Anime Fans Are Unenthused About Hollywood’s Onslaught Of Anime Remakes

Paramount Pictures

Scarlett Johansson in 2017’s Ghost in the Shell.

After a year of outrage over Paramount Pictures’ Ghost in the Shell, the Scarlett Johansson–led project crashed and burned at the box office this March, pulling in only $41 million in the United States. A studio spokesperson later said that the controversy around Johansson’s role hurt the film’s box office reception. But according to those who attended Anime Expo this year, its fate had already been determined by the anime adaptations that came before it; in 2008, the Wachowskis’ Speed Racer bombed at the box office, and James Wong’s 2009 film Dragonball Evolution was so “globally reviled” that the screenwriter behind the movie apologized for it last year.

Yet despite a track record of anime adaptations backfiring at the box office, Hollywood seems intent on giving animated Japanese properties the live-action treatment. Fox’s Alita: Battle Angel, set to open in theaters next summer, and Netflix’s upcoming Death Note film, which has already drawn ire for its cast, are among a handful of upcoming anime adaptations at various studios. Then there’s a Naruto film in preproduction at Lionsgate, and just last month, a Cowboy Bebop television series was reported to be in development at Tomorrow Studios. A live-action remake of the 1988 cult film Akira, which has been in development at Warner Bros. for over a decade, is also reportedly close to finding a director.

But Hollywood has to ensure its planned projects connect with fans, if anime enthusiasts in the United States are anything like the ones BuzzFeed News spoke to at Anime Expo in early July. Several convention-goers said they weren’t sure any of the upcoming films from the industry were “worth seeing.” Reactions ranged from indifference to indignation. Asked if she’d seen the latest Death Note trailer,…

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