As Japanese media franchises have risen in popularity over the past couple of decades (and have had accelerated growth in the past few years), many Western companies have turned to the land of the Rising Sun for inspiration. Video game movies like Sonic the Hedgehog and Detective Pikachu did well at the box office, Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim helped spur new FLCLand popular shoujo manga artist Arina Tanemura turned Frozen II into a manga. These were all created because of their original’s popularity at home and afar.
And recent announcements show that these East-West co-productions and international adaptations aren’t going to stop any time soon.
Now, with the backings of companies like Netflix, it isn’t unexpected to hear of a show starring Sanrio chracter Gudetama, and info about their live action One Piece has been ramping up.
And Adult Swim, despite separating from AT&T which used to own Crunchyroll, is still pushing for new Japanese-inspired content with a Rick and Morty anime and an original series from the director of Jujutsu Kaisen called Ninja Kamui. While not expressly stated, Ninja Kamui may be a reimagining of — or at least inspired by — a 60s manga, which was also turned into a Japanese live action movie that Funimation brought over under the title Kamui Gaiden.
Anyway, in recent weeks, several other projects from American affiliates have been confirmed and/or confirmed to be moving forward.
Apple+ will stream a Speed Racer series from Star Trek/Star Wars director J.J. Abrams. Speed Racerof course, has already gotten the Hollywood live action treatment back in 2008. Whether it’s a sequel or a reboot, this means the classic manga will have made the leap to a Western big budget production twice.
Meanwhile, back in 2020, Variety revealed Sony Pictures was working on a live action One-Punch Man movie written by the writers of Venom. Now, Deadline is reporting that a director from the Fast & Furious franchise is helming One-Punch Man and will work with the same previously-reported duo for the final script.
Tiger & Bunny may finally see a live action adaptation thanks to the studio behind Crazy Rich Asians after previous rightsholders collapsed.
And while not a live action production, Astro Boy is being rebooted with the help of the creator of Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir. This comes on the heels of the recent Unico Kickstarter which reimagined another one of Tezuka’s works for a new generation in manga format. Like Speed Racerhas already been made into a Hollywood movie before, although as a CGI movie.
As I’ve said before, live action and reboots are popular because they can be lucrative. True, reception can be mixed or even horrible, but at the very least, new adaptations help revitalize interest in the original and spark new merchandise.
Still, despite this news dump, there are still several previously-announced projects that have had few updates, such as Hollywood version of your name. The director left a year ago, and there has been no news about the project, which was originally announced in 2017, since. JJ Abrams is attached to the project, and while it is fairly common for staff to bounce between projects or prioritize one, it just is interesting Speed Racer will likely be available before your name. It was previously revealed the heroine would be a Native American girl and also star a boy from Chicago, which seems to me to be a fair Americanization to represent Mitsuha’s family’s Shinto background versus Taki’s city life. But obviously, that movie is having major roadblocks despite your name.‘s success.
But hey, it’s better than the lack of updates on Naruto from Lionsgate, as news of that project came way back in 2015!
If you think you might want to give up hope on a big budget Hollywood Narutowell, don’t. Tiger & Bunny It was also originally revealed back in 2015, and has been having trouble finding its footing, although it may be more the fault of the studios than issues with a script, cast, or anything. Is third time the charm for Tiger & Bunnyor will it join Naruto in being another forgotten announcement from 2015?
On the other hand, One-Punch Man could be ready by next year. Although it was announced in 2020, the pandemic is at least partially to blame for the lack of updates until now. Sony seems to want to move forward now quickly with the movie going to production by December. If so, Sony’s One-Punch Man could be available in late 2023, early 2024. Sony is also hoping to turn the movie into a new franchise. That’s rather ambitious. I guess they’re hoping for Sonic-level success, which has been the exception for these American remakes, not the norm.
Also, between Astro Boy and Unico, I wonder if we can expect more from Tezuka Productions teaming up with foreign studios and creators. Osamu Tezuka, as the God of Manga, has a lot of great stories, and in the right hands, they could shine for modern audiences.
Because like it or not, the trend of turning anime and other Japanese franchises into a Western production is not going to stop any time soon. While most anime Hollywood live action adaptations have been lackluster, studios are betting that they can get it right. Although there’s not a lot of confidence right now in some of them that are still caught in development hell.