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Popular Anime That Is Too Messed Up For Hollywood

Hollywood has an embarrassingly poor track record when it comes to adapting anime properties for the silver screen, and if the negative reaction to the recent Scarlett Johansson led version of Ghost in the Shell is anything to go by, that trend looks set to continue. 

Studios big and small recognize a gold mine when they see one, however, and Tinseltown execs aren't going to abandon their attempts to find the right approach to anime remakes anytime soon. There are a number of adaptations currently in development stateside, but what producers need to realize before they waste even more money and put us viewers though yet more torture is that some properties simply aren't compatible with the Hollywood formula. 

The reasons for this vary, ranging from settings that are simply too Japanese to Americanize, to unique visuals that no amount of CGI can recreate, but a lot of the time, anime is just too weird for western sensibilities. Here are some of the biggest examples of anime that's way too messed up for Hollywood.

Kill La Kill

If you're unfamiliar with the anime term "fan service," you'll understand exactly what it means after a few episodes of Kill La Kill. Essentially, fan service is when anime makers unapologetically pander to the male demographic and put their female characters in the skimpiest outfits their imaginations can muster. In terms of Kill La Kill's heroine Ryuko, a schoolgirl hunting down her father's killer, the word skimpy doesn't go far enough—she might as well be wearing nothing at all.

Ryuko's get-up is so revealing that when a cosplayer turned up to an event dressed like her, the police were called. Yet, despite the objectification of female characters and an underlying misogynistic tone, Kill La Kill became one of the biggest shows of 2014. Its popularity was in part due to its notoriety, though many anime fans defended the show on the grounds of its frenetic animation style and old-school, big-scale fight scenes.

So couldn't Hollywood just throw a cardigan on Ryuko and get on with the job of adapting this bloody revenge tale for American audiences? Well, an excess of cleavage and up-skirt shots aren't the only issue in this messed up anime. Ryuko's kinky battle armor (which was designed by her father, no less) is actually a sentient alien being that feeds on her blood and gives her the strength needed to wield her weapon, a giant scissor blade. There's simply too much weirdness going on here for Hollywood to give this property a second thought.

Prison School

On the surface, the strangely addictive Prison School seems like the kind of property that might have actually tempted Hollywood studios back when dystopian teen flicks were all the rage, but the way this anime shows its young characters struggling against the injustice of their situation is nothing like The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, or any other movie of that ilk. In fact, those films might as well be fairytales in comparison.

Like so many modern anime, Prison School takes a swipe at the state of Japan's education system and highlights the way it can alienate those students most in need of attention. This adaptation of Akira Hiramoto's original manga series follows five boys who get accepted into a prestigious school that was formerly only available to female students. After almost immediately getting caught peeping in the girl's locker room, the boys are thrown in the school's own prison, the conditions of which make Guantanamo Bay seem like a Caribbean holiday resort.

Teenage boys banged up in prison doesn't seem all that shocking, but their incarceration gets nasty pretty quickly. All five get routinely beat, spat, and even peed on by the members of the mafia-like Underground Student Council, often for sexual gratification. There's plenty of dark humor to be had and the animation is pretty much flawless, though despite its popularity in Japan, Hollywood isn't likely to consider buying the rights to a show that blends high school life with BDSM anytime soon.

No Game No Life

The overwhelming popularity of Reki Kawahari's light novel Sword Art Online and the subsequent anime adaptation has not only been responsible for a boom in MMORPG (massively multi-player online role-playing game) themed anime, but also paved the way for advances in real life virtual reality gaming. A live-action series is currently being developed for U.S. television, but for one popular SAO imitator, the prospects of an offer from Hollywood are slim to none.

No Game No Life is the story of Sora and his little sister Shiro, two reclusive gamers who are transported to a world called Disboard by the God of Gaming after they defeat him in a game of chess. Once there, the siblings launch a plan to keep their unbeaten record intact, with the goal being to usurp to reigning god and take over. The story in itself is pretty standard in the emerging MMORPG genre, though the relationship between Sora and his little sister raises numerous red flags.

Shiro is what is known as a 'loli' character, which essentially means an underage girl (she is identified as being just 11 in the anime) who is sexualized in some shape or form. 'Lolita complex' is widespread in Japan and often brings condemnation from the international community, but despite recent changes to child pornography laws, it remains common in anime. BBC journalist Stacey Dooley attempted to address the issue in a recent documentary, though anime fans reacted angrily to her accusations that they encourage child abuse.

Sekkou Boys

Another sub-genre that has seen a surge in popularity in the last few years is the idol anime, shows that are based on the real life phenomenon of Japanese idol groups, manufactured groups of youngsters (usually comprised of young girls) that perform cute pop songs, appear on TV shows, and act as general role models to their fans. Sekkou Boys was recently named among the best idol anime of all time by My Anime List, but it is also one of the most bizarre, idol or otherwise.

The show follows the exploits of Miki Ishimoto, a recent graduate who lands a dream job managing an all new idol group. Doesn't sound that unusual, does it? Well, take into account that this idol group is made up of four Greco-Roman busts, and think again. Yes, you read that correctly. "This is probably one of the most bizarre shows that I have seen in my life," one confused anime fan said. "Talking Roman statues as your Japanese idols?! Are you freakin' kidding me?"

Singing stone busts Saint Giorgio, Medici, Hermes, and Mars take the idol world by storm with Miki's help, which mainly involves wheeling them from gig to gig in a wheelbarrow. Some anime just do not lend themselves well to live-action adaptation, and Sekkou Boys is most certainly one of them. The offbeat humor and crazy set up that made this unique show so popular would undoubtedly be lost in the transition to the big screen.

Elfen Lied

Elfen Lied first aired back in the autumn 2004 season, though this highly visceral adaption of Lynn Okamoto's manga series only came to the attention of western audiences at large after the success of Netflix show Stranger Things. Just like the Duffer Brothers hit, Elfen Lied follows a girl with mysterious powers as she escapes experimentation at a government facility and wreaks havoc on her captors. The sibling creators of Stranger Things were quick to acknowledge the show as an influence after comparisons were drawn in early trailers.

"I didn't realize anyone had even seen that anime," Matt Duffer told The Hollywood Reporter. "That's an older [series], it's very, very violent though, so in that way it's very different. But, a girl who escapes from a laboratory—it reminded me when I watched it of a very violent, anime-ish E.T." In essence, the Duffers took elements of Elfen Lied and watered them down with '80s nostalgia, and the end product (while undeniably enjoyable in its own right) is as close to a Hollywood adaptation of Elfen Lied we are ever likely to see.

There's too much violence of a physical and sexual nature for Lucy's story to make it to the screen intact, and there is one pivotal moment in particular that would alone be enough to give Hollywood execs nightmare—a scene in which Lucy's puppy is beat to death by bullies. It makes the subsequent brutal murder of her tormentors satisfying to watch, but animal lovers beware.

Midori: Shoujo Tsubaki

Shoujo Tsubaki is a character from Japanese folklore, the daughter of a poor family who is snatched from the streets while out selling flowers. There are countless variations on Shoujo's tale, but the one best known to audiences at home in Japan, and indeed around the world, was created by Suehiro Maruo, whose graphic novel was released in English as Mr. Arashi's Amazing Freak Show. While the author's work caused a stir at the time, it was nothing compared to the reaction to the 1992 anime.

Hiroshi Harada's Midori: Shoujo Tsubaki is an independent anime film based on Maruo's graphic novels and comics, put together using pans and zooms of the characters with some basic additional animation by Harada (who used his own life savings to fund the project). The final product was a jarring experience, made so by the large amount of disturbing abuse scenes cut and destroyed by the Japanese government at the time. "For most with a weak stomach to this sort of thing, animated or otherwise, this is definitely not something to check out," one reviewer wrote. "It seems the Japanese Government thought the same thing."

While Hollywood is unlikely to ever set sights on adapting this thoroughly creepy horror for American audiences, Japanese filmmakers recently decided to bring Shoujo to life in a live-action based on Marou's comics. The trailer (which, if you aren't easily weirded-out, you can see here) perfectly captures the bizarre depravity that turned this anime into a cult classic.


Kinnikuman was first conceived by writer Takashi Shimada and artist Yoshinori Nakai (who work together under the name Yudetamago, Japanese for "Boiled Egg") back when they went to high school in Osaka together. The pair moved to Tokyo to try and get their manga made after they were presented with an offer from the capital. "Our editor at the time promised to find us jobs if we couldn't make it as manga artists," the pair revealed, though in the end it never came to that, as Kinnikuman proved a huge hit.

While it initially started out as a parody of '60s sci-fi series Ultraman, Kinnikuman (literally "Muscle Man") was largely influenced by the rise in popularity of pro-wrestling in Japan. The story follows the missing prince of planet Kinniku as he attempts to prove himself worthy of his title through wrestling competitions with other Chojin ("Super Men"), all of whom are embodiments of the places they represent: Ramenman represented China, Warsman was Russian, and so on.

So, why did this anime never make it to the U.S., despite the branded action figures flooding American toy stores at the time? It probably had something to do with German Chojin Brockenman, a full-fledged Nazi who would wrestle in full SS garb complete with swastikas. The fact that they attempted to make his son Brocken Jr. a "good Nazi" was even worse in many ways, and despite its cult status in Japan, Kinnikuman is way off the Hollywood radar.

Mysterious Girlfriend X

Teenagers. They fall in love hard and at times have questionable levels of personal hygiene, and this anime combines these two traits to skin-crawling effect. Equal parts engrossing and just plain gross, Mysterious Girlfriend X is the unconventional love story of 16 year old Akira and his loner classmate Mikoto, two teens who bond over something rather unusual—spit. Things start out like any regular romance anime, but soon take a turn for the messed up when Akira decides to taste Mikoto's drool as she naps.

"It is safe to say that the core concept of which this anime is built on—the saliva mind meld—is pretty obscure, if not totally weird," one anime fan said. "However, although Mysterious Girlfriend X goes to the absolute extremes of weirdness in some areas, it is perhaps the single most realistic in others." Realistic or not, Hollywood execs aren't about to get excited over a love affair based on a saliva fetish, no matter how well received it has been in Japan. Plus, you'd be hard pressed to find a pair of actors willing to spit in each other's mouths.

That hasn't stopped anime fans from wanting to see more animated weirdness, however. Only a single season exists right now, despite plenty of unused material in Riichi Ueshiba's original manga, which started as a one-shot in 2004 before being serialized in Afternoon magazine a few years later. A petition was started to bring Mysterious Girlfriend X back, though studio Hoods Entertainment has yet to oblige.


Translating to English as 'Empty Can', the utterly bizarre Akikan takes place in a world where anthropomorphic soda cans do battle to determine which type of drinks container is superior: steel or aluminum. Caught up in this perplexing soda war is high school student Kakeru, a collector of rare soda containers who is taken by surprise when his can of melon soda transforms into a buxom human girl.

Melon (who's made of steel, in case you were wondering) needs to be regularly infused with carbon dioxide if she is to survive as a human and defeat her competitors in the Akikan Select tournament, and Kakeru (being an eager virgin like the majority of protagonists in these type of seinen anime) is more than willing to help. It isn't just the super-weird concept of this show that makes it a no-no for Hollywood, however, it is the depiction of the gay tournament organizer.

"To make sure we understand the guy is homosexual, the first thing we see is a clock with 'I like men' written on the surface," THEM Anime said in their review. "He licks his lips seductively and laughs evilly, just to make sure we remember that he's gay and evil." The way gay characters are portrayed in some anime would shock many western viewers, though Yuri on ICE (which cleaned up at the 2016 Crunchyroll anime awards) broke boundaries with a romantic relationship between two male characters, a move that will make anime fandom more inclusive going forward according to Anime Feminist.