I remarked back in in this post, about talking about my ‘stance‘ on various anime and manga controversies. There’s a section to talk about Series vs. Films vs. Shorts but my live action takes! I’ll be focusing on Japanese live action films and dramas, that are adapting anime or manga in this little blog post.
Series (I.E. Drama Serials)
I have to say that series are still the best way to go. I will nearly always default on the having a serialization going over a film, short, etc. It just comes down to having the time to develop ideas fully. Most Japanese drama serials are around 12 to 13 episodes, at about 45 minutes per episode. A bit of a higher time commitment then a typical anime, although there are a lot of dramas as of late doing anime-length (15 to 25 minutes) episodes. Also due to the nature of dramas it might take an episode or two to really get started, but once the ball it rolling the momentum rarely let’s up.
It also helps that most JDrama serials know how to tell a story in the timeframe given. There’s a lot of consideration for what, and how the events from the source material are going to be portrayed verses just throwing in everything they can. There’s very rarely series that ends on an open or unfinished note, which is really satisfactory. The few occasions when this does happen, there’s usually a second season already scheduled or a ‘final movie’ conclusion planned. Which oddly enough is a double edged sword in most cases. When you fall in love with a cast, and really like the direction the plot has taken 13 episodes just isn’t enough! It can be a sigh of relief though if the story isn’t connecting the way you thought it would.
But I have to admit, that I’m not the best at watching drama serializations of my favorite anime and manga… It’s still so much easier for me to watch a movie or marathon an anime. However! I am getting more into drama serials every year, especially with the world of classic gems, anime/manga adaptations or not, left for me to discover and share with you guys!
Dear lord. These are so hit and miss when it’s a live action adaptations that it physically hurts me. I have seen the highest praises sung about certain film adaptations, and I have seen them get absolutely roasted to where only ashes remain. It’s hard not to put these into these distinct categories, since a lot of anime and manga live action adaptation films fail to actual adapt the source material. These adaptations are produced quickly, since there is a limited time frame that the pre-established fanbase will maintain their interest in a franchise long enough to see the live action version of the project. (At least, that’s what a lot of studios and producers seem to think.)
It’s a harsh reality that I’ve only just come to fully realize during my time in Japan. Despite my critical words earlier though, most live-action adaptations really more likely land somewhere in the ‘meh’ category. There’s no way to cram a 20+ volume series, shonen or shojo, into a single two hour film. So what you get is the cherry picked, but aesthetically pleasing highlight reel of events, that usually has a muddled if not outright choppy timeline of events. Some examples of this being Daytime Shooting Star, and One in a Hundred Thousand for shojo. I have been told that both the Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure and Fullmetal Alchemist live-actions were very much the same. I do say that without having seen those myself, but based on reviews and friend’s reactions.
Every once in awhile you’ll get one film that knocks it out of the park regardless. One of the oldies but goodies being the first Gantz live action film. I remember seeing that without knowing it was a manga first, and it was still that good. I’d also out Tezuka’s Barbara and BLEACH in this category. Mostly since Barbara‘s staff knew how to actually adapt the manga to fit a feature film, not just hit every panel beat for beat. BLEACH being in this category since the director knew they couldn’t do the tried and true highlight reel for such a massive story. Instead, they opted to pick the beginning until a certain point to adapt and left it there. I’ve also been told that the Rurouni Kenshin live action films are in this category, but again, not something I’ve seen.
I’d be more interested in seeing more adaptations, albeit a bit less musical in execution, like Love is Hard for Otaku. At least the director and scriptwriter had the idea that it was an adaptation, not a beat for beat repeat of the source material, and did something with it. It still veered a little to the left, but at least it gave a solid effort
(and had a generous budget) to try.
I don’t have too many examples to put in this category when it comes to live action adaptations. When it comes to being sourced from anime or manga, either it has the audience and budget for feature film or a prime time drama or it doesn’t. There’s not a lot of space, or monetary incentive to do much else with materials like that. A lot of ‘shorts’ in Japan tend to be indie projects, or between drama season fillers averaging around an hour or an hour and a half max long. Most of these drama specials are usually a quick spin off of something recently aired, or an original work verses having anime or manga as source material. Licensing even in Japan is still a lot of money.
All that being said, there are a fair amount of drama specials that are manga and anime based. These projects tend to have more limited fanbases. Usually it’s for older series, or ones that have a very short source material. The only ones I’ve seen have been the three Black Jack specials that aired between 2000 and 2001, and Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms in 2018. I have to say both worked out well, clocking in around an hour and a half for the Black Jack specials, and just over an hour for Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms‘s story. They were alright, and fit snugly in their sense of being an adaptation, and time limit. I could go on more, but I would digress a lot since my favorite series is involved.
Given I haven’t seen as many of these, I don’t have a truly concrete opinion. The market for these is severely limited due to airing period being in-between seasons, a weird hour-ish in length, and typically only being aired once or twice if they’re lucky. Quite frankly I don’t see these taking off at all or any time soon since any franchise would rather have a feature length film or drama serial, good or bad, under their belt so they can justify production time and budget.
Personally, I think all three have their strengths and weaknesses just like in my anime stances. I will still always hail the drama serial into a final movie as being the most satisfactory in terms of adaptations, having the time to develop ideas and execute them the best. However my watching habits will always point towards the movie adaptations, good and bad, given their succinct run times and excuse for me to have a popcorn and Pepsi.
I hope you found this brief look at my live action watching habits and opinions on adaptation styles interesting. If you’re a fan of any title mentioned, or any title where you were overjoyed or crushed by it’s live action adaptation I’d love to know. I always love hearing from die-hard fans of franchises about what’s the best their franchise has to offer, and where to avoid. So be sure to drop a comment below! With that I’ll see you next post!