So as we all know, anime and manga have made a huge impact in the West, so what does that mean for the future of how anime are produced? Normally anime are made in a very standard method. A light novel becomes popular enough to make a manga and then is hopefully adapted into an anime. But now there is another step in the process – Hollywood.
What does this mean for anime? Well depending on how “nerdy” big enough directors, actress/actors, or writers are, they could be pretty fast projects. Or you could always get some unknown actors/actresses and make a movie loosely based on the anime, which is adapted from the manga in the first place.
Even though many anime forums and groups basically blow up every time one of these movies comes out with hatred. Even though they receive general admonition, they keep getting pumped out and in greater quantity. But why do “they” keep making these movies if they are considered flops? Well it’s just that, they are only “considered” flops.
For instance, the 2017 Ghost in the Shell live action Hollywood film starring Scarlett Johnansson was given a budget of $110 million USD, and grossed just under $200 million USD globally. Not a “major” success to be sure, but it still profited nearly $90 million USD after all is said and done (2).
The above chart (1) shows the international gross of the 2017 Ghost in the Shell film from most major audiences (in countries that grossed over two million US dollars). Aside from these countries, the film made about $72 million USD from the rest of the world. Being the type of movie it is, it is no surprise that China and the US would be the top two countries to support the film. Both of those markets have an insatiable appetite for anything action related (see any statistic on action movie grossing in the last 15 years).
This proves the newer Hollywood model to be a success. Why make a $25 million USD film that will gross twice its budget when you could double that scale easily? It seems that if enough money is thrown at casting and marketing, a substantial profit stands to be made.
And streaming services such as Netflix have taken serious interest in TV or film adaptations. As of writing this article, Netflix has nearly a dozen original anime series and has plans for many more. Though the adaptations of Fullmetal Alchemist and Death Note were met with much criticism, Netflix doesn’t release its viewing statistics, so there’s no way of knowing whether they were commercial successes or not. However, the fact that the company has greenlit a full live action series for Sword Art Online shows they still have confidence in the project.
Another example of this trend towards almost instantaneously greenlight is the CW’s streaming model. The president of CBS (The parent company of CW) said in an interview, “The CW as an entity may lose some money. However, CW is owned by two companies that produce the shows.” (3)
In the realm of media production, this is talking about viewership and permanent viewers. If a company has enough funds at hand, it is a smart and viable move to make a live action adaptation of just about anything, as long as the long-term plan is tight
Anime and Manga have been steadily and exponentially gaining popularity in international markets. This means that their benchmarks for “corruption” are moving steadily closer. But despite what the internet might tell you, these films are generally big successes.
Getting back to my previous example, Ghost in the Shell the movie made almost a third total sale from Chinese markets alone. This shows the power and sticking point of these untapped markets. Well, what I saw as untapped from a Westerners’ point of view. To be fair, the Chinese box office has certainly become a deciding factor in movie production (see above graph).
Another example, Oldboy was a huge box office phenomenon, even though the initial budget was only around $3 million USD (4), the film grossed nearly five times that initial cost. And many fans (including myself) were unaware that this was a manga adaptation. If the proper creative team is attached to the project, anything is possible.
Posit for a moment that these movies were proposed about 10 years ago, securing funding for them would be tenuous at best. The audience wouldn’t be ready, is what the producers would say, hypothetically. But as the times change so too does the pendulum swing.
And my how the pendulum has swung. After the big anime boom in the 1990’s, the whole world has been obsessed with any new media to come out of Japan since then. The era of Japanophilia is striking, and the time is now.
To be clear here, as I asserted earlier, the normal production procedure for animes is light novel to manga to anime (typically). But with the Western Hollywood paradigm thrown into the mix, there is now another step to adaptation fulfilment, the live action. So the big question from here is whether or not these animes will consistently pull such talent, or will they just be another phase in fantasy storytelling?
So far, the films have done as well as their budgets. At this point does anyone really need to throw too much money at a film project to perhaps make too much money? Perhaps not, however this is what is proven to make out in the end.
From the perspective of a fan of anime, I understand many people’s frustration from the lackluster live action adaptations that have plagued the small and large screen, but if one strictly goes by the numbers, it is a pretty obvious choice. Treating these like big-budget films removes them somewhat from the anime realm and places them in the realm of Hollywood, thusly opening them up to the same audiences as Hollywood movies. All with the right production.