Why MOST Live-Action Anime Adaptations Fail

by Joseph Kim

Netflix’s “Death Note” adaptation, confronted by the original anime (photoshop by Joseph Kim)


Well, tasteful transition from one medium to another can be challenging. By translating a work, understandably, you have to prioritize the essential elements of the work itself, sacrificing other parts to better suit the new format.

(“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood”, Yasuhiro Irie, Funimation)
(from left to right) 2015’s “Attack on Titan”, 2014’s “Black Butler”, 2009’s “Dragonball Evolution”


Directors, whether it be pushback from studios or their own creative vision, seem to lack an understanding of what made the original work interesting. Some only look at the visuals, and ignore the story; some look at characters’ actions but not look at their motivation; and some just rewrite the story all together, disrespecting what came before.

(from top to bottom) 2010’s “The Last Airbender”, 2017’s “Fullmetal Alchemist”, and 2017’s “Ghost in the Shell”

There’s Still Hope

Even with a large number of anime adaptations being either critical or financial failures, there have been exceptions. Films like Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy and Doug Liman’s Edge of Tomorrow (based on the light novel All You Need is Kill) can either elevate the original source material or reinterpret it, all while keeping the core of their respective properties. If there has been precedent for successful adaptations, there can be more in the future.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Red Summit Productions

We’re a production company comprised of dedicated professionals, making quality content for brands in New York and beyond. We’d love to hear from you!