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Anime You Didn't Know Have Upcoming Live Action Remakes

The bad reviews and disappointing returns posted by the 2017 live-action remake of Ghost in the Shell should serve as a stark reminder to Hollywood that adapting anime for the silver screen isn't as straightforward as most other mediums. The west has an incredibly poor record when it comes to remaking anime in its own image (nobody should ever have to sit through the comically bad 1995 live-action Fist of the North Star), yet despite the many setbacks over the years, studios are still determined to get it right—not out of pride or the urge to build cultural bridges, but because they recognize a goldmine when they see one.

While it certainly doesn't look as though it'll happen anytime soon, audiences will tire of superhero movies at some point, which will leave Hollywood in need of a new cherry tree to pick. The world of anime and manga (the comic-style publications most anime are based on) is just as in-depth as the American comic book universe, providing plenty of opportunities for new and potentially highly lucrative franchises. Keen to get ahead of the curve, a number of U.S. studios have anime adaptations in production right now—though as you're about to discover, Hollywood isn't the only movie industry determined to cash in on anime.


A live-action remake of cult mecha series Gaiking is currently being developed by Valhalla Entertainment, one of the companies behind AMC's The Walking Dead. Valhalla founder Gale Anne Hurd (who produced The Terminator and Aliens while married to director James Cameron) struck a deal to adapt the property in December 2012, and teaser footage that owners Toei Animation had been developing was released to get some hype going soon after.

Meanwhile, Hurd did her part in promoting the remake, telling press she was "extremely excited to be working on Gaiking," the production of which she said marked "a huge step forward in adapting one of the best Japanese intellectual properties for a global audience." The original show ran from 1976 to 1977 and follows the young pilot of the titular super robot as he attempts to shield Earth from an invading extraterrestrial army known as Dark Horror. No further news on cast or a director have been announced since those initial reports, but a Deadline news item listed the film as still being actively developed as recently as 2016.

​Alita: Battle Angel

James Cameron is producing an adaptation of '90s cyberpunk classic Battle Angel Alita, which has been in the cards for some time. The Terminator director was first introduced to Yukito Kishiro's manga series by Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro—who, knowing Cameron's body of work, thought he'd be interested in remaking it. Laeta Kalogridis (Terminator: Genisys) was brought on board to pen the script, and her knowledge of the property helped bring the remake to life.

"Laeta brought to our attention that there was much more to this world of Battle Angel than we ever knew," Cameron's co-producer Jon Landau admitted. "We were familiar with the anime that had been produced, we were familiar with one of the main books. But she opened us up to the other nine books that exist, and how rich that world is."

Robert Rodriguez has directed the picture (which has already wrapped and is on course for a July 2018 release, according to Empire) and it stars Maze Runner's Rosa Salazar as Alita, a cyborg who's recovered from a scrap heap by a cybernetics professor (Christoph Waltz) and rebuilt into a deadly bounty hunter. Michelle Rodriguez and Jennifer Connelly round out the supporting cast.


Anime fans got an early Christmas present in 2016, when respected manga mag Shonen Jump revealed that a Hollywood remake of Naruto was in the works. They confirmed that Lionsgate were the studio behind it and that Michael Gracey (best known for his work in visual effects and animation) had been hired to direct this new take on Masashi Kishimoto's classic manga. In terms of anime, the original Naruto series consisted of 220 episodes, and Naruto: Shippuden (adapted from the second part of Kishimoto's series) aired a whopping 500 installments, so they certainly aren't short on material should Naruto develop into a franchise. And considering who's producing, that's a very real possibility.

Co-founder and former chief executive of Marvel Studios Avi Arad was one of the founding fathers of what would become the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and if anyone knows how to transition from print to the screen, it's him. Wary of superhero fatigue among audiences, he went looking for a new angle. "I've done comics to film, it was very successful," he said. "I felt we need something new." That something new was manga, and Naruto is shaping up to be something special according to his son and partner Ari, who said they're working on creating an "incredibly visual and cool world."


The Hollywood adaptation of Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira has been in development hell for so long that it's almost become a thing of legend, though recent stirrings about the hunt for a new director have raised eyebrows again. News of a remake first broke in 2002, when Warner Bros. acquired the rights and brought Stephen Norrington (Blade) on board to direct. Norrington pledged to make a film that "preserves the tone, the visual and the epic scope of the original whilst telling a somewhat more accessible story," though he never got the chance, as production was put on hold. A mixture of script, casting and budget issues set it back over the next decade, and it was finally called off in 2012 with WB axing it as part of studio cutbacks.

Rumors that the studio were finally ready to take things forward with Akira began popping up again last year when Justin Lin was apparently in the frame to direct, though subsequent rumors placed Jordan Peele at the top of WB's wishlist. He ultimately passed on the project, but the studio is clearly motivated to make something happen.

Tiger and Bunny

Tiger and Bunny started out as a one-shot published in 2011 that went on to be serialized as a manga and then adapted into an anime series—all within the space of a year. Producer/director Ron Howard was first attached to the project in late 2015, when it was announced that his Imagine Entertainment would join with Bandai Namco Pictures to produce the live-action remake, much to the dismay of some fans of the popular anime. "Some of you may feel uneasy about this. Because as we know, not all movies produced from anime have been done well." Masaaki Nozaki of Bandai Namco said. "But for this Tiger and Bunny live-action movie, I just have two words: Trust us."

The story takes place in a fictional version of New York City known as Stern Bild City, where people known as NEXTs (Noted Entities with Extraordinary Talents) have started developing superpowers. Given Hollywood's obsession with superhero properties right now, Tiger and Bunny could potentially do big things, but it will need to be adapted very carefully so as not to lose the elements that made the show such a hit. That job has fallen to up and coming screenwriter Ellen Shanman, who Howard called the "perfect match to adapt this wildly popular story for new audiences."

​Fullmetal Alchemist

Unlike many upcoming anime adaptations, Warner Bros.' Fullmetal Alchemist live-action remake is being shot with a Japanese cast speaking in its native tongue—which is a tad ironic (especially after the Ghost in the Shell controversy), considering the story's set in the fictional country of Amestris, which was loosely based on 19th century Europe, and features plenty of non-Japanese characters. "I want to create a style that follows the original manga as much as possible," said director Fumihiko Sori (who also helmed the live-action version of sports anime Ping Pong). "The cast is entirely Japanese, but the cultural background is Europe. However, it's a style that doesn't represent a specific race or country. There will never be a scene in which a character says something that would identify him/her as Japanese."

Reaction to live-action anime remakes in Japan has been much the same as it's been in the west—underwhelming. High-profile remakes of popular properties such as Assassination Classroom have failed to deliver on the hype and Japanese fans are fearing the worst for Fullmetal Alchemist (rated the second-best anime of all time on My Anime List), which is due out in December of 2017. The film will follow the plot of Hiromu Arakawa's original manga, which takes place in a world where alchemy exists and follows the plight of State Alchemists Edward and Alphonse Elric.


Despite Netflix beating Hollywood to the punch with the first season of their critically acclaimed animated reboot series Voltron: Legendary Defender in 2016, a live-action feature-length remake of the classic '80s show is still being developed. Voltron was the brainchild of the late Peter Keefe, who decided to buy the licensing rights to giant robot-based Japanese shows "Beast King Go-Lion" and "Armored Fleet Dairugger XV" when he saw an opportunity to market them in the States. He cobbled together a brand new show by splicing the footage together and overdubbing with some English dialogue, creating new stories in the process.

DreamWorks acquired the rights to a live-action Voltron film years ago, but when the studio was bought out by Universal toward the end of 2016 the project ended up in temporary limbo. Once they had their house in order, Universal announced that they still intended to make Voltron and that David Hayter (X-Men, Watchmen) had been brought on board to pen the screenplay. Still no word on who'll direct, though.

​Ajin: Demi Human

Speaking of Netflix, their anime game seems to be on point: their original series based on Gamon Sakurai's popular manga Ajin: Demi Human has been remade into a live-action movie in Japan. The film will follow the same plot as the anime and the manga before it, based on a young man named Kei Nagai who gets hit by a truck and comes back to life on the spot. He soon realizes he's what is known as an Ajin—an immortal demi-human. Before long he finds himself dragged into a war between the humans and the so-called mutants, lead by the revolutionary (or terrorist, depending on your perspective) Sato.

Due to be released across Japan in September of 2017, the Ajin movie will be directed by Katsuyuki Motohiro (Psycho Pass) and stars Takeru Satoh (who has played the title role in all three Japanese live-action adaptations of Rurouni Kenshin). Because of Satoh's age, protagonist Kei has been changed from a high schooler to a medical student in the film. The Asian A-lister has reunited with the action team he worked with on the Rurouni Kenshin movies, some of the most successful examples of anime being adapted to live-action at home in Japan.


Robotech marks another US anime made from existing Japanese shows—three in all. Created by Carl Macek (who was directly responsible for the popularization of anime in the States, according to CEO and editor of Anime News Network Christopher Macdonald) took parts of Macross, Southern Cross and Mospeada and spliced them together. The first and most highly regarded season of Robotech was mainly adapted from Macross, however, something attached director James Wan (Furious 7) knows all too well. As well as mentioning the importance of the Macross saga in an interview last year, Wan talked about "being respectful to the origin material while finding a way to make it fit into this new world that we live in."

The film suffered a setback when Warner Bros. had disagreements with rights holders Harmony Gold, who weren't comfortable with the way the big studio were handling the property and decided to shack up with Sony instead. "Sony is very pro Robotech," Harmony Gold's Kevin McKeever revealed recently. "They're very engaged to the point where we're really talking with them, which did not happen with the previous studio." There are no official production dates or cast to announce as of yet, but we do know Sony ordered a page one rewrite of the script. "It's a clean slate," Tommy Yune, also of Harmony Gold, said. "It may share commonality in that it is based on the original series, however, the writers are taking a different approach to it."

Attack on Titan

Hajime Isayama's beautifully brutal manga Attack on Titan had a whopping 66 million copies in circulation as of April 2017, and that number is likely to rise if Warner Bros. can bring their planned live-action English language adaptation to fruition. The property (set in a fictional world in which humanity lives in a huge walled-off city, their last defense against the man-eating giant Titans) has already been adapted into a two-part movie in Japan, and while part one "holds up completely as its own work of art divorced from the source material," part two was bashed by critics and failed to match its predecessor at the box office. Despite this, Warner Bros. intends to remake these two films rather than adapt their own version directly from the original manga, according to Deadline.

Their exclusive report claims Warners is locked in negotiations over the remake rights, with Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts producer David Heyman said to be lined up to take charge of the project, though if it does come off, it's likely to be sidelined until Akira finally sees the light of day. If the studio fails to strike a deal over Attack on Titan, others will soon be lining up to make their own pitch and a Hollywood remake seems like merely a matter of time.