Watching/Reading Other Media Using “Anime Goggles”

harry potter manga style

While remaining a fan of cinema, television, novels, short stories, and manga, the past three years I’ve consumed more anime (both in terms of shows I’ve watched for the first time, and repeat viewings) than all other kinds of entertainment put together. A lot of things contributed to this, such as having divergent tastes in film and television between my wife and myself: she can only watch happy things (unless they’re crime/suspense/police procedural TV shows which I don’t really care for), while I like bitter, tragic, violent, and disturbing stuff.

As such I’ve found myself watching a whole lot of anime by myself and thus my rapid and voracious consumption. I’ve pretty much figured out why I like anime so much. It all comes down to this: a love for Japanese style illustrations. I like the proportions, the storyboarding, the angles and perspective. This should explain my preference of manga over the American comics I grew up with. But for animation, it’s an extension of this. I love to see these illustrations move. I like these silhouettes, profiles, and figures move through space in complex ways, with speed and power.

This is why I really like action, fighting shows, and in this matter I believe robot anime makes for its grandest possibility. But I’m not here to talk about robot anime. Instead I’ve found myself watching TV and cinema trying to imagine the media expressed as animation. I wonder constantly if it would work. It’s almost second nature now that I want to ask you about your own thoughts. Do you find yourself doing this?

Just now I’ve watched the recent film Shaolin featuring Andy Lau, with Jackie Chan and the lovely Fan Bingbing playing supporting roles. I thought it would make for a thrilling anime, despite its reliance on the very expressive faces of its cast to communicate the dramatic content (the non-battle related drama, that is). As for the battles, I imagine that the wide angle shots featuring large battles will be trimmed and tightened up – and instead concentrated on a few “featured” fights that demonstrate the ability of the fighters.

The way this will play out will be similar to 2007 BONES film Sword of the Stranger which to me features some of the very best action sequences. It does have my favorite sword duel in all media; something I wouldn’t think anime could do given how much easier it’d be to just choreograph and film skilled humans. For those who have seen the film, or do not mind spoilers, here are the scenes with truly outstanding action animation:

You can avoid spoiling yourself if you watch only half of the clip. Of course, it’s difficult to imagine adapting cinema into anime TV series, so I’d only match films to films. Live action TV series rely more on actor performances and dialogue rather than action, and this doesn’t make for good anime I think. A lot of anime still has mostly moving mouths and blinking eyes to carry dialogue. The voice performances tend to be exaggerated speech – much like how cartoon characters in American TV cartoons speak. I’m not even sure American animated films are free from this kind of vocal delivery.

I am quite limited to Disney/PIXAR in my experience (except really old Rankin Bass films which I poorly remember: Flight of the Dragons, The Last Unicorn), but I’m fairly confident that a Persian princess does not talk like Jasmine from Aladdin, nor does a Dutch Mermaid talk like Ariel from The Little Mermaid. Same goes with more normal settings like the old men in Up!  Even I have American geezer friends and they don’t talk like that. Point is, TV series as presently constructed don’t make for good anime in my mind…

Just as I don’t think Cowboy Bebop fits the standard TV live action production. It would cost way too much, because since it is anime, it’s an action-packed series with dog fights, gunfights, martial arts brawls, duels, and running only at 20 minutes per episode.

Winter is coming yo.

But I look at A Game of Thrones and wonder if it’d make for good anime, especially since there’s the format done by the Broken Blade series of films. I think it could work, though it’d have to amp up the action and violence to the point of having a set piece battle or chase or equivalent action scene for every installment.

But what about Legend of the Galactic Heroes? That anime didn’t have set piece battles in every episode and was mostly a lot of men talking to each other.

I really think LotGH is an anomaly. I love it and I’m happy there’s an anime like it. But do I think it’s good anime as animation? No. It’s a serviceable anime production to deliver such outstanding content. I think it could be better expressed as a live action mini-series running hour long episodes which will reduce the episode count by two thirds. And THEN, provided it gets good actors, we get to see fully-realized performances of such remarkable characters. I wouldn’t cast Japanese actors for the most part, if at all.

There’s far less action and far more talk than this trailer implies, BUT IT’S ALL GOOD.

The good news is we’d have MUCH better infantry action, or so I hope. Because I can only take so much of the poorly-conceived and executed laser pin beams vs. battleaxes thing in LotGH.  Of course, if someone did tell me that this show will be updated with gobs of money behind the project I’d be the first to celebrate. So don’t read this as me “hating” on LotGH.

So I ask the questions again: Do you watch other media and imagine it in terms of an anime adaptation? Do you see anime and imagine it as live action? Which shows? Who’d you want to produce/direct?

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  1. Okaaayyy
    Posted September 29, 2011 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, that’s great and all, but where’s the Fall Season Preview?

    • Kays
      Posted October 8, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

      I agree. The fall season has already started and there’s no fall season preview. I love the previews, so it was sad not reading it before the shows started.

  2. Kherubim
    Posted September 29, 2011 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    Yes, I was expecting to see “A Game of Thrones” mentioned here, and it would probably be in the same style as any Romance of Three Kingdoms based anime….

    In addition to works which were created with anime/manga as an inspiration (Snow Crash, I’m looking at you here…), I’d probably like to see the Baroque Cycle/Cryptonomicon (Neal Stephenson). Another long running series which might work in anime would be Babylon 5, although it already has pretensions of being a long comic book plotline. Assassin’s Creed and Mirror’s Edge would might also be good choices (especially AC2, Tomokazu Seki as Ezio, pls thks…)

    The reverse (anime to live-action) is rather difficult to envision, the attempts to create live action versions of known anime leaves viewers with rather mixed feelings due to the budget and talent limitations of the JP movie industry (and don’t get me started on DBZEvo)…

    • Posted September 30, 2011 at 8:51 am | Permalink

      I’m not familiar with most of what you mention, but I can dig it.

      Personally, I can imagine a superb live action adaptation of the Banner of the Stars material.

  3. Posted September 29, 2011 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    I was ready for you to interject with Nodame Cantabile somewhere in this post. Yes, I definitely do (or did) something of this sort with anime, either imagining a live-action show in anime form or vice-versa (and I think we know big Hollywood does as well, but their drive may be based more on profit than fandom). It’s tough to recall which titles I had such an opinion about, but I know I was tilted towards anime-becoming-live-action esp. with the case of Bebop. But you’re right, the budget isn’t feasible for something like Bebop, even though I feel there’s a very natural core to the meatiest part of the series, without properly introducing the setting and filling in various points of fighter-pilot action, it just wouldn’t be the same.

    Truthfully, I think these goggles tend to shine brightest when we feel that one work we experience could do much better in another medium, but it’s really hard to take something that’s done right from the start in a given medium and polish it brighter in another medium. So generally, maybe when we do feel pulled to imagine a work as anime, it’s that we imagine it would be better presented to us as a fan in that dialect. Who knows, it’s great material to ponder though.

    • Posted September 30, 2011 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      That’s quite an anomaly right there. The source material is a manga that has a quite mediocre anime production, and an out of this world live action production. It really is ridiculous, and I’m thankful for it.

      Truthfully, I think these goggles tend to shine brightest when we feel that one work we experience could do much better in another medium, but it’s really hard to take something that’s done right from the start in a given medium and polish it brighter in another medium.

      Yes, this. And this is why an Akira adaptation makes zero sense.

    • skeine
      Posted September 30, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

      They did redo Bebop as live action. It was called Firefly.

  4. Whatsht
    Posted September 30, 2011 at 12:59 am | Permalink

    I watch anime and imagine it in live-action, lets try imagining TTGL(or Macross) in live action.

    • Darkfireblade25
      Posted September 30, 2011 at 7:39 am | Permalink

      that would virtually be impossible… unless you pimp out Scott Pilgrim and then super mechaize it. That /might/ work.

    • Posted September 30, 2011 at 8:38 am | Permalink

      Don’t touch Macross. That’s doomed for failure.

      Instead, give Michael Bay gobs of money and let him make ROBOTECH.

      OH MY GOD. This is going to be glorious. I don’t care how much he fucks up the source material, it’s fucking ROBOTECH. But I can’t imagine this not being awesome no matter how he wrecks the trains. I mean, HE GETS TO DESTROY THE EARTH FOR REALS.


      • Kherubim
        Posted September 30, 2011 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

        I was about to say that I SUPPORT THIS IN ITS ENTIRETY, in the hope that it destroys both Michael Bay and Harmony Gold in a single masterstroke, but then I realised I think I just gave it away…

        • Posted October 1, 2011 at 12:11 am | Permalink

          LOL but man, this is going to be a thrill to watch. Won’t miss this for the world. STAGE FRIGHT, GO ‘WAY/THIS IS MY BIG DAYYY

  5. Rathje
    Posted September 30, 2011 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    I think a lot of people do this with video games. A lot of the Final Fantasy fanbase, for example, would probably like to see a good anime epic on any of the major installments.

    Which is probably why video games and anime get a lot of crossover. For example, the Persona series, or stuff like Fate Stay Night.

  6. skeine
    Posted September 30, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    I’ve often wondered about Rurouni Kenshin. If you cut out the reams of cheesy sword techniques and silly character designs, you still have a lot of fascinating characters whose story arcs would easily translate, with only minimal tweaking, into a live action period piece. Not only would the sword fighting make it a potentially greater actioner, but the theme of ex-soldiers struggling to find a place in a society that doesn’t understand or need them anymore would also give it a contemporary relevance in a world where public opinion of the “war on terrorism” has soured and extremists recruit children as soldiers. The tone would, obviously, have to radically change.

    • Posted October 1, 2011 at 12:16 am | Permalink

      I’m with you here. I’d definitely watch that. And yes, fuck the shounen cheese powers.

  7. Tenryu
    Posted October 1, 2011 at 5:19 am | Permalink

    I’m glad you wrote this article and used HP fan art for it.

    Because my choice of live action to anime is Harry Potter

    since the 6th book came out i always wondered why no one bothered with a HP cartoon. The likes of MIB, back to the future and attack of the killer tomatoes(to list a few) have a cartoon v why not version Harry Potter?
    and then for some reason i imagined Kugimiya Rei voicing Hermione

    • Posted October 2, 2011 at 5:55 am | Permalink


      I think I’d enjoy such an adaptation, especially if done as a long, long OVA series that will allow for a more faithful adaptation compared to the films.

      • Anime Watcher
        Posted October 17, 2011 at 10:10 am | Permalink

        I would prefer a LONG anime series of HP the animation
        HSOTD has the potential to become a live action series.

  8. Whatsht
    Posted October 1, 2011 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    Come to think of it, Angel Beats live action would have extreme gore

  9. Posted October 2, 2011 at 4:10 am | Permalink

    Seeing as how American TV is really at its apex right now, this feels like a really poignant, relevant question for me. I’ve given this subject thought from time to time, and generally I’ve come to this conclusion. These shows are in the format they’re in because it’s the right format. Law & Order works best as a TV show in its live action format. Toy Story made for a grand series of movies that were best illustrated (no pun intended) through Pixar’s mastery of CGI in a movie format.

    There is a grandness, a flair and imaginative nature that goes with anime that allows it to do certain things extremely well. Anime can do action and scale very well given a decent budget. It excels at the over-the-top and the flashy. Fight scenes in anime tend to look much more effortless than in live action. In short, anime does the exaggerated to perfection, while live action tends to be at its best with subtlety.

    That said, I’m still very interested in the concept of a well acted show translating to anime. My fave modern TV series right now are.

    -The Wire
    -Mad Men
    -Breaking Bad
    -Boardwalk Empire
    -True Blood

    I could see these shows possibly working, but to put them in an anime seems unnecessary. Though I think they’re similar to LOGH’s in that they can all be heavily driven by dialogue. But they don’t seem to have enough to make them more interesting in an anime format. And a show like Mad Men hardly has a speck of violence. The only show that I see as a easy translation is True Blood. It’s exaggerated and has enough action to possibly make for a interesting (not great) anime. Hell, those weird fight scenes the vampires have may actually seem more natural animated. Plus it has annoying, hysterical female leads, an anime staple. I really think True Blood could have a chance.

    edit: I almost forgot to mention an anime! I was gonna say Noir, but that’s already been greenlit I believe and Hollywood will royally f*ck that up. I think The World Only God Knows with a few tweaks and a decent budget could be a decent live action series.

    • Posted October 2, 2011 at 5:59 am | Permalink

      The live action shows you mentioned will have terrible anime adaptations.

      What manga/anime that’ll have an awesome possibility is Monster. Just thinking about it sends chills up my spine. I know New Line has the rights, but I’m not thrilled about a film treatment. I think it’s better as a cable type series.

  10. Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:17 am | Permalink

    I can totally relate to this! I wish it was possible to have every box-office movie filmed in both RL and anime!! I would watch the anime version every time (Japanese voice with English subtitles in preference) but for me there is nothing better than the acting in anime, because there’s no ‘Human error’!

    And for those who are saying it’s impossible… going to the moon was impossible 250 years ago! I reckon within the next hundred years… they will have a program on a computer that can re-produce any movie with an anime filter over it (maybe re-render it) and we will be able to watch absolutely anything in anime style!!

    I feckin hope so anyway!!

  11. Posted October 8, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    I would think if it was real life, it would been some crazy gorey stuff I dont think I can even handle it haha.

    Watch Anime Shows FREE

  12. Posted October 10, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    wooww! this is so cool!! I’m using this for my blog! (don’t worry, I’ll link it 2 urs)

  13. Posted October 14, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    “I think it could work, though it’d have to amp up the action and violence to the point of having a set piece battle or chase or equivalent action scene for every installment.”

    Oh, there’s certainly plenty to go around if you’ve read the novels. If anything HBO’s treatment has cut back on such scenes, presumably for cost. Some aspects would certainly work well animated (the Stark direwolves, for instance), and certain characters would definitely have no trouble fitting into standard tropes (Joffrey, for instance). In fact, the Japanese covers for the series give a very strong Record of Lodoss war vibe, and if you poke around on the net there’s a handful of fanart of the characters…

    I think a lot of reasons you mention for liking anime are things that a lot of animation watchers have in common. In my own anecdotal experience I find people who enjoy animation do so precisely because they see motion and appreciate the choreography of motion in ways different from people who watch primarily for the plot; even in the little things like the flow and movement of hair.

    • Posted October 15, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

      Re: Game of Thrones, Yes! Agree on all counts. Should it happen I’ll definitely be all over it.

      There are plotfags you know, who generally act as if it’s the only thing that matters even if they don’t really believe it.

      • Maverick05
        Posted October 17, 2011 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

        A comment a bit too late….but about animating Game of Thrones, why not change the medieval format into a “Broken Blade” format too!! Instead of horses, place “knightmares” which power depends on the type of sword you use or familiar.

        Funny how you compare Game of Thrones with Legend of the Galatic Heroes….and quite honestly it is like that. Just change the events a bit and it might actually work, specially if Reinhard dies instead of Kircheis in Geisburg. Then, change Littlefinger for Oberstein, Varis for Yang, Trunit for Cersei, and Eddard for Kircheis, and it might actually work.

        I will just wish they tweak the second book a bit, since it had a few plotholes in the middle. Also, make the 5 year time skip work, since book 4 basically killed my interest in the series after reading the first three in a month or less (haven`t found the will to read Dance of Dragons after reading the spoilers).

  14. Sakki
    Posted October 17, 2011 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    hmmm, for one thing, i would like to see HP in anime . . . would love to see all those action from the book in the an animation form . . . and also pirates of the carribean – love to see that one in anime too

    • Anime Watcher
      Posted October 18, 2011 at 7:21 am | Permalink

      How about steins;gate or chaos;head in live action drama series…..

  15. Anime Watcher
    Posted October 18, 2011 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    Also, chaos;head and steins;gate in live action drama sounds interesting too (if it is done like fringe).

  16. Posted October 18, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Looking at the Shaolin trailer I think I rather watch the Sword of the Stranger looking at the trailer it gives me the curiosity to watch it maybe tomorrow I’m very please with the action I can’t wait to watch it..

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