full metal panic

Our friends at FirstShowing report that Mandalay have picked up the rights to develop a big-screen live action adaptation of the version of the Japanese manga/anime series Full Metal Panic. I haven’t heard of the series before tonight, but apparently it tells the story of a member of the covert anti-terrorist mercenary group who is tasked with protecting a Japanese high school girl with mystical powers. If the one-sentence log-line doesn’t immediately grab you, chances are you’ll be completely turned off by the fact that High School Musical Zac Efron is interested in starring in the project. I know I was.

Hollywood’s attempts to translate anime into live-action American feature films have resulted in some spectacular failures – Fist of the North Star, Guyver, Speed Racer, and most recently Dragonball. Does this mean that the live-action American anime adaptation is doomed? Not necessarily. It just means that it isn’t easy to execute.

Usually Hollywood studios greenlight adaptations in hopes that either the brand name will carry over to box office profits or that the story and characters, which were successful in another medium, might be easily translated to the big screen. The reason to purchase a property is to take away some of the heavy lifting. But with an Anime adaptation in America, the brand name recognition doesn’t equal big box office dollars. Speed Racer is probably the most recognizable anime in the United States, and fared horribly at the box office.

But like anything else, it’s not about where the source material came from or the genre, it’s about the story and how it’s treated. If the studio can’t treat an adaptation seriously, how is the potential American audience?

Upcoming American live-action anime adaptations in various stages of development include Cowboy Bebop, Akira, Ghost in the Shell, The Last Airbender (which some could rightfully argue isn’t a proper anime), Voltron, Ninja Scroll and Robotech. And at least four of the previously mentioned seven movies have a real potential to be huge if they were treated right. We live in a day and age when movie studios are greenlighting films based on newspaper articles and Stretch Armstrong. In the next few years I’m sure we’ll see even more announcements, and more greenlights.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Robotech finally take off after a couple years of stalling. If anything, Transformers proved that America is interested in seeing big giant robots on the big screen. And hopefully films like GI Joe and Robosapien will disprove the ridiculous theory that American audiences want to see big screen adaptations made out of their childhood toys.

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