All of Hollywood’s attempts of adapting anime have been met with failure and disdain by hardcore fans. When you’ve got over God-knows-how many episodes between Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball GT, and the product that comes out does nothing to capture what made it so appealing, you have no excuse. Of course, there’s the old saying, “if you think you can do better, what don’t you?” As a matter of fact, some fans have taken the time to make their own live action takes on anime, and a good number have been excellently received by other fans. So, what is it that makes passion project adaptations to anime superior to Hollywood?
Knowing the Source Material
The answer is obvious – KNOWING AND APPLYING THE SOURCE MATERIAL! Ok, so Dragon Ball Evolution got the brand name right along with the names of the characters and nothing else. By the time pictures came out, fans were outraged and instantly critical of the movie. Heck, it made Super Mario Brothers look like Citizen Kane! When it came out, it was a box office failure, panned, and considered a disgrace to the franchise. At this point, we’re just beating a dead horse which ties to our next point, is Dragon Ball capable of having a quality live action adaptation?
Dragon Ball: Light of Hope
As a matter of fact, yes! One notable live action Dragon Ball passion project we’d like to give a shout to is Light of Hope, which adapts part of the Trunks origin special. The short-film not only faithfully adapts the story but casts actors who resemble and grasp the characters! Not only that, despite being filmed by crowdfunding, the special effects somehow manage to capture the qualities that made the action appealing to audiences around the world. If you want to see what the Dragon Ball live action looks like, watch Light of Hope!
Fan Made Akira Trailer
For the last decade, there have been talks of a live action Akira taking place in New York and replacing the original Japanese cast members with American actors (aka whitewashing). This notion has been a long source of controversy with fans to the point that even George Takei of Star Trek fame has even articulated his opposition to changing the setting and characters. Though no one has made a full film, fans (of Asian decent) have made their own fan trailer demonstrating if you make a live action faithful to the source material, it can be as groundbreaking as the original anime!
By no means are we intending to be racist. Even non-Asian fans have been vocal of the race changes. There are plenty of anime to adapt where non-Japanese or non-Asians could AND should be casted. The fact that the appeal to the original Akira anime and manga not only took place in Japan, but explored actual Japanese issues of that time that still apply today (such as predicting the 2020 Olympics taking place in Tokyo!). By changing the setting and characters, it largely takes away Akira’s identity as a whole.
Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist
Then, there’s Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist, which really puts the “passion” in passion project. Prior to Assassin’s Fist, the last two attempts at a live action Street Fighter have been a pathetic joke. When it came to Assassin’s Fist, fans got a live action Street Fighter that not only used the game, but other sources such as the anime adaptations to balance the origin story of Ken, Ryu, Gouki/Akuma, and Gouken. It used the source material’s mythos of their fighting style as an effective storytelling tool, and we got a great exploration of Ken and Ryu’s friendship and their rivalry. At the same time, you see how their story also parallels that with Gouken and Gouki during their youth.
Not only did you get a true characterization of the main cast, the martial arts presents actual techniques from the game. When you watch them perform the kata, each move is actually taken from the game. Meaning when you see them throw a punch or kick in the kata, it’s the exact same move from the game! Considering the long dedicated martial arts background of the actors who play Ken and Ryu along with their love for the game, you see Street Fighter’s true potential as a live action property.
We admit that trying to make a movie from conception to the screen is very hard in the movie industry. James Cameron’s vision of wanting to make Gunmu, or Battle Angel Alita, a movie has been in the works for nearly 30 years. Though long-time fans can recognize the qualities based on the trailer, expectations are still mixed. Will it live up to the original manga? Who knows, but if it doesn’t, we’re positive that at some point, fans with the right talent and creativity can make their own version that pays respect to the original source material.
In addition to Light of Hope and Assassin’s Fist, some excellent examples of fan driven live action adaptations are Naruto Shippuden: Dreamers Fight, Sailor Moon: The Movie, Berserk – The Black Swordsman, and a couple of Saint Seiya ones such as The God of Time and The Birth of Pegasus. If you want to see the true potential of anime as live action, sometimes it’s best to support the underdog as opposed to those with all the money in their pockets.