How will Hollywood capitalize on the rising popularity of manga in the U.S.?

June 21, 2007 at 6:34 pm (manga, market, Movies)

The best thing to come out of that Nymphet brouhaha is that Jason DeAngelis now writes a weekly column about being a manga publisher. In the most recent one he talks about how Hollywood feels that Manga are the next Comic Books.

Starting, I think, with the X-Men movie in 2000, there have been a long string of high-budget motion pictures based on popular American comic books. According to Boxoffice.com, two of the top ten most successful (in terms of gross ticket sales) movies this year are based on comic books: Spiderman 3 (#1), and 300 (#5). Those are good examples because they show the two major things that are going on here.

Spiderman is iconic in the U.S. The studio did not have to explain what the hell this “Spiderman” thing was when marketing it. The two most iconic super hero comic book characters are Superman and Batman, and they’ve both had movie franchises for quite some time. Spiderman is probably the next most recognizable after those two. I would be surprised if you could find many people in my generation who had not at least heard of Spiderman *before* the first movie was released. So with big titles like Spiderman and X-Men, there is this element of name-recognition marketing going on.

300, on the otherhand, is not a comic book title that is very well known in the public. But by the time 300 came out, producers had already discovered the benefits of mining comic books for movie material, regardless of their followings. Look at Sin City: from what I understand, there are very close to zero changes from the actual Sin City books used for the movie, aside from adding the moving actors; they used it as script and storyboard without modification. DeAngelis confirms this in his column:

…Hollywood just loves “source material.” Not only do they adore that particular buzzword, but it’s just so much easier to “fast track” and “green light” a project if it’s based on something visual like a graphic novel or manga.

So it looks like Hollywood producers are making a lot of comic book adaptations for one of the same reason anime studios make a lot of manga adaptations: It’s EASY.

So what about manga-adaptations for Hollywood movies? Well, they have that same advantage of being visual media. I don’t think licensing will be that much of an issue. I imagine the Japanese property holders would be ecstatic to sell live-action movie rights to Hollywood; it’s probably far more profitable than selling them to a Japanese studio. DeAngelis thinks that the major challenge is how serialized popular action manga (like the stuff in Jump) are, i.e. their lack of major “plot”; I don’t honestly see this as an issue, because super-hero comic books have the same problem EVEN WORSE; it’s not that hard to scrape together a major arc into a movie, and Hollywood is all about multi-picture franchises these days anyway.

I think the biggest issue is cultural translation. It is my understanding that the biggest demographic of manga consumers in the U.S. are teenage girls. Obviously the most popular titles are things like Naruto, Bleach, and Death Note. Those three…I don’t see an issue. However, if the rest of the market is riding on shoujo romance titles (maybe it’s not?) then I think Hollywood will have a hard time taking advantage of it. The romances are just too…Japanese. Does Kare Kano even make sense if you make all the characters American? On the flip side, can they sell a movie where the culture is not translated? Where the characters are Japanese? It seems like doing the cultural translation is so much effort it negates the benefits of free storyboarding, but not doing it leaves you with a movie that is almost impossible to make in the U.S. Maybe they would look at contracting a Japanese studio for the acting (my opinion of the Japanese acting talent pool is…not high). This is an interesting thought, but I think to be financially successful, an adaptation like this will have to appeal to a much broader American audience than the manga-consuming demographic. But since romances are largely wish-fulfillment, the problem of “romantic” not translating that well cross-culturally is large.

Maybe some romances are less of an issue. I could almost see an American KGNE movie. The drama there translates quite readily into an American mindset, and it is not tied as heavily to the Japanese Highschool environment. The characters would probably have to change somewhat, raising a pointless outcry from fanboys. But then…KGNE isn’t manga (or is there one?), so maybe it doesn’t count. All I know is I will LOL for a week the first time I see a major Hollywood picture adapted from eroge.

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This is probably not news but

January 7, 2007 at 6:34 am (manga, market)

I went to Borders today (I guess I should go more often). Apparently not only do they now carry manhwa, but they carry furry manhwa.

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