo title to make the list is one of the more recent entries, having begun in 2012, and is a lighthearted story that gives us a peek into the lives of four high school boys.
7. Oresama Teacher by Izumi Tsubaki
This shoujo romantic comedy began in 2007 and follows a delinquent girl’s efforts to clean up her act and her new school.
8. Yandere Kanojo by Shinobi
Yandere characters are always popular so it’s surprising that this manga, which came out in 2009, has yet to be animated.
9. Amaama to Inazuma by Gido Amagakure
This seinen-oriented slice-of-life manga is a relatively new title, begun in 2013.
10. Soul Catcher(s) by Shinkai Hideo
A boy with special abilities and a troubled heart joins a high school band – how does this shonen series not have an anime yet?
Some of these series above are sure to make it onto the screen at some point, probably after they’re finished, but others will remain static forever. And maybe that’s for the best, since unfortunately the animated versions don’t always do justice to their source material
A weird truth: Even in the midst of the current comic book gold-rush, major studios can’t seem to get a good anime or manga adaptation off the ground—although the influence of those works can be seen everywhere. This weekend’s Big Hero 6 is based on a Marvel comic that’s heavily (perhaps even problematically) inspired by anime and manga. As tangentially connected to the art form as Big Hero 6 is, could it be the harbinger of a sea change in Hollywood’s approach to manga and anime?
Tackling this question can be kind of tricky—after all, “anime” and “manga” are styles rather than the names of genres. While works that fall under those umbrella share a general visual language and similar approaches to storytelling, anime and manga tell all sorts of stories—slice of life, romance, mystery, supernatural thriller, action.
One of the reasons it took so long for American filmmakers to even begin considering adapting manga or anime is because of how long it took for the source material to even become popular stateside. The first anime to find success here weren’t the action-heavy, mind-bending sort that would become prominent in the boom years of the late ’80s and early ’90s, but much lighter fare like Speed Racer and Astro Boy in the ’60s and ’70s. But even during those boom years, anime adaptations usually didn’t fare well. For example:
The Guyver: One of the first notable anime adaptations to be made in the US, this 1991 film starred Mark Hamil and was based off the 1985 manga Bio Booster Armor Guyver, by Yoshiki Takaya. Both the film and manga centered on a young man who discovers The Guyver Unit, an alien device that spawns a sort of biological super-suit that an unwitting young man bonds with in order to fight an evil megacorporation (and also alien monsters). The film was panned both for being B-movie cheese and also for straying from the source material’s far darker, more violent story.
A direct-to-video sequel, Guyver: Dark Hero would stay closer to the manga’s more violent roots, but the rubber-suited aliens still left a lot to be desired when compared to the manga’s anime adaptation.
Street Fighter: While not technically based on an anime or manga, Capcom’s legendary fighting game would go on to inspire plenty of adaptations—including the notorious 1994 Jean Claude Van Damme film. There are many reasons why this did not go well, but at least people saw it—unlike the 2009 reboot, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li, which you’re probably remembering for the first time right now.
Fist of the North Star: Another hyper-violent action anime received an unfaithful adaptation that doubled as a really bad movie. Here’s clip from that movie. It is very bad. Unless it’s after 2 A.M., and you’re looking for this sort of thing. Then I suppose it’s great.
The Matrix: While, again, not technically based on an anime or manga, The Matrix represents a watershed moment in how Hollywood looked at anime. According to producer Joel Silver, the Wachowskis pitched him the film by showing him an anime film (according to Wikipedia, it was Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 classic Ghost in the Shell), saying “We want to do that for real.” The 1999 film, with its mix of philosophical science fiction and stunning action scenes, is the closest a major Hollywood release had ever gotten to faithfully depicting the medium of anime. Incidentally, while a large number of anime adaptations would enter development in the intervening years, none would make it to the big screen until the Wachowskis’ next directorial effort, five years after 2003’s The Matrix Revolutions.
The debt that the film franchise owed to anime would be acknowledged in the direct-to-video release The Animatrix, an anime anthology of short stories set in the film’s world.
“Stronger”: Kanye West’s music video for his hit 2007 single heavily references Katsuhiro Otomo’s landmark 1980s anime film/manga series Akira. Let’s talk a little bit about Akira. Both the manga and the film adaptation are pinnacles of their respective mediums, cyberpunk masterworks that use their dystopian futures to explore deep philosophical and societal quandaries. Critically acclaimed in the U.S., Akira is largely responsible for popularizing anime and manga stateside. A Hollywood film adaptation has been in development hell since at least 2002—the last update came in February of 2014—but don’t hold your breath for it. It’s quite likely that Kanye’s music video is the closest we’ll get to an American adaptation—and maybe that’s a good thing.
Speed Racer: While it was poorly received at the time, the Wachowski’s Speed Racer succeeds by being exactly what it set out to be—a bright, colorful adventure for kids. Which, in turn, makes it exactly like its source material. Unfortunately, the film’s poor critical reception and box office performance very likely served to further stigmatize anime adaptations to big studios.
Dragon Ball: Evolution: Akira Toriyama’s seminal manga Dragon Ball and the anime it inspired, was, along with Sailor Moon, an entire generation’s introduction to the medium. As such, the series is pretty sacrosanct in the eyes of fans—and even if it doesn’t hold up all that well, it retained a certain heart and charm that never really gets old. The film that came out in 2009 had none of these things.
Pacific Rim: Like The Matrix, Guillermo del Toro’s 2013 blockbuster isn’t an adaptation of any particular manga or anime. Instead, it’s a Western take on giant mecha-action epics like Gundam. While it’s a pretty straightforward bit of sci-fi action, it is very, very good at what it does—and perhaps clears the way for the genre’s stranger, more complex fare like Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Oldboy: Spike Lee’s 2013 revenge thriller is an unfortunate case of Hollywood’s inability to leave well enough alone. Originally a 1996 manga by Goron Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi, the story already received an acclaimed film adaptation in 2003 by South Korean director Park Chan-wook—one that’s far preferable to the American version. Which is a shame, because the U.S. cast is pretty stellar.
Edge of Tomorrow: Although it received really good reviews, Edge of Tomorrow didn’t perform so well in the box office. Perhaps if it kept the name of the manga it was based on — Hiroshi Sakurazaka and Yoshitoshi Abe’s All You Need Is Kill—it would’ve been more more memorable to those watching the trailers. But as the latest Hollywood effort in manga/anime adaptation, it’s quite the hopeful note to end on.
[UPDATE — As some readers have pointed out, All You Need Is Kill was originally a novel. The manga adaptation, by Ryusuke Takeuchi and Takeshi Obata, came out roughly at the same time as the film.]
While this list is pretty spare, it doesn’t include the wealth of optioned material languishing in development hell or shelved for any number of years. James Cameron’sBattle Angel Alita is a great example—the director has the rights to make a movie, but won’t even start thinking about that until he’s done with the next ten Avatar films.
But if you’re not too jaded by the number of non-starters, it’s quite possible that we’re now on the cusp of a new wave of quality Hollywood films based on anime and manga. With the previously-noted critical success of Edge of Tomorrow and reports of Scarlett Johanssen signing up for the lead role in Ghost in the Shell, it looks like Hollywood is finally ready to start looking at comic books that weren’t made in America for inspiration. If they do, then movie theaters will doubtless become a stranger—and more interesting—place.
Well, it’s official – Ghost in the Shell is going to be adapted into a live-action American movie.
You can probably already hear the screams of die-hard fans pleading with Dreamworks to not ruin the legendary cyberpunk manga and anime franchise. Indeed, there are some things to worry about, such as who is actually going to play the title character, Major Makoto Kusanagi, and if the film won’t be treated like a Matrix knockoff, or worse, Ultraviolet. Who knows if any of those worries are being assuaged by the announcement of Rupert Sanders directing the film.
Currently, Sanders is known less for his directing – his latest film being Snow White and the Huntsman – and more for his now-infamous affair with the star of Huntsman, Kristen Stewart. To top it all off, the film itself has gotten intensely mixed reviews, averaging out mostly to a B letter grade. Huntsman is Sanders’ most widely known film in his small resume, which includes another film,The Juliet, a sci-fi/drama project set to be released sometime in 2015.
If there’s any silver lining, it’s that we won’t see Ghost in the Shell in theaters for a while. This adaptation of the manga classic will be in development hell indefinitely because, as Deadline states, Sanders is attached to other projects, such as The Juliet, a possible Huntsman sequel, an epic detailing the battles of Napoleon Bonaparte, police-mafia cat-and-mouse film 90 Church and an adaptation of Frederick Forsyth thriller The Kill List.
For those not in the know, Ghost in the Shell was created by Masamune Shirow, with its first manga issue released in 1989. The story is set around the characters of Public Security Section 9, a special-ops team living in the fictional futuristic city of Niihama, Niihama Prefecture. The leader of the group is the aformentioned Kusanagi, who, as a small child, suffered a traumatic injury which led to her cyberbrain being transplanted into a full body prosthesis, turning her into a cyborg.
Do you think Sanders will do right by Kusanagi?
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After being completely suspended in 2012, it seems like plans for the Akira live-action movie are finally moving forward again. The Warner Brothers movie will be a retelling of the 1988 cult anime classic, with original writer and director Katsuhiro Ohtomo acting as executive producer. Appian Way’s Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson Killoran are producing.
And now that the $180-million project has been stripped and streamlined down to an even smaller budget, director Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan) is in discussions to return to the directors chair. He had left in early 2012 after production stalled.
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