Saturday, January 29, 2011

Live Action Manga Blues [What Won't Be Covered]

Perhaps before charging headlong into my exploration of the dearth of memorable live action manga/anime output that has come out of Japan in recent years, perhaps it is best to just go ahead and let folks in on exactly what I won't be covering. As long as japanese cinema & tv has been around, the comics world has been a somewhat common well to often be mined by the big studios. And since comics in Japan meant a lot more than merely superheroes, there has been a fascinating wealth of mentionable movie versions. Some good, some not-so-good. The point is, that aside from the animation industry's love of animating popular manga titles, and having a certain edge over the live action community, this has been a long accepted staple of popular movies.

Some of which have significant fan followings regardless of the limits that low budget live action often provide. And a lot of this naturally lies with the choice of content.

We won't be talking about some of the earliest adaptations like the 1962 attempt at bringing Tetsuwan Atomu to life, nor will we go into the ever popular
Lone Wolf And Cub , or the scuzzy fantastic of the Sasori films. The latter as much as I've enjoyed them in the past, is a fitting title that works in those films as there is a historical grounding that allows us to better accept the stories. Where my interest lies in finding the enjoyment in bringing the wild, unrestrained nature of manga to life in this more fluid medium. So perhaps now one can see where this is all going to go...

There's a language in live action film that can get lost when dealing with the often hyperbolic nature of japanese comics, a medium that sprouts beyond mere concepts such as panels, and seems to leap from the page as if the paper itself can't contain the visuals. And now considering the bizarre & vibrant directions manga took come the 1970s, the film community must have salivated at the idea of taking on some works before considering the iconographic necessities of said works. Whether the film be yet another fun tokusatsu spin on a famous title, or even a gritty, violent celebration of one perennial badass or another , the films of the 60s - 90s covered the gamut of film interpretations whether or not the source material begs to be made live.

Some examples?

Try HAUSU director, Nobuhiko Obayashi when he took his loopy sensibilities to tell a bizarrely international co-ed version of Kazuo Umezzu's legendary horror epic, The Drifting Classroom(Hyoori Kyooshitsu). A landmark of awkward.

(So, if your head hasn't completely exploded, let's move on.)

Also near this time, comes the ever puzzling initial version of Takahashi's
seinen favorite, Maison Ikkoku.

-Now one may be thinking that Ikkoku doesn't follow my train of thought. In an odd way, it is one of those rare instances where despite the world of the manga, there's something about it going live action that somehow feels false. A strange inversion of reality takes place, which can be argued will become an issue with later films.

The treatment of manga in live form is such an insurmountably difficult achievement to pull off, which is why it is that we have seen so many fall by the wayside with the occasional moment, or laugh. And more likely than not, this is either due to technical limitations, or as in many adaptations made here in the US, a lack of understanding what connected readers to the original work in the first place. So many elements come into that manner of play that can be lost on film. (calling nearly every single video game adaptation to date) And so, we'll be looking more into adaptations made in a time where CG and special effects have eliminated one part of the limits, thereby leaving the one remaining question to the bulk of these films, "why do they still not work?"

We will be checking out several "big scale" productions that have surfaced within and after the anime boom of the late 90s-2000s in hopes of finding out what happened.

And, as tempting as the notion may be..We will be avoiding Rapeman.


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