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, 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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Why I was Afraid to Watch Rozen Maiden: The Uncanny Valley

December 31, 2006 at 6:34 am (Anime, Movies, Theory)

If you’re a total weeaboo, you might already be familiar with Asian Ball-jointed Dolls. If you’re not, you can read up on it elsewhere, but here’s a picture!

Super Dolfie is slightly creepy

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You can have “that Will Smith movie,” but can you have “that Yui Horie anime”?

November 6, 2006 at 9:14 am (Anime, Movies, Theory)

I could not quite come up with an appropriate title for this post. This is a post about viewing foreign language film, viewing animated film, and identifying actors, directors, and other creative influences behind those works.

By identification I almost mean recognition, but not quite. If you watch a movie starring Harrison Ford or Will Smith, you might refer to it as a “Harrison Ford,” or “Will Smith” movie. This is true for a lot of Hollywood Stars. Their names alone will sell movies, and people will tend to identify them as the major sort of creative feature of the movie. That’s why it’s a “Will Smith movie,” not a “movie with Will Smith in it,” even if he’s just an actor, not a writer or director or whatever.

I was thinking though that this realllllly doesn’t happen with anime. Except I might be wrong (so hopefully I will get feedback on this).

One big reason I might be wrong is that I’m not fluent (or even competent, really) in Japanese. Since all there really is of the seiyuu in anime is their voices, I’m obviously not going to think of anime this way when there are only maybe one or two seiyuu whose voices I can even readily identify. So it’s hard for me to even be a fan of specific seiyuu, because I don’t often think things like “that seiyuu specifically really made that role awesome.” Actually about the only time I’ve had that experience was with Mai Otome where Tomoe should so obviously have been a trite and stupid villain, but Rie Tanaka somehow made her so ridiculous she was awesome.

One big reason I might be right is that I’m not sure the actors are as focal in anime as they are in live film, simply because they’re less visible. The focus, from my perspective, seems to be either on the production house or, in the case of adaptations, on the original author. Since directors (is this really true? I think it’s true, but I haven’t looked extensively) tend to work exclusively for a single production house, the studio gets as much identification as the director. Particularly when a production house uses the same animation team a lot and establishes a visual style (GAINAX, KyoAni) it becomes easy to identify production houses with anime, because the animation itself, rather than a particular actor, is then in the forefront. It may also be that the seiyuu just aren’t used as the center-of-attention to market anime in the same way Hollywood Stars are for their movies, but I don’t have the proper perspective to really say.

I think I have more to say about this, but that’s all for now.

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A Legendary Hero Returns

July 1, 2006 at 3:35 am (Movies)

I watched Superman Returns tonight. It was really good until it got to the major crisis, and then it was pretty normal fare. Basically, it ran out my quota for Steel Girder Bendy Noises after a certain point. At first glance, Superman is an emokid. He has an emo haircut. He wears emo glasses. He’s an orphan. The girl he likes is boinking another guy. Of course, he’s not really an emokid. Becuase he’s superman. If he were an emokid, it would not have been necessary to spend several hours making sure that his wang was not so enormous that it frightened away children. Probably spoilers after the cut.

The world needs Nyansaburo

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