Now That Anime is Mainstream, Will Hollywood Ruin It?

Twenty to 30 years ago, anime was fairly obscure in America, a niche that made fans feel like they discovered something special, and oh yeah, it was “uncool.” The internet changed all that, creating new audiences and new fandoms, so that anime went through “cool,” and then beyond that into the mainstream. TV and movie producers saw a wealth of opportunity and jumped on it, often without understanding why anime attracted fans in the first place. Jason DeMarco, head of the Cartoon Network programming block, has enough experience to see where this might go.

“It’s going to take Hollywood getting out of its own way, which always takes a while,” he said. “Let’s remember: With superhero movies, it took them a long time before they finally cracked it. Everyone says it was the rise of CG, and that’s certainly part of what allowed superhero movies to happen. But the other part is that studios figured out that they can’t just pave over everything they don’t like. These properties have fans and fandom attached to them, and Hollywood has to serve them, to make sure they are happy and that they’re representing the core of who the characters are supposed to be. And so far, Hollywood has not been able to do that with video games” — despite trying real hard, with Resident Evil and Assassin’s Creed and Warcraft and Mortal Kombat and Detective Pikachu and Tomb Raider and the Tomb Raider sequels and… — “and they have not been able to do it with anime. It took them 20 to 30 years to figure out how to do it with comic books, and it’s going to be the same thing with anime.”

To DeMarco, there is no perfect solution. But M. Night Shyamalan and Rupert Sanders’ poorly adapted The Last Airbender and Ghost in the Shell aren’t going to cut it, nor are low-budget Japanese-language adaptations like the 2012 take on Rurouni Kenshin — and DeMarco’s not so sure about Netflix’s gambit on adapting shows like Cowboy Bebop, either. “If someone said to me, ‘you can make a sequel to Cowboy Bebop,’ I don’t know that I would,” DeMarco said. “It’s perfect.” But as long as there’s money to be made, anime masterpieces — and others like it — will be adapted anyway.

Thrillist has a rundown of the industry’s missteps in adapting anime for a larger audience, and the challenges ahead.

(Image credit: Rebecca Mock/Thrillist )

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