What live-action anime adaptations screw up and how to fix it – The Varsity

Making an adjustment is difficult.

As a creator, you must justify the existence of a new version of a popular media franchise while placating the ravenous hordes of fans willing to tear up your creation because you didn’t fit the community’s preconceived notion of the piece.

That being said, some adjustments just fall completely flat on her face. In my opinion, no media genre is more to blame for this than anime. For this article, I put myself through the hellish experience of watching some pretty bad live-action anime adaptations to examine why they seem to keep failing.

Someone please write my name in this notebook

When I first thought of anime, I thought of death notice. It seemed like a really good entry point if someone wanted to start watching anime; It has compelling characters and an interesting concept where if you write in a supernatural notebook someone dies. Of course, I decided to start with the live-action adaptation, which is a film rather than a TV series.

Oh dear God.

It was awful.

The acting was drier than a box of crackers left in the Sahara. On closer inspection, the plot was thinly strung together at best. The worst part of the whole thing, however, was the perversion of the core characters and the removal of the terrifying element of the Death Note.

The character of Light Turner – known as Light Yagami in the anime – is the clearest example of this perversion. In the anime, Light Yagami is a cold, calculating sociopath who routinely uses and discards people. In the live-action adaptation, Light Turner is an overly hormonal, easily manipulated teenager. Worse, they eliminate Yagami’s zeal and unwavering belief that he must rid the world of criminals and those he deems evil.

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This character change takes away a lot of the fun that is present in the anime. As you watch each episode, you keep asking yourself, “How far will Yagami go?” And the answer is “far, very far.” But in live action, that’s just not there.

Even more shameful is how the live-action sheds what makes the Death Note so damn terrifying: its supernatural power to kill anyone at any time. The first time viewers see Yagami use the Death Note in the anime, he uses it on a criminal on the news who has taken a daycare hostage. Although Yagami initially dismisses the notebook as a prank, he soon changes his mind when the criminal drops dead of a heart attack.

In contrast, Turner’s first victim dies by beheading, and the scene depicting the death is comical. The tyrant is killed in a mix of Rube Goldberg machine style events and butterfly effect, leading to his decapitation. Instead of emphasizing the Death Note’s power, the scene discredits it.

If Netflix live action were more faithful to the main characters and adhered to the terrifying supernatural element of the death notice, it could have been a better live-action play. Packing the story into an hour and forty minute film didn’t add to the quality either.

Time to wrestle some cattle

Live action from Netflix Cowboy Bebop TV series suffer from the same problems as that death notice Movie: Character changes affecting the overall feel of the story. This is most evident in the anime’s antagonists, Vicious and Julia.

For one, the Netflix series tries to portray Vicious in a more sympathetic light by showing how he was abused by his father, which then turned him into the psychopath we see on screen.

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But that’s not possible. The reason Vicious’ character works so well in the anime is that he is completely dispassionate and power hungry. In the anime, Vicious tries to get revenge on Spike – the protagonist of Cowboy Bebop – for taking Julia away from him and leaving the Red Dragon Crime Syndicate, the criminal organization they both worked for, Vicious cares about Julia for control: If I can’t have her, he seems to think nobody can.

In the live-action, Julia stays with Vicious for fear that he would otherwise kill her. This changes the dynamic between Vicious and Spike, as Vicious is no longer a dispassionate force, but is instead driven by emotion: his “love” for Julia. He becomes more of an overly emotional male child than the cold killer he was meant to be.

Which brings us to Julia. While it’s good that the live-action makes her an active character – if someone is being followed, they should probably respond to it more actively – it messes up the original source material and therefore requires a whole new story to be written.

The story Netflix has come up with isn’t good, which becomes even clearer when you compare it to the anime’s story.

I should have studied alchemy

Our final entry in this pain saga is Netflix’s live-action adaptation Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. All in all it wasn’t that bad. It didn’t have the charm of the 2009 anime, but the special effects helped hold it together.

What bothers me is the fact that they didn’t do anything interesting with the characters at all. During Netflix live action death notice and Cowboy Bebop try to do something different with their characters and their story, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood Not. The main characters Edward and Alphonse Elric are unchanged, as are the majority of the supporting cast, with the exception of Shou Tucker.

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I welcomed the change in Tucker’s character, but there were also some important issues. In the 2009 anime, he was designed as a character who was only to be present for one episode to help the Elric brothers in their quest to find their original corpse. In the live-action, he remains alive until near the end of the film.

While Tucker’s persistence allowed the characters to jump from one plot point to the next in a way that differed from the 2009 anime, it felt like an odd deviation in the story, and it flattened out as the storyline progressed.

Interestingly, the failures of all three of these customizations are focused on characters. Either the writers didn’t consider how their changes to the characters would affect the story, or they didn’t do anything to them at all, leaving the adaptation feeling hollow and shallow.

But maybe this can be a cautionary tale for future adjustments. Perhaps it will push writers to examine an anime’s established personalities and use them to create original works from popular franchises. And if that doesn’t happen, then I would at least recommend you hate these movies for the laughter and entertainment value.

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