That Americanized live-action "Akira" project just won't go away, will it? Unfortunately, it may be the beginning of a trend. The studios have snapped up dozens of popular anime and manga properties over the past few years, hoping to cash in on the popularity of Japanese media among the Gen-Y crowd. Most of the resulting projects are stuck in development hell or have quietly been abandoned or forgotten about. However, if "Akira" proves to be a success, there are a couple of titles that we ought to be keeping an eye on:
"Noir" - This one's already in the bag. Originally "Noir" was a 26-episode 2001 anime series about a pair of female assassins, teenager Kirika and gun-for-hire Mireille, who team up together. Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert, of "Xena" and "Evil Dead" fame, are turning this into a series for Starz. I found the original anime pretty dull and uninspired in execution. The premise had some potential, though, and I think Raimi and Tapert could do good things with it. However, I worry that some of the concepts ping awful close to the new version of "Nikita" on the CW.
"Death Note" - Another one coming along quickly is Warner Bros' adaptation of the popular 2006 "Death Note" manga, which has already become an anime series and a trio of Japanese live-action films. Shane Black was announced as director back in January, with Anthony Bagarozzi and Charles Mondry scripting the tale of a death-dealing notebook and the twisted teenager who finds it. This could be a fun supernatural thriller, especially with Shane Black at the helm. Let's just hope no one tries to warp the cat-and-mouse premise and turn it into the next "Twilight."
"Ghost in the Shell" - The rights to produce a live-action film were snapped up by Dreamworks in 2008, and there have been rumors of various scripts and treatments ever since. Originally an 80s manga, followed by a groundbreaking 1995 animated feature, a sequel, and two seasons of an anime television series, "Ghost in the Shell" has proven to be a versatile, enduring franchise with a big universe to explore. The first film remains one of the the major cyberpunk classics which, along with "Akira," played a big part in popularizing anime in the States.
"Cowboy Bebop" - The last anyone heard about the state of a potential "Bebop" movie starring Keanu Reeves was about a year ago, back in 2010. They had a script, but one that was more expensive than FOX was willing to foot the bill for. Subsequent rewrites didn't seem to be helping. It's a shame, because the excellent 1998 space cowboy series remains popular, and its style and tone are very western already. On the other hand, do we really want to see Keanu Reeves playing bounty hunter Spike Spiegel?
"Robotech" - This one was announced by Warner Bros back in 2007. Tobey Maguire would produce and possibly star in a post-apocalyptic reboot of "Robotech," which was itself an American adaptation of the 80s mecha classic "Macross." Like the "Ghost in the Shell" and "Cowboy Bebop" movies, we still hear developments popping up now and then, but as time goes on, it seems less and less likely that this one is going to find its way to the screen, especially since it's a much older and more obscure franchise than most of the others in the pipeline.
"Battle Angel" - And of course there's the movie that James Cameron's been talking about making for years, about the adventures of a cyborg girl named Alita, based on the manga "GUNM," which was released in North America as "Battle Angel." Cameron has had this thing in development for ages, supposedly waiting for special effects technology to catch up to his ambitions. It was supposed to be his next film in 2004, then his next after "Avatar," and now who knows? IMDB seems to be the only one willing to make predictions, offering a potential release date of 2016.
And now for the miscellanea. A "Ninja Scroll" remake was being prepped with Appian Way, but nobody talks about it anymore after the Wachowskis' "Ninja Assassin" went bust. "Voltron," or more likely a "Transformers" rip-off called "Voltron," might get made as soon as a few lawsuits and bidding wars get cleared up. I have no idea why Mandalay Pictures acquired the rights to "Full Metal Panic," as it was a lousy show and pretty low-profile. Warners nabbed the rights to "Bleach" last year, and promptly did nothing with them. I know the series is popular, but I can't think of a property less Hollywood-friendly. As for the live action "Neon Genesis Evangelion," I'm sorry guys, but I don't think it's ever going to happen. The concept art was neat though, wasn't it?