While it had a stranglehold on pop culture for the past decade and a half, it feels the mass appeal of superhero movies and series are waning. Sure, projects are still rolling out and captivating audiences, but it feels like everyone in Hollywood is waiting on the next big trend to take over the masses as they look to greenlight projects. Netflix, for example, is prepping a lot of anime adaptations, and I really think the company is onto something.
After watching the spirit and humor of Avatar: The Last Airbender brought to life in the latest trailer, it's clear Netflix is really putting in the work to make high-quality anime adaptations. It's something this anime fan loves to see, and I have a feeling it's going to pay off for the streamer as audiences look for more creative stories to enjoy.
Netflix Is Committed To Bringing The Most Iconic Anime To Live-Action
Avatar: The Last Airbender is technically anime-inspired, but arguing semantics does nothing to deny Netflix isn't putting in a ton of work adapting anime shows with a big budget. In the past couple of years, we've seen Cowboy Bebop, One Piece and Yu Yu Hakusho all adapted. It's even letting the Stranger Things showrunners, The Duffer Brothers, take another crack at Death Note, which is something I'm definitely looking forward to after the disappointing live-action film they did years ago.
If all that wasn't enough, we also know that Netflix has plans for a live-action Pokémon series, which audiences have been craving since the release of Detective Pikachu. The franchise is one of the largest properties in pop culture, period, so I think the interest in this series speaks for itself.
Finally, there's a live-action film adaptation in the works for My Hero Academia, which is one of the most popular anime of the past few years. Ironically, it's basically a superhero show reimagined in anime, but maybe it'll serve as the bridge for a casual audience still unsure of whether they want to dive into this new trend of making big-budget anime mainstream.
There's Still Plenty Of Iconic Anime That Deserves A Series
For all the shows that Netflix has adapted and plans to adapt, there are still so many more iconic anime audiences would love to see turned into a live-action series or movie. After the atrocious Dragon Ball: Evolution movie, I think many millennials are desperate for a good live-action Dragon Ball Z series. I'd reckon the name "Goku" is just about as synonymous with Superman at this point, and the fact that there are still new shows being made for Dragon Ball shows there's still interest.
And while other big anime like Naruto already have movie adaptations in the works, there's precedent in being able to try again and revamp interest from audiences in another way. Hell, Netflix was willing to give Avatar: The Last Airbender another shot after its theatrical disaster, and fortunately, the showrunner avoided M. Night Shyamalan’s movie.
Even if something as big as Naruto is off-limits, there's just such a wide library of great anime classics to choose from for the next big-budget streaming franchise. The Gundam series, Hunter x Hunter, Sailor Moon, Samurai Champloo, the list is nearly endless on what would make a great series to adapt.
Why Live-Action Anime Adaptations Should Be The Next Big Trend In Big-Budget Streaming Shows
When looking at the genre of anime, it's easy to see why live-action adaptations should be the next big trend for big-budget streaming shows. Anime is known for its massive, colorful settings and intense action, similar to superhero stories. If audiences are still craving the basic elements of the superhero genre, but want something a little more creative and different than what's been offered in the past decade, this is the solution.
And to be clear, Netflix didn't invent the wheel when it comes to live-action adaptations of anime. There have been several adaptations of popular manga and anime over the past few decades, though many are overseas productions. With that being said, a lot of those didn't quite have the budget as the average Hollywood feature, and certainly nothing with a budget as big as a streaming show like The Mandalorian.
What this means is we now have a perfect storm when a show like One Piece or Avatar: The Last Airbender appears. It has the ability to draw in a curious audience in search of something new to dive into, but it also appeals to longtime fans of the franchises who have waited a long time to see their beloved franchise get an adaptation worthy of its storytelling.
Sure, sometimes there are failures. Netflix's Cowboy Bebop adaptation differed from the anime in a few key ways, and word spread about that on the internet pretty quickly after its release. The result led to a quick cancellation and a feeling by some in the Cowboy Bebop cast that it wasn't given a chance. Not every show is going to be a home run, but that's true of all genres. Personally, I agree that Cowboy Bebop wasn't given a fair chance, and I say that as someone who loved the live-action version and thought it was serviceable, even with its differences from the original.
What's important, and what I think will happen, is that the more that major streamers and studios try to adapt anime to live-action, the more they'll get a better idea of what works and what doesn't. This is to say that longtime fans of anime should be thrilled if we're about to enter this era, even if there might be some mistakes along the way. Projects like One Piece and what little we've seen of Avatar: The Last Airbender seem to indicate Netflix is on the right path, and hopefully other studios will take note and try to replicate its success.
Avatar: The Last Airbender will premiere for those with a Netflix subscription on Thursday, February 22nd. Now would be a good time to watch or re-watch the original series on Netflix or to check out some of the live-action anime that's already available to be binged.